There are no words to describe exactly what constitutes grief. The only way I can think to describe it would be an overwhelming sadness that engulfs your whole life and leaves you with a sense of nothing. By nothing, I mean you feel nothing except a numb overbearing silence that replaces what you once had.
Losing a parent is the worst pain you can ever comprehend. Of course you never think it will happen to you. You can’t quite believe it when it does. Surely this is just a warped version of reality that you will wake up from? Sadly, it’s not and you will remember every single little detail of how it happened. I remember sitting with my Grandma having a cup of tea after coming out the shower. It was a cold, January evening and I had my blue knitted jumper over my Pajamas to keep me warm. I’d had news from someone, I can’t remember who, that Mum had fallen and hit her face and my Grandad and Uncle had gone to make sure she was okay. I was joking with my Grandma about how clumsy she was as she’d broken her finger a few weeks before. Little did we know she wouldn’t ever be coming home.
My Uncle called later on that evening with news that they thought Mum had had a stroke. Now I started crying and getting panicky. My dad drove me over to Eastbourne to my Sister’s netball match where this had all happened. As soon as we got there, I was out the car like a shot and sprinting towards the ambulance in the car park. They directed me to the leisure centre where my sister was waiting. She knew nothing at this point except that Mum had hit her face. She was waiting with a friend and her Mum and wondered why I was so upset. I lied and said I was fine when I really just wanted to break down. I knew strokes were life threatening or could have devastating effects on your mental capacity.
A few minutes later, my Grandad and Dad came in the room and broke the news. The paramedics had done all they could but my Mum passed away from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) There was nothing they could do. Her heart just stopped. How can a fit, 44 year old woman who had so much of her life in front of her be taken, just like that?
I have never been so shocked in my life. I honestly couldn’t take in what had just happened. It couldn’t be true. I remember thinking the worst part was my Grandma still didn’t know as she was catching a lift from a good family friend to be here. When she got there, it was even worse. To see someone’s reaction to the news was unbearable. They let us sit in the gym hall so we could all be together but I couldn’t sit down. I didn’t want to be near anyone and paced around the room trying to make sense of what had just happened. I remember leaning forward and bracing myself on a table tennis table. I couldn’t bring myself to cry, the tears just wouldn’t come. I kept asking everyone if it was weird that I wasn’t crying. Of course not, they said, you’re in shock.
I then phoned my boyfriend and breaking that news was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I went to the toilets to do it and someone walked in whilst I was sobbing uncontrollably down the phone. I remember every single word of that conversation and hearing his mum crying in the background.
We then had to go home and just leave her. Most of my family congregated round ours and we all just cried together because what else can you do? There was nothing to say. Seeing my boyfriend with tears in his eyes too was quite upsetting. You know it’s bad when men cry. Sleeping that night wasn’t as hard as you might think. I was so emotionally drained. My sister and I slept in my mum’s bed together that night.
Waking up the next morning was when reality hit. My sister and I cried a lot but both managed to eat something and watch a little TV. It was a Friday so I was meant to be at work. Dad called them and soon after I got a few texts from my colleagues completely shocked by the news, hoping I was okay. This if anything makes it worse. You know it’s shocking and sad; them confirming it just hits it home even more. You also don’t really want anyone’s sympathy. It hasn’t happened to them. They have no idea how you feel. The more texts and cards I got, the angrier I became. What right did these people have to say they were there for anything I may need? Months later my dad and I joked that if they meant anything maybe they could buy us a yacht or take us on holiday! Seriously though, some people try to tell you how you’re meant to feel or how it will get better in time. I’ll be the judge of that thank you very much. The truth is people just don’t know what to say but feel they have to say something so blurt out whatever awkward comment comes to mind.
The first couple of days after it happened; we spent at my grandparents with my Uncle (my mum’s brother) my Auntie, my cousin’s and my boyfriend. We didn’t leave the house for those two days except to buy some food in Morrison’s. I remember thinking how strange it was that people were just getting on with their lives oblivious to the pain I was feeling. It was a feeling I’d get a lot in the next few weeks.
My mum’s cousin and family visited us the next day and by then I’d just had enough of being surrounded by people. I had a hair appointment booked that day and decided it would be a good idea for me to get out. My hairdresser knows my family and was told before I had my hair cut what had happened to my Mum. She was so nice about it and didn’t ask any questions which I appreciated. I went to my boyfriends after that and saw his parents for the first time since it had happened. We watched a programme with clips of puppies doing silly things. I remember it actually making me laugh which was a surprise. My boyfriend’s parents went out and Rich and I had a long chat about everything that had happened which made me cry but he took it all in his stride and made me realize life will go on. He has been such an incredible support through everything which I am incredibly thankful for.
I only took a week off from work which looking back on now, I know was a mistake. I should have taken more time to myself but moping about for days on end is awful and gives you lots of time to think. I met up with my friends soon after and was glad to realize everything was the same as before. I told them everything including my feelings towards the inevitable funeral in a few weeks. It wasn’t awkward and I’m incredibly grateful to them for just listening and being there.
Going back to work was hard as I expected it would be. I took the train to work and there were points where I felt like getting off at the next stop and waiting for the train back but I didn’t. It wasn’t too bad when I got there. I didn’t cry and talked a bit about what happened with my work colleagues. From then on though, I was a lot quieter at work. I only really spoke when spoken to and just got on with my work. I knew several of them were worried about me but I finally had something to concentrate on and that was enough.
The day before the funeral I was at work. I didn’t feel I needed it off but my grandparents rung me about writing something for the funeral and that was it. I broke down and came home. The next day was undoubtedly the worst day of my life. I cried all the way through the service and sat wishing I was somewhere else through most of the wake.
I don’t remember much about the days after that except crying most evenings after work. I started seeing a counselor every week which helped a little bit but I felt like I wasn’t opening up enough and was just expressing my anger about family and friends. What was I meant to talk about; how I missed my Mum? How unfair life was? That was a given and there didn’t seem much point so I didn’t really say much. Something they don’t tell you about grief is that it makes you incredibly moody. Anything can set you off and any slight bit of sympathy made me bristle with anger. People would say ‘I’m so sorry about your Mum.’ Why are you sorry? It’s not your fault. I felt guilty for being happy and wanted to put my life on hold. How could I think about my life when my mum’s had been so abruptly ended?
A few months later, I was let go at my job. That was the last straw. I knew there was a possibility that I wouldn’t be kept on after my apprenticeship but I hadn’t given it much thought and kept up hopes that I’d be kept on. I wasn’t. I got home to my boyfriend’s and just cried. Life wasn’t fair. When it rains it pours and life had decided to throw me two major curve balls. I talked a lot about losing my job in my counseling sessions. I felt like I was getting nowhere though. I just had to keep looking and hope I found something.
As soon as I left work in mid-June, something in me changed. I felt a bit happier. I felt less pressure to put on a brave face every day and go to work. I didn’t have a job but felt like I needed a break. I had an interview lined up in a couple of weeks and that was enough for now. The time came for the interview and I surprised myself and got the job.
For the first time in months, I finally felt happy again. I couldn’t believe I was starting a full time job in 3 weeks’ time! It was even stranger as my mum used to work at a solicitors like I do now. I only wish I could tell her about what I’ve been doing as she’d know exactly what I mean.
There have been times over this year which have been incredibly hard. Even the most normal of days where sadness has overcome me and I’ve sat crying at my Grandparents house or with my boyfriend. There are days which have been harder than others such as her birthday and Mother’s Day. Days that I used to celebrate with my Mum every year. Now celebrations like Christmas that used to bring such joy are going to be the days that I dread the most. It’s incredibly unfair. However, time does make it easier and together with the support of your family, you will get through it.
Unassuming people who ask about your mum will be the hardest to explain to but it’s better they know rather than having to lie your way through a conversation. I feel so much stronger having gone through this grief and I know it will never fully go away but it’s made me grow up and realize I need to live my life while I can.
I think Tom Oakley from the book and film Goodnight Mr Tom sums up losing someone perfectly: “You’ll always have memories of them and that is something no one can ever take away from you.”