A few months ago, I wrote about my grief describing the searing pain I felt at the loss of my mother. At the time, I wanted to write a guide to help people with their grief and I promised myself that I would write it when I knew how. This isn’t that post. I’m still searching for the answers to my many questions about life, death and grief. I may not have answers, but I have managed to find ways to cope with my grief and decided to share my experiences in the hope that maybe one person might benefit from reading what I’ve tried.
Time Is Not A Healer
Over the last 12 months, I’ve heard every single cliché about death, grief and overcoming it so by now I’m fully aware that ‘life is for the living’. I’m fully aware that I will never forget about her. One of the biggest misconceptions about grief is that time is a healer. Because frankly it isn’t. If it was I wouldn’t be sat here right now, in my bed, in the dark, crying. And it’s not the silent dignified tear type of crying, I’ve been howling and feeling the same pain that I felt on the day I saw that she was gone.
What I will say is that, thankfully I don’t feel like this on every day anymore. I’m not sure if you become numb with the pain or just find ways to deal with it. The best analogy I have come across is likening bereavement to losing a leg. Imagine it. If I were to lose my left leg, I’d find it almost impossible to manage at first, I’d be bedridden. Eventually, with help and support, I’d find a way to live my life again. It would never be the same again, I’d always miss my leg. Everyday I would miss my leg, it would never heal but I would find a way to go on.
The First Year
People kept telling me that the first year would be hard because I was experiencing everything without her for the first time. I couldn’t agree more. It is hard. I’ve had my first birthday, Christmas and Mother’s day without her and by God it hurts like nothing else. I have never felt so alone.
In my head, I was hoping that there’d be some kind of switch that would make things easier as I started to experience them for the second time without her. Honestly, that hasn’t quite been the case. My second Mother’s Day without my mum is approaching and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I will of course be spending it with my girls and celebrating but there will be a tinge of sadness to the occasion like all special occasions are from now on. I just have to accept this as the new normal.
Grief is not a straight road
This has been the hardest lesson to learn, in my logical little head, the grieving process should involve steady progress. To me, it should be a step-by-step process but it really isn’t. I’ve read about the stages of grief, and even they aren’t experienced in any sort of order. You don’t experience anger and then go neatly into depression. Over the past year, I have found myself wavering between a myriad of emotions.
The colour has started to return to my life. Now, I feel joy. I laugh. I have fun with my family and friends. And in a weird perverse way, that’s when the pain and loss strikes me. It hits me like a huge wave and knocks me for six. I’m not expecting it and frankly it gets me every single time, putting me back to the start of the process. Time hasn’t lessened the pain it has just decreased the frequency with which it knocks me to the ground. Honestly, I sometimes forget she has left me. I still pretend she’s here but busy because thinking that’s she’s gone forever is still too painful to remember.
I can’t recommend this enough. I’ve actually had two lots of it. The first time I started it was too soon. It was less than a month after my mum’s passing and I was still trying to process the event let alone work on it. I started attending bereavement counselling again recently and it is really helping me. It’s good to share all of my thoughts with a stranger who can help me to understand them and I’m not worrying about upsetting anyone. As the saying goes, it’s good to talk.
Keeping the memory alive
I talk about my mum all the time. Her pictures are everywhere. I share memories with my sister, my kids, my dad, even The Boy. Literally everyone. She’s not physically a part of my life anymore but she is always with me, in my heart and in my head. I keep her memory and essence alive because it’s important to me to feel her presence. I want my children to know about her. I want to pass down her legacy to them too. Just because we can’t reach out and touch our loved ones, it doesn’t mean that they should be forgotten. I’ve found talking about my mum and remembering all the good times and the quirks really therapeutic this past year.
Grief is personal
The last point that I’m going to make is that grief is deeply personal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve for a loved one. There is no manual, guide book or advice that will tell you how to grieve. All you can do is do what works for you. Some people that I know wear their loved ones jewellery, I had to stop. I found it too painful. However, I do occasionally spray my mum’s perfume and listen to her music just to feel like she’s in the room with me. Sometimes I feel like I need to cry, other times I want to think of the good times. What I have learnt this past year is that nobody can tell me how to grieve, I have to do what’s right for me.
Another lesson that I have learnt and this sounds sad to say, but it strikes me that the grieving process is never really finished. I’ve spoken to so many people about their grief when trying to understand my own, and the one thing that comes up time and time again is that it never gets easier, you just learn to live with it.