My first thoughts on naming this post was – “Screw you 2015!”
I know… and I said this year was going to be better than last.
A month ago, I lost my mum to cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 1/2 years ago, and on the 11th February 2015 she passed away in her sleep, two days after being discharged from hospital to come home to her family. She was 46.
A week after my mum passed away, I spoke at her funeral. I spoke of all the things I loved most about her and I forgot all about that horrible disease that stole her away from me. It didn’t deserve to be there that day. A week later I went back to work and that morning would be the first time in two weeks I would cry.
Last week, we celebrated my younger sister’s 13th birthday, and last Sunday it was Mother’s day in the UK. Why am I writing about this? Because this is me dealing with my hard battle, everyday.
I haven’t really told many people, I didn’t tell people when she was ill and now that she’s gone, it’s even harder to tell people now that she has died. The saddest thing about it is that you realise everyone has been hurt by cancer, and yet it’s still not normal to talk about it.
When I found out my mum’s cancer was back last summer, it felt like I was crying all the time. I would feel guilt and sorrow seeing her deteriorate, seeing her slowly become unable to do all the things she wanted to do. In her last month, I lost count the number of times she longed to just ride a bike and how jealous she was we all could. I joked about getting a child’s seat for the back of my bike.
Joking about my mum’s situation helped me deal with it a lot. My mum had a great sense of humour, extremely witty which towards the end became quite light-heartedly morbid (if there ever were such a thing). We were quite open with the fact that she would die soon, and that matter-of-fact attitude allowed us to joke in ways that could seem inappropriate. In her last month I spent everyday with her, and one of the last things she ever said to me was that she was ‘so sick of me’. I kept smothering her with kisses and hugs, she joked, but it was her way of saying thank you and our way of acknowledging what was happening. I still joke with my siblings about all the silly things my mum did and what she would do if she was here.
I’ve also watched a hell of lot of Disney films. Doing so definitely falls into the ‘denial and reverting to a child-like state’ method of coping, but it let me be in a cocoon for the first two weeks, and I needed that so I didn’t have to mourn yet. A lot of my relatives went immediately into a hyper-organised, keep themselves busy mode, and that works for a lot of people as it allows you feel useful at a time you feel extremely useless (at least that’s my interpretation). That didn’t work for me at all! In fact, the thought of being busy and proactive just made me want time to move slower and made me feel very stressed at the thought of it.
Now, I’m back at work and I need to be in my ‘normal’ routine. Although I would still prefer to do nothing and just hide in bed all day, I find different ways of coping with how I feel. I eat lots of junk food (couldn’t say I’d recommend it :P), I make time to look after those around me (especially my younger brother who was particularly close to my mum), and I also make more time to be with my friends. One of the hardest things about caring for a family member who is ill, is that often that comes at the expense of spending any time with other people. In a way, looking after and spending energy on different people i.e. my friends, feels like a good way of coming to terms with the loss of my mum. If I could even put into words how that makes sense, I would. But it just makes me feel better.
I wanted to write this post not only because I believe writing can be extremely therapeutic, but because something that is helping me to cope is by knowing about and being able to empathise with other people’s experiences of loss. Sometimes just knowing that someone is reacting in a similar way, that you might think is unusual, can make you feel better in a small way.