18th May 2019
Today marks a year since my Mum was told she had cancer.
I don’t want to talk about how that makes me feel as such but more about what this date represents to me.
It was the beginning of the grieving process, I just wasn’t aware of it at the time. I had no real idea that this was the start of something that would change my whole life and state of mind forever.
This date is the start of a journey to lots of firsts for us as a family. My first birthday without her, her first angel birthday and of course the first anniversary of her passing.
I can already feel this tightness in my chest, this weight that I carry with me becoming heavier and harder to handle. I can remember each day so clearly and I know with each passing day now I’ll be remembering where we were this time last year.
I know each significant date of appointments, hospital stays, days spent with her and her time in the hospice. I have always been good at remembering significant dates for obscure events. I am rubbish at birthdays but need to know the date of that concert we went to 5 years ago, I can tell you. Want to know a date we visited somewhere, yep got that one stored in my brain! So I know without a doubt that as each date comes and passes I am going to feel like I am right back there, living it again.
The reality of this terrifies me. It is too raw to have forgotten any of those early days, the waiting, the lack of answers and her fading away. The thought of having to process this all again is too much.
At least last year I had the distraction of the situation. Life was too busy to sit and really make sense of what was going on but now all I have are the memories of it to process.
Grieving before they’ve gone
It is only now I can see that from that day I began to grief for my Mum. I knew as much as our life was changing around her, the change she was facing was much bigger.
I cannot even begin to imagine how it must have felt for her, to be faced with her own death. How do you even begin to understand that? She had no form of distraction. Her pain and reality saw to that. We didn’t talk about it. It was all stiff upper lip and ‘Keep calm and carry on’.
But with every moment I spent with her, despite trying to remain positive and happy. I was mourning for the times that had come before. All those special memories that I had been so lucky to have with her. They’d soon be all I had left of her.
While I worked really hard to hold it all together and soak up every moment I had left with her, thoughts would always return to our past together.
If I could do it all again, would I do it differently, knowing what I know now? Probably not because despite all the pain those times were so precious to me, and to her I hope.
4th June 2019
A year since Mum fell at home and ended up in the hospital. I remember feeling hopeful at this point, that something might happen now and maybe she’d get better.
But now a year on I can’t see the positive in this at all. Will I spend the day thinking about her, remembering her face, the pain she was in and the tears she’d shed for days. Will I think about the funny lady in the bed next to her trying to do a runner every 5 minutes?
Or will I remember how difficult that month was, racing between work and the hospital, feeling like I was on the verge of giving up myself. Being racked with guilt for being so selfish for even thinking about something other than Mum. Will it leave me feeling empty and regretful?
3rd July 2019
A year since Mum left hospital and came home. The house was adapted for her with a new bed and things to aid her getting around and suddenly life seemed a little more settled. She was back where she belonged.
Now though I’ll remember that nothing much had changed. The future was still so uncertain, we were still waiting answers and she was still fading too quickly.
Is this what I will remember or will it be those times we spent talking, reminiscing, the feeling of slowing down a little after a month of chaos?
Will I remember spending what felt like hours watching her sleep, helping her to eat and drink?
Or will I treasure the moments we sat wedding planning together?
22nd July 2019
Today is my first birthday without her. Do I sit and remember fondly that day? A day where she helped me pick my wedding dress from her bed.
I’ll more likely remember her not eating her favourite sandwich I’d made her and slurring her words or the phone call I made to tell her I was engaged and how she told me off for not sounding excited. I might wish I could tell her that although I was over the moon, I was sad. Sad because I knew by now she wouldn’t be there when I wore that dress again.
Maybe I’ll just wish I was not a year older, because without her there growing up seems that much harder.
23rd July 2019
Today would be her 64th Birthday, I don’t even know if it is right to think of her as an age anymore. How can I mark this day for her without feeling overwhelmed by sadness?
26th July 2019
The day she left her home for the last time and went to the Hospice. Will I just remember the relief I felt that Dad was finally going to have a much needed break, because she was only going in for a week, right?
Or will I just dwell on the fact that she never came home, never saw her home again, all her possessions remained untouched by her?
Will I be overwhelmed by the memories of those first few days when she had no idea what was going on, who she was or why she was there?
Maybe I will hold on to the kindness the hospice showed us all during her time there and just how big an impact that had on us when we needed it most.
9th August 2019
Today is a year since Rob and I stood up in front of you and promised to love each other always. The only ‘wedding’ you’d ever see. Will that remind me of how special that day was and how happy you were to be there?
Or could it just act as a reminder that you won’t see us get married now?
21st August 2019
The day I have been dreading but also willing to arrive, because maybe like everyone says, the firsts are always the hardest. Does this mean that from today, things will be a little easier?
But no, I know, even today writing this, that there is not a single thing that will make this day easier, today, next year or in 10 years time. This date is part of my history and my future and one I will never ever forget.
I will remember those last moments I spent with you, holding your hand, crying and begging you to come back. The trauma of it all feels as if it was yesterday and right now I don’t see that it will ever change.
You don’t move on from losing a parent, you learn to live because of it.
And as I sit writing this now, I realise it is OK to feel scared about this timeline ahead of me. I will always remember these dates and trying not to will only be more painful in the long run.
The more I talk about grief, the more I read about it and speak with other people, the more I appreciate it. I am lucky to have had someone so special in my life, someone I adored with all I have and who made my life so wonderful to grief for.
Of course I’d do anything to have her back with us but I will be eternally grateful for all she did for me, all she gave me, all she taught me and for being my Mum.
I know the coming months will be hard, maybe harder than I can comprehend right now but I know that as a family we can and will get through this together. And maybe next year will be easier and the year after that but for now I accept the difficult times ahead because I know I am not alone.
If you’ve lost a loved one, did you begin to grieve they became ill? Or did you not get the opportunity?
Significant dates, do they remain so or did you find a way to move on from those? I’d love to hear your views and experiences on this subject.
As mental health awareness week continues, I think this taboo subject should be talked about more openly. The pain of grief is so real and relentless that the impact on mental health is so extreme. I think I am only just beginning to realise the true extent of this impact on my own mental health.