When I started this blog, a month after mum died, it was with the intention of writing about her often. The blog would be an outlet for my feelings and a way of untangling the mess inside my head. I would write something down whenever I felt sad and I would feel better each time I did. I equated the windows of time sitting and writing as time spent ‘with’ her; remembering her, and that brought me comfort. It was a nice idea, but the reality hasn’t been so simple.
I should have known ‘little and often’ wasn’t possible nor realistic; there is no formula for grief – I’ve read enough books on the subject by now. The posts I’ve written so far have felt cathartic, but they’ve also been incredibly painful; physically, achingly painful, the kind of pain that it’s human nature to avoid. I tried to write one a month, then it was more like every two months… and now, I’m ashamed to say it’s been nearly six months. I didn’t even realise it had been that long until a friend said (and I love her for noticing), “you’ve stopped writing your blog.”
It’s an interesting paradox. On the one hand, not writing might seem indicative of someone moving on with their life (working full time, moving house, going on holiday; life shit) but it’s also the classic behaviour of someone making themselves too busy to pause or process. To quote the grief psychotherapist, Julia Samuel, ‘to heal our grief we need to allow ourselves to feel the pain.’
I want to heal my grief and I know that my mum would want me to, and I know that she’d approve of me writing in order to do that; but sometimes I just can’t. Sometimes I don’t want to feel the pain. I desperately miss her and I want to remember her and think about happy memories, but I still can’t do that without feeling like my heart is being ripped into shreds. I’m not sure any of us in the family can…
What tends to happen is that you’ll have a good couple of weeks feeling ‘normal’ and give yourself a pat on the back because you ‘haven’t cried in ages’ but bubbling under the surface is the pain that you’re not allowing yourself to acknowledge. And it will come out eventually. And when it does (as my sisters will attest) it’s like a volcano erupting, violently, and without warning.
I’ve started seeing a therapist and I would urge anyone in the same situation to do the same, when the time feels right. The ‘mess inside my head’ I referred to at the beginning of this post is still very much there, but I’m finding day-to-day life shit as much the cause, as my grief over mum. It’s as if my past is in a tug-of-war with my present and future, and therapy is a safe place to go once a week to untangle the knots…
Because if I’m struggling with my memories of mum – and dealing with the past – I’m struggling with the future even more so. I still can’t believe that she’s not here anymore and that we have to go on with our lives without her. I can’t accept that she won’t grow any older than 71, even though she would have been 73 earlier this month. I can’t imagine what she’d look like now and it’s only been a year and four months. I can’t bear the thought – knowing what an amazing grandmother (‘nain’) she was – that she won’t be around to meet my children. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I’m still not.
Last night I dreamt she was terminally ill but then my sister texted me a photo of her from the hospital smiling and looking really well because she’d come out of surgery and it had saved her life. The night before, I dreamt we were on a family holiday and she was in the pool splashing around with my niece, having had cancer but having recently survived, and we were all like: “Can you imagine if she’d died? What would we have done?” And the night before that, it was the same old story – different setting, same irreplaceable Mags. I’ve been having these ‘false alarm’ dreams for months and they’re exhausting. But like the other day when I was in the 02 store and they asked me for my ‘mother’s maiden name’ – and I thought for a split second, “I must ring mum,” before remembering, and feeling a sharp pang in my heart – maybe that’s just pain’s way. Screaming and shouting to be heard.