This is going to be a sort of introductory blog post. I have now finished uni and currently have no definite plan (!) so actually having a project and a focus will be good. More importantly, I have a lot I’d like to write about. I want to try and articulate aspects of the process of losing mum but also how life has been without her (something I never thought could be possible). By writing about these things, I think I can almost help myself try and understand it all.
We don’t really ever talk about death, or even the process leading up to it. Before mum died I couldn’t understand how someone could be living one moment and then not there the next. I think that helped me believe that mum couldn’t die because if I couldn’t understand it, in my head, it couldn’t happen. While this naivety was a coping mechanism, I also think I could have benefited from being more aware about certain things, some of which I’d like to talk about in the coming posts.
This next year will be a year out… another gap year. My first gap year before uni ended prematurely after finding out mum had been diagnosed with cancer again. I flew home the following day – a horrible ordeal that I’m sure I’ll write about at some point. I was three weeks into what was meant to be an eight week trip in Peru shortly followed by three months travelling around South East Asia (trips I’d funded by working 40 hour weeks at Subway…perhaps another story). So not only do I want to (re) visit these countries, along with hopefully applying for a masters, I also want to do a bit of processing and grieving in my own time. Mum died half way through my second year of uni and while it was good to have exams to give me some structure in the months that followed, I found in my third year, being sad and feeling this lack of motivation that never had been a problem before wasn’t at all sustainable. I was only allowing myself time to be upset when I didn’t have an essay to write or exams to work for – but this meant I found it hard to find any time at all and I ended up feeling slightly detached from everything. I’d try pushing emotions away and was getting very good at coping. Coping is important and necessary (especially if I want to get on with my day) but it also is a short term solution that uses a lot of energy. I’m particularly aware of this fact when I’m tired (which also means that I am even more vigilant of being tired). So, I suppose what I’m saying is this year out is also an opportunity to grieve in my own time – something which is also slightly scary. Everyone grieves differently and for me a default position is ‘be ok’ or ‘how can I feel better about this’ – but losing mum isn’t something I can just try and rationalise in my head. I need to let myself have those sad moments and days and not feel guilty for it getting in the way of other things (something I have to remind myself regularly).
I also need some of this year to sort though mum’s clothes (which are currently piled high in my room). I thought it would be an easy task but it's proving a lot harder than anticipated. If I make two piles (one for charity, one to keep) – the ‘one to keep’ pile ends up looking almost like the pile I started with. Now anything mum related has so much extra value. A scrap piece of paper with her handwriting on no longer goes in the bin but in the bottom drawer of my desk (which is threatening to overspill). A dress that I’ll never wear now I think I could wear in 10 years time. Even clothes I know I’ll never ever wear are memories of mum and of the time she wore them. Its like throwing something away is giving away some irretrievable piece of mum. It’s a bit scary relying on my actual memory for memories… so something tangible, like clothes, are almost like memory cue cards (if that makes sense). This blog may have similar benefits – like a retrospective diary.
I think I’m also reluctant to sort through mum’s things because it's removing a presence in the house and there’s that fear that it could be like mum was never here. The second drawer of the chest of drawers in mum and dads room is filled with lots of mum’s toiletries. It’s a drawer I’d search through when mum was alive (discreetly of course), and even now, to find her nice Dr Hauschka face cream or use some of her lovely smelling organic guava moisturiser (both of which are finished but I still like having them there). I like that even though mum’s gone, I can still go to her drawer for something I need. It's like she’s almost still here… still filling an (albeit very small) motherly role of having the nicer more expensive beauty products than me.
We are all in France at the moment, somewhere we came every year with mum. While this year more than the last I am even more aware of the fact we’re a five and not our normal six, we still manage to enjoy the sun and spend the days swimming, reading books and playing boggle and cards. The other day I dealt cards for six players – only realising when Tom pointed my mistake out – but I was glad I had, because it acknowledged mum. On occasions it is a bit overwhelming being somewhere where all five of us desperately miss mum. At uni it would just be me, and my pain I could manage. It's harder seeing the people you love hurting and here I can’t avoid as easily the fact that mum isn’t here anymore…but maybe that’s a good thing.
I have written a lot lot more than the introductory blog post I was planning! Amazing if you got to the end of it – thank you for reading.
(I wrote this blog a few weeks ago but couldn’t post it onto Cancer Is Pants until I could hack into mums Gmail account (which was where the ‘forgotten password’ email gets sent). This is a trivial and unanticipated problem you have deal with after some dies (amongst absolutely everything else) and of course I couldn’t just ask mum. After numerous attempts at guessing various combinations of our Netflix password and mum’s computer password (worrying about being locked out for good after what could look like ‘suspicious activity’ on her account in France) I discovered mum had saved it in the notes on her phone. I had a lovely moment of thanks for mum for helping despite not being here and finally managed to change the password and log in.)
I've posted some pictures of us all this year in France (also because big blocks of text look really unappealing). Its sad not having any of mum in - so i've included some of mum from our last summer all together in 2016.