I'm writing this post for any of you who have experienced loss.
It's something that every single one of us will have to go through at some point in our lives, I just happened to go through it quite early on in mine. I'm no expert, I'm still dealing with my own loss, but if I can help just one person who is going through something similar, or who has gone through it, then that's all that matters.
I recognize that everyone grieves differently, but I'm going to talk to you about my own experience, which was losing my beautiful Mother to cancer just over two years ago.
I'll never forget the moment we were told Mum had cancer. I literally just burst into tears. The sense of shock running through me was indescribable, I’ve never felt anything like it since.
My mum never really wanted to speak about being ill, she never gave too much away, she just carried on living as normally as she could and having fun. When I look back now, I completely understand why she did this and why she didn't tell us. After just over a year, she lost her battle.
I was lucky enough to be in a situation where I was able to leave everything and go and look after my mum towards the end when she became very poorly. I'd literally just handed in my dissertation when I found out, so I was able to just up and leave. My sister was free-lance at the time too, so she did the same (thank God we had each other). Although caring for and nursing my mum in the 3 months before she died was the most horrendous thing I'll ever go through, I'm so glad I did it. Seeing your Mum not being able to talk or move, and in pain, is something that you can never prepare yourself for. In a strange way it puts my mind at ease that she knew every day when she woke up that my sister and I were there for her. When she had to be moved to the hospice, we moved in too, we had little camp beds set up in her room, we didn't want to spend a minute away from her.
Straight after my mum died, everything changed in my life. Literally. I had to move flats. I'd finished my third year of university so all my friends had moved away. I had to start a new job. I fell out with someone who I thought was a really close friend. My sister, (my only family) lived 2 hours away. I couldn't go 'home' because home wasn't there to go to. I've never felt more alone or lost in my entire life. I felt like I had nothing stable, routine or constant in my life. All of these changes along with losing the most important person to me, (the person I would normally turn to for all of these things) were extremely hard to process and deal with.
After (and during) losing someone, you go through this crazy intense concoction of horrible toxic emotions. I felt like I completely lost myself, and I couldn't see anything good in life anymore, I just didn't see the point in anything.
The main two things I remember distinctly, were feeling numb and like the whole thing was extremely surreal. It felt like I was in some hideous nightmare, or that I was looking down at someone else’s life, not mine. I just couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it.
I became really good at pretending I was okay, I didn't think anyone would want to be around me if I was upset all the time. The only time I would ever really show my emotion would be if I'd had too much to drink. Which was never a good idea. I got really angry about what had happened, then scared that I could have done something to change it. I started to become really resentful of other people, for having families, homes, and not being grateful enough for them. I'd get frustrated that no one knew how to console me or what to say to me. It made me terrified of losing people, and made me scared to get close to anyone incase I lost them. I saw how fragile everything actually is.
I felt really disconnected from everything and everyone. Sometimes I still feel all of these things.
I thought I would share with you a few of the things that have helped me...
*Don't be afraid to ask for help, this doesn't mean you are weak.
*Express your feelings in a creative way, I write in a diary and sometimes draw pictures around quotes I like. Try and express your feelings, turn them into something productive, or something beautiful.
*If you feel like you need answers or don't understand something that happened to ther person you've lost, write a letter to their GP or hospital. They are really good with this and usually reply within 2 weeks. I wrote a letter to my Mums GP and hospital asking them to explain everything to me, from dates of appointments to medication, right up until the end. This is a tough letter to read, but does help with getting a sense of closure.
*Find some positive quotes or lyrics about life (or death, whatever helps) and write them down. When you feel particularly bad, read through them all. I still do this now.
*Really look after yourself. Eat things you love, treat yourself shopping. Do anything that gives you even the tiniest glimpse of happiness.
*Find some music that you absolutely love, and get lost in it every day. Don't think about anything else while you’re listening to it. Let it be total escapsim.
*If you feel you need to, speak to a professional. You can go to your doctors and be referred to a councilor (completly free through the NHS up to 6 sessions or more if they think you need it), or you can find one privately. I went to 3 or 4 sessions with a councilor just after my mums passing, I don't think I was quite ready for this at the time, it was all still sinking in and I wasn't really ready to talk about it or process my feelings. Now I think I may be ready in the near future to try again, if I need to.
*There are other ways to speak to professionals too, you don't have to be in the same room as person. You can just call up a bereavement line, or even chat in online forums with people. Staying connected and being able to relate to people helps an awful lot, trust me. I spent one evening chatting to a few random people in a Macmillan forum one night. It did feel a little strange, but everyone was going through something similar, and in a strange kind of way, that's comforting.
*Try not to push family and friends away. I still struggle with this now.
*Don't feel guilty for having happy moments, relish in them. Sometimes I think I used to feel bad if I was laughing or happy, I thought other people must have been thinking 'why isn't she upset, her mum just died'. Even if they were thinking this, it doesn't matter. Don't ever feel bad for it.
*If you need to acknowledge the person you have lost, do it.
This year my boyfriend took me to the
Those are just some tiny things that helped me.
I used to have days, weeks even when I would just think to myself 'when will this stop hurting? When will it go away?' I hate to say it, but the truth is, that it doesn't. You just learn to live with it, you slowly learn to deal with it in another way, other wise it eats you up. It will change your whole life, and weather you choose to make this positive or negative is completely up to you. You have to be the strong one.
I suppose my main message is that you are NOT alone, and you don’t have to go through any of this alone, so please don't ever think that.
Things will get better. There are always people out there you can talk to who are going through the same thing, or just professionals who are there specifically to help you. Sometimes people won’t know what to say to you, but that's okay, it's probably because they've never been through something like this and it's hard to relate to. Heck, I've been through it, come out the other end, and I still don't know what to say to people. But I understand that now.
Even now I still get those little pangs of resentment towards people, and I hate myself for that, but I can't help it. I feel frustrated, angry and upset that I can't share everything with my mum, like everyone else. So much in my life has changed that she'll never know about. And, no matter how old you are, you always need your Mum right? I want her to know how happy I am now, even silly things like telling her what my favourite book is at the moment. Her death has totally changed me, I feel like a totally different person, in so many ways. Of course I'm still me, but I see everything so differently now. I can be in the bleakest situation, but I know, ultimately I'll be okay. When things feel impossible, I force myself to consciously look for the beauty in life. Everything has beauty, you just have to teach yourself how to see it, let the past make you into a better person.
Try to remember that life is, for the most part, pretty amazing. You need to lap it up while you can. For me, right now, I feel like I'm finally in a good place in my life where everything is going well and I can say that I am truly happy. Of course I miss my mum, I think about her every single day, and I’ll always carry that sadness within me, but that's part of who I am now, and I have to carry on. I've learnt that it's okay to let go, everything will be okay.
We only get one chance at living in this funny old world, we might as well try to enjoy it as much as we can. Every minute you spend being upset or negative, is a minute that could have been spent being happy. Remember that life is fragile and time really is precious.
So, if you've made it to the end of this loooong post, do something for me. No matter where you are or what you're doing today, give your Mum (or Dad or Grandad, Sister etc) a call, even a text or email and just let them know how much you love them.