My NaNoWriMo features

Memories and Grief

Isn’t it strange how you can be doing something basic, like making a cup of coffee or, even just having a bath and a memory hits you out of nowhere closely followed by the tears when you realise that you aren’t done grieving for those you’ve lost.

I wanted to discuss this with you as it is happening to me a lot lately. I lost 3 members of my family in 2015 within the space of 6 months. I lost my Mum in February, my Uncle over the August bank holiday, and my eldest Brother within a week of my Uncle.

I know there are the 5 stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Where am I in this cycle? With my Uncle, I think I passed through the stages really quickly. Sound callous? It isn’t. My Uncle was severely diabetic, and my Dad and I knew that the matter was more of a ‘when’ than an ‘if’ so when my Uncle passed, while I had an initial shock, that he had actually passed away, but I very quickly found myself in acceptance.

With my Mum, it is a little harder to say where I am in the cycle. I didn’t have the best relationship with my Mum, we were just so different, at times it felt like we had nothing in common. Sadly, my Mum was an alcoholic, not that she would have ever admitted this to anyone, including herself, and this caused so much friction within the family.

I’m the youngest of 4, which in another family would sound like a busy home. Not so much in mine as you see, there’s 14 years between me and the younger of my elder brothers. By the time I was growing up, my half siblings had all left home and I grew up like an only child, with half siblings that would call over from time to time to see Mum. As a child, I was always sent out of the way so the ‘grown-ups’ could talk. I understand why, grown-ups want to talk without a kid around, but the overall result? I don’t actually know how to have a proper conversation with my half siblings. But this isn’t what hurts the most.

Back to how I feel about losing my Mum. Well, as I said, we didn’t get on very well and in fact while my parents were going through a divorce, my Mum and I got into it during a phone call, which turned out the me the last time we spoke to each other before she passed. I remember being so angry with her, and I was trying to patch together a relationship with my Dad, who’d always worked really hard when I was growing up and again, I didn’t get to speak to a lot. I remember really laying into Mum about what she’d been doing, was trying to do and the call ended badly with my putting the phone down on her.

When Mum was really ill and in hospital, I didn’t know anything about it. She’d apparently told my half sister that she didn’t want me to know anything in case it got back to my Dad. I was on a staycation in Edinburgh with my other half, our first break together (we’d only begun seeing each other around 6 months before). We’d been out all day, walking around the city, around galleries and so on. When we got home I saw I’d missed so many calls and before I could call back, my sister-in-law called me again. She said it was my Mum and she was bad in hospital. She had a problem with her heart, she’d been offered surgery that would have saved her, but Mum had refused to have the surgery done and they weren’t sure she had long left. I wasn’t in a position to set on a drive back from Scotland, and my sister-in-law said she’d let me know what happened.

I remember calling my Dad and getting really upset with what was happening. My Dad talked to my other half for a while and I just left them to it, laying down on the bed crying to myself. A few short hours later, my sister-in-law called again to say my Mum was gone. She’d passed at around 11:00 that night. I called my Dad again; he drives night shift so he picked up. What went through my mind when I heard Mum was gone? A whole mix of emotions. Shock that I wouldn’t ever see my Mum again, a little disbelief – I was only in my very early thirties, I felt I was too young to lose my Mum. I was just so unprepared for the loss. To some extent, more than 4 years on and I still feel unprepared. I feel hurt that she chose to not have the surgery that would have saved her life. She chose to die. I don’t have the chance to talk to her again, to get more of the stories of the family, like we used to talk about.

The one loss I just can’t accept of the 3 is that of my eldest Brother. Of the 4 siblings, we the most alike, and even now I look in the mirror and see him in me. Like with the rest of the siblings, I didn’t ever know how to have a proper conversation with him, but I loved him so much, even if I hadn’t spoken to him for years (that was Mum’s fault too). Even now, I’m literally crying as I type, just thinking about him. I know I will never accept that he is gone, that I won’t ever get to speak to him, have a big brother hug from him. Or laugh as he grilled my other half.

So what is the outcome of this? Grief takes time. You never really completely get over the loss of someone close to you, no matter what the ‘experts’ say. There will always be something that makes you remember, makes you sad. All you can do is learn to live again. Do something for those you’ve lost, make them proud of you, even though they’ll never be able to tell you. Just be you.

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