It’s now five months since mum died, but I’m still dreaming about her most nights. I wish that was a comfort; a form of compensation for having survived a whole summer without her. I wish I could fall asleep reassured by the thought of seeing her again. But while the dreams may be vivid and true to life, they are also upsetting and uncomfortable because she is always terminally ill in them. She doesn’t look like my mum. She looks like a cancer patient who has lost her wavy golden brown hair, whose skin is grey and gaunt. She is always wearing the same dressing gown and slippers; the syringe driver in its cotton pouch, hung on her shoulder, where her leather handbag should be. In last night’s dream, I had to say goodbye to her all over again. I woke up in shock; feeling heartbroken, as though it had only happened yesterday.
I haven’t talked or written much about the illness and the six weeks we spent visiting her in the hospice (until she was finally brought home), so maybe the dreams are a way of dealing with it subconsciously. Hopefully I will eventually be purged of the terrible memories of that time. How wonderful it would be, to remember her as the person she was before. Last week, Facebook – good old Facebook – alerted me to a photo memory they thought I might want to see. How thoughtful they are! It was the picture above, taken six years ago. I remember it clearly because it was the day after my sister’s wedding and I was on the sofa at mum’s, bemoaning my single status and my failed existence with a hangover so brutal I felt like I’d been run over by a lorry. I was about to get on the train back to London and was feeling teary when mum walked in wearing Cathy’s bridal veil, and did a little dance to cheer me up. God, I miss her.
It’s moments like that I wish I could remember more of. Perhaps I will as time goes on, that’s what people tell me. I want to remember her and feel comforted by the memories, instead of being suddenly reminded, and floored with emotion because it’s taken me by surprise. It’s like walking into M&S and being hit by a smell that takes me back to shopping with mum in Liverpool; losing her in the Per Una section because she’s on a wild goose chase to find a cardigan in a shade of purple that will match that dress. It’s turning on series two of Victoria for a bit of Sunday night escapism and suddenly feeling incomprehensibly devastated when you realise she’s not watching it and you won’t be able to ring her afterwards.
I’ve been in tears quite a lot this afternoon. Working from home alone, I’ve had these episodes of proper, gut-wrenching sobbing, the kind where you feel like you can’t breathe properly, as if you’ve been stabbed in the chest. Whenever I have a really bad day, I try and work out what’s making me so much more upset than usual i.e., hormones, hangover etc. (Generally, I can bring my grief under control. My coping mechanism is to distract myself and not ‘go’ there in my head and I’m quite good at that. Usually.) I’m putting it down to September being in full swing. To back to school blues. I used to love the start of a new season (and autumn is my favourite) but now it’s lost all of its shine. People are in fresh start mode, and I’m finding the future pretty terrifying to comprehend. We laid mum to rest in Wales a couple of weeks ago (I’ll write about that another time when I feel ready) and momentarily, I felt at peace too. But then there are days like today, when there’s no let up. When it dawns on me, that somehow, it actually feels like it’s getting harder. When I’m in so much pain I just want to scream.