I found myself remembering my mother today. She died six years ago from Pancreatic Cancer at the age of 67. She had retired three years earlier after having spent her whole working life in nursing (she was a theatre nurse/OR nurse). Along with my dad, she set up a bed and breakfast establishment in their home and had continual business.
Then she became ill. At first we didn’t know. She had wanted to lose a bit of weight and so started to eat smaller meals but when that moved out of her control and to a point where she didn’t want to eat anything, we knew something was wrong. I think she knew immediately, but always gave us hope.
She was diagnosed with aggressive Pancreatic Cancer and within 4 months she had died.
I know we all deal with death, loss and grief in different ways. There is no right or wrong way of dealing with it. No-one can prepare you for how you are going to feel, and for how long you are going to feel the intensity of the grief. This is how I remember processing some things.
- I cried – but I cried before she died too, anticipating the loss. I remember telling a group of friends one evening about the diagnosis and crying so hard that snot was rolling from my nose, and people were almost embarrassed. However, I did not care. I needed this time to grieve among friends whom I trusted.
- I was angry – she had only been retired for three years and was beginning to enjoy her life in a new way. Now it had all been taken. My father hadn’t had a lot of time with my mum since retiring and they had plans. Now they would not happen – together.
- I ached – deep in the very pit of my stomach. My mum had instilled in me a real sense of being. She had loved me, cuddled me, fed me, nurtured me, been there for me and in that, I knew who I was as a person. Now she was gone, and I ached. Looking back on it now, I see that she had given me everything I needed to be the woman I now am.
Time is a healer, but it doesn’t ever completely close the wound. You never get over it. I still get emotional about my mother, and I miss her. There are things that are happening in my life now that I know she would want to share with me, and I miss not being able to do so.
It is not all negative and sombre though. I am so grateful for my mother. She had given me all that I needed to be able to live life. There are so many happy memories which I am now able to hang onto and enjoy. As a family, we can remember and laugh whereas, in the early days, we would remember and cry. She enters into our conversations – “Mum would have said….” “I remember when Mum….” so she is still with me in many ways.
So in conclusion:
- No-one can tell you how to grieve, it will be unique to you.
- The world cannot dictate how long you should grieve. Do it your way.
- There were bad days, but good days did come
- I found it best for me to grieve with others and not to be alone
- Anger was part of my grief. It’s OK.
- There are times when it felt as if the pain would never leave. Feelings, as I’ve said before, are not the full reality.
- Remember the good times too.