I’ve been trying to title this article for an hour. I still can’t think of a good one. Losing your mum can do that to you.
Losing Your Mum. It’s Shit
It’s been four months on the 19th April since my mum died. I was in Spain on the four month anniversary of her death and I didn’t even notice the date. I Avoid looking at photographs, avoiding reading things or looking at things. Avoiding anything really that makes me sad and Binge on anything that makes me happy. Maybe that’s not the best way to deal with it but for now, I don’t really care. How do you deal with losing your mum?
Looking back on how Ive got from then to now I think on the outside I’ve been trying to be as ‘normal’ as possible and It probably borders on some kind of insane mania where you grin like a clown but you are just dead on the inside. excesses of anything that brings fleeting amounts of feeling ok is the new norm.
That horrible day
My amazing Mum died on the 19th December at 9.30pm. I was sat by her bedside, my hand resting on her leg. her leg because there were six of us and we were all holding on to her. As she stopped breathing, I wasn’t aware. I was otherwise engaged in looking at my phone. That sounds so typical of me. It was quiet and I was looking through my photos and reminiscing, trying to find the last happy photo I had personally taken of mum. It was a year ago in Greece when we were all on holiday together.
Suddenly, a horrible sound. I heard my niece shriek and I looked up and realised that the harrowing, dreadful worst moment of my life, the thing I feared the most and had been brooding over for so long had just happened. And I hadn’t noticed. I didn’t feel like crying but everyone was so I joined in. It was very surreal. I had watched mum rapidly deteriorate over a seven day period, in textbook fashion. When she stopped breathing, and I had looked up, it kind of felt like “ok, well that’s that”. It felt sad and heavy. I was in a dream. A Nightmare.
We sat in the family room with the nurses mum was tidied up. When I went back in, I imagined I could hear her breathing. She only seemed asleep. I stared intently. Of course, she wasn’t breathing. In some kind of dream, we gathered her belongings and emptied the room. I tided all the bits of rubbish away, empty bottles and sandwich wrappers. I couldn’t walk out of the room and leave it untidy. It would have gotten right on her nerves. The last thing i did was leave the door open a little for her. She hated it shut, she was so social. And that was it. The last time I would ever see my mum again.
I went home, numb. I sat for a while with my mum in law and Matt. The next day I woke up and remember thinking Christmas was 5 days away and It needed to be “Normal”. I locked myself in my room, put on some old old Christmas music and began wrapping. It was like wrapping up my own emotions. I overwrapped everything, even the obligatory Terry’s Chocolate Orange. This went on for hours, whilst I cried over Perry Como and Judy Garland. I cried over that when my father died too. I was twelve. Now Im an orphan. Can you be an orphan when you’re a grown up? Who cares, I’m being one.
Back at home
That evening, went downstairs, sat on the sofa in my pyjamas with a blanket on me, and drank myself to sleep. Who wants to be awake anyway?
The next few days went by and I distracted myself with being ‘festive’. Poking round on Pinterest looking for fancy things to go in Christmas Eve boxes, Shopping. The usual stuff. I was dead on the inside.
So many of us share our highlights on social channels and never the lowlights. I’m the same. Not because I’m showing off or trying to paint a picture, but who wants me to bore them with the stuff that makes me sad? Because of this, you often get a sense that a person who is suffering is doing well. They baked something, they went on holiday, they had a meal out, they posted something funny. Aren’t they doing well? Judging by this colour explosion, I must have been doing great. I was just trying to get a warm fuzzy feeling.
A few days after Christmas, It was Isla’s fifth Birthday, so I booked us a weekend at Alton Towers. I don’t know why but it seemed like a good idea. What is funner than Birthday dinner by arriving by rollercoaster, Christmas songs and minus temperatures. I wouldn’t mind, I hate water parks. I won’t even swim. And then kids, everywhere. The hotel was like something from Bikini Bottom and I felt miserable.
A series of nightmares
That night, I barley slept. I had a sequence of nightmares, from bombing, and my daughters being kidnapped or swept away by a giant tidal wave to what some would describe as a visitation dream. They were almost hallucinogenic, and very disturbing. I woke up feeling like everything was real.
I was in a room. It was very white and the light coming in through the window was bright. My eldest son David was in the room, and mum was there, in her speckly brown cardigan pottering around in the kitchen.
She was making a green salad. It was in a white bowl, on a white table. I said to David, “Don’t have my mum making your salad, she needs to keep her energy”. In the next moment mum was sat in a chair, and she was telling me she was fine. “But mum, you died” I said to her, confused. She said “I know” We hugged, and I thanked her for being my mum. In the background my other son was there and he said to David, “She knows theres no one there doesn’t she?” (He was implying that I was the only one that could see mum, even though he knew she was there earlier.)
At this point I woke up hugging my pillow and then the tears came, followed by sobs, followed by an inability to breathe. The only way I can describe the pain was like someone stamping on my chest. It physically hurt my chest. Unless you have experienced grief of some sort, then this is a kind of feeling you can’t comprehend.
That day, I was a crying panicking wreck. Being outside was a mistake and I couldn’t wait to get home. For anyone interested though, dinner by rollercoaster WAS pretty cool.
I really don’t remember January. I stayed in bed a lot. Crocheted a lot. Spent £300 on wool and started a Mandala which is in the same state now as it was at the end of January. Didn’t sleep much and when I did, my dreams were vivid and sometimes scary. I binged on trash TV, McDonalds, KFC, More KFC. My soul needed junk. Junk TV, Junk Food, Junk whatever. I’d had far too much realness.
I did try to put my mind back into work, and at the end of January, Danny & I were invited to a Winners Dinner from winning the local business awards, but I spent the whole night talking to people about my mum & drinking cool expensive cocktails. Im not sure how interested strangers were but I couldn’t find myself with anything else to talk about. Luckily Danny had cocktails to drown out my whining.
Back to work
I went back to the office for a short while. I was just a mess and Danny told me to go back home. We decided to pack up for good and work from home. By the end of January, I was installed in the spare bedroom with Matt, My sister and a load of cool virtual systems Danny had been building. It was good because I didn’t have to go outside, unless I really had to. In fact I didn’t even have to get out of bed, or wash and I didn’t really care. I gained a stone. I will admit I cared about that, but it didn’t stop me eating junk.
February was a bur too. Emotions were running high. I felt like I was stuck at the bottom of the sea bobbing around. Every now and then I could try and climb higher, and I would get near to the surface, but never reach it before I was back under again, drowning. About half way through February, for a fleeting moment I realised I wasn’t thinking about mum and then I realised how much I miss her.
I got back into coding again and just spent hours at my mac and not doing much else. 16 hours a day. I built a couple of websites and I was really happy with them. It felt like my creative mojo had returned.
Getting out again
I started to feel like going outside again a little and we took the kids to Blackpool for the day, Doing stuff with the kids always reminds me of being small & it just made me happy. At the end of the month I wanted a holiday, so I booked one. In one of my crazy ideas I decided we would drive from Malaga to Barcelona with two small kids.
In March, things started to shift. I know this because I’m starting to remember. Matt worked away for a couple of nights and the act of him leaving threw me into panic. I sobbed at the prospect of being alone and all I could think of was how I would phone my mum and ask if she wanted to do something, and suddenly I felt so very alone. Later that day I shifted my mood and remembered that my kids did have mum, so I contacted the big ones, rounded up the small ones and all five of us went into Manchester for a curry at Mowgli. Life has never yet been too bad to enjoy curry, and i know my mum would agree with me.
In true me style I decided one way to feel better was to take up a new obsession. Next, We splashed out on a fancy tent and lots of camping gear. I was going to be intrepid! We packed it all up, drove an hour up the road and pitched our new tent in the dark. But this tent had inflatable tubes instead of poles, a carpet, a ‘bar area’ (I’m calling it that and no one is going to stop me ok?) and a BBQ on the porch. We froze our arses off in subzero temperature for two nights. So, I loved it. The smell of outdoors, cooking on an open stove. The sun shone all day and I was happy.
In all of this, I am lucky to have Matt by my side who has given me the space and support to just vegetate, drink, binge on TV, Sleep during the day, spend money on things I don’t need and will never use, change my hair, change my body, mope, cry, complain, come up with stupid ideas and not criticise me for them.
Just do what you want
For anyone who experiences the heartbreak and raw pain of someone so close being torn away, my advice is be kind to yourself. Drink. Cry about nothing. Do it. Then, Binge on TV and Junk food. Do it. You can detox later. Make impulse purchases. Just take up a hobby you will probably never pursue. Dye your hair a new colour, book a holiday, hide from the world. cancel appointments. Let yourself to be a mess. Be selfish. Losing your mum will only happen once in your life, so do whatever the hell you want.