“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” – C.S Lewis
Until you have lost someone so very dear to you, it is hard to understand the grief that one begets. But I for one know the sadness you are going through because I have unfortunately worn those very same shoes. Shoes I wish I could take back and get a refund for!
You look around you and you see a big hole; your home feels empty and your heart is no longer whole. But as the days go by, the tears slowly begin to fade and sadness turns into bittersweet, smiling memories.
It’s a funny old thing grief. You can think about the loss of a loved one and only begin to imagine just how heartbreaking it really feels… because when it actually happens to you, you realise that there is no other feeling like it in the world and nothing can prepare for just how long that feeling lasts. Because the heartbreaking reality is that you will grieve forever. You won’t ever “get over” the loss of a loved one, you simply just learn to somehow live with it. And whilst you will eventually heal and rebuild your life around the terrible loss you have suffered and one day feel whole again, you will never, ever, be the same. And why should you be?
When someone you love dies, you feel like your entire world has fallen to pieces, and yet everyone an everything around you just carries on with life. Nothing really seems to change, except the fact that one special person, just isn’t there any longer. The birds still sing, the days still roll in to night. The clocks continue to tick and people carry on with their lives. And yet, you feel as if you have become frozen in time, almost as if you are watching life as if it were a movie. But you some how learn to adapt. You see, when you are grieving for someone, it is almost like you are leading to two completely different lives. One part of you “pretends” that everything is okay. You somehow still get up in the morning and go about your life. But the other part is where your heart screams silently in complete agony.
And that is the part that can leave you feeling utterly lost and completely alone. And that is the one of the hardest parts about grieving. Because everybody is different and everyone deals with grief in their own way, it often feel like grief is a walk alone. Sure others can be there. They can listen and share your pain. But inevitably, you will walk alone on your own path and at your own pace.
And the point will eventually come where you experience complete denial. And whilst it is a confusing and numb period of your life, it is completely normal to experience this and it is widely consider the first of the five stages of grief.
When my Mother died, my instant reaction was to be strong. She had made me promise her the morning she died, that I would remain strong and be there for the people that needed me. But to me, that was the moment denial set in. You see, we were completely inseparable and she really was my very best friend. I worked with her, saw her every single day and even when I got home from work at the end of the day, the first person I called was my Mum. We spent most of our free time together, so it was extremely difficult to believe that I would never see her smile at me again, or hear her voice at the end of the phone. And whilst I knew she was gone, I just expected her to walk back in as if nothing had happened… because that was my Mum. Four long and hard years she fought and fought and fought. And she always said she wouldn’t let the cancer beat her. I genuinely thought that she would live forever, because she was my Mum!
I planned her funeral. I wrote her a poem. I went and visited her at the chapel of rest as much as I could. Because in my mind, if she was still around and I could see her, then somehow I thought there was a chance that she would open her eyes and tell us it was just one of her practical jokes. Of course it wasn’t. She was gone and there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t shed a tear at her funeral, because I thought if I fell apart, everyone else would and I needed to be strong for them!
I busied myself for months and put her to the back of my mind, because for me that was easier than accepting that she had gone. I didn’t visit my Dad for months on end… not because I didn’t want to, because I couldn’t. Because going back to the place where she had died and seeing it without her sat there, would mean that it was real and I didn’t want it to be. And this continued for some six months, until the day of my Brothers 25th Birthday.
He was such a Mummy’s boy and they were so alike both in looks and personality. So seeing him blow out his candles on his birthday without her there absolutely broke me. And it made me angry. Angrier than I had ever been in my life. And that was the moment stage two set in.
I hated her. I hated her so god damn much. She had promised me that she would always be there for us. She said she would always fight, and whilst she had fought for so long, she eventually gave up on us… she gave up on me! She had been so selfish to give up fighting and she had left us behind without her and every inch of my being despised her for it. I turned her picture over because every time I looked at her, I remembered that she had given up on me. It was only after speaking to my Dad about it, that he made me realise that she hadn’t given up on us, on me, at all. The truth of the matter is, she fought so hard, for so long… she didn’t have a choice. Because if she did, she would have still been here now. Her body had given up on her and that wasn’t her choice. She loved us all more than we could have ever imagined, she didn’t leave us out of choice.
And as the next few weeks passed, I began bargaining in my mind. I kept thinking that I would trade so many people, just to have her back for one day. One hour. Even just 30 more seconds, just so I could tell her I loved her. Just so I knew that she knew, just how much she really meant to me. And that was stage three; bargaining.
Stage four began just after our first Christmas without her. Mum had died 16 days after Christmas and the anniversary of her Death hit me like a tonne of bricks and depression set in. Getting out of bed knowing I would not see her when I got to work, killed me every morning. Not being able to hear her voice or see her everyday had began to take it’s toll and I was deeply unhappy. Nothing in my life seemed to matter any more. I had lost who I was because I still had not accepted her death. I wanted to die. I wanted to close my eyes and never open them again, because that was better than facing the reality of another year without her. But everyday I put on a front and pretended like everything was okay, because admitting I was suffering from depression, was in my mind, me letting her down. I thought that I had to be strong because she wasn’t here to do that for me!
It was only the impeding breakdown of my relationship that allowed me to see that I had a problem and it forced me to get the help that I needed. And as much as I hate him for being a coward and walking away at the toughest point of my life, I am also incredibly grateful that losing him, enabled me to find myself and get the help that I so desperately needed.
And that was where the long road of acceptance began; Stage five. The hardest stage of all! And for me, in a bizarre way, the most beautiful stage of all. Because during the 8 weeks of counselling that I received, together with the help of my incredible Dad, I accepted my Mum’s death and everything else that had happened and I finally appreciated just how incredible life could be again. I began to appreciate the bird’s song once again. And I was able to look at her photo once again, this time not feeling anger and despair, but absolute adoration and unbreakable love!
Finally, I could once again listen to her favourite song’s, without bursting in to tears. Now I was able to sing them at the top of my voice and smile, all the while imagining her tapping her feet and singing along with me. And whilst I knew I would never again see her face in a crowded room, I realised it was okay to still look for it.
Because I had now realised that it was all okay.
Okay to miss her. Okay to once again say her name out loud. It was okay to cry and to laugh. It was okay to function and okay to smile every time I think of her. It was okay to be angry and okay to be a mess some days. It is okay to remember her. It was okay to be thankful and okay to have hope for the future. It was okay for me to accept my Dad’s new partner and it was okay for me to like her and want to spend time with her. It’s okay to live after someone dies. And it is okay to always love them.
The hardest part of losing someone you love, is not having to say goodbye, but rather learning just how to live your life without them. And whilst grief never ends, it does change. It is a passage in your story, not a chapter to stay stuck in. Grief is never a sign of weakness, it is simply the price of love! Grief has no rules, no boundaries and no limit and in reality, it will last as long as love does… Forever!
And if missing my Mum everyday for the rest of my life means that I loved her, then I am more than okay with that!
© Belle’s Notepad (Laura Denton) 2017