losing my best friend...
The day my mum died changed everything. Where once I had this 24/7 dependable hotline, there is a gaping hole. She was my best friend, the one I called about every little thing. The times I miss her most are times only she and I shared; the daily commute home where I’d phone her from my car on the freeway and debate world affairs, the Sunday morning whispers at 8:30am mass, that cheeky smile she gave me when my dad would be telling a story we’d both already heard. I miss her when I see Kookaburras as she loved them, and I miss her in the deli aisle at the supermarket when I see the brand names of household items she always had stocked in her fridge.
God, I wish I could reach out and hold your hand or hug you because grief is the most awful of feelings and unfortunately there is no way but through it. Like the children’s book I read regularly to my son, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it. You, unfortunately, have to go through this and there’s no set timeline for how long your journey will take.
My mum died suddenly in April 2017. She was seemingly fine, packing books to read at the hospital (for a check up as she wasn’t feeling well for 24 hours prior) and within 45 minutes she was gone. Just like that. Here one day and gone the next. All the clichés suddenly come rushing to the surface and life feels particularly cruel. I remember walking into the ER and then realizing everyone around me had pity in their eyes. When I saw her, just lying there, I was just in shock. It was as if every inch of happiness and joy floated away that night. It just didn’t seem real at all. I didn’t think I could continue without her.
Your mum is usually the one person you can come running to through good times and bad, the one you can gossip with and share experiences with. She is the shoulder to cry on, the one cheering loudest for you and the one you can just be silent around and know it’s totally ok. One of the hardest parts of losing your mum is losing the person you could be with her – totally, unconditionally loved, nurtured, cocooned.
Right now you may feel like all of this is just not real. Then it hits you, seemingly out of nowhere and it’s as if someone is squeezing your soul. Regardless of your beliefs or faith, it can seem as if there’s no greater purpose to any of this. One of the nicest things I’ve been told in the last few months is that your life will go on and because of what’s happened you’ll start sifting the crap from what’s really important – in your relationships, in your career, in life in general. And that, is a gift that your mum, through this most awful of circumstances, has given you.
Life won’t be the same – in so many ways – but it will be. I often think of the Robert Frost quote, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on". Somehow the sun rises and you get yourself up and, well, you go on.
It probably feels very surreal and you’ll catch yourself thinking, “oh I’ll call mum” or “I’ll tell mum” and then you remember and an intense wave of grief will wash over you. If there is any comfort you can take from this sudden change, it may be that she went without a long drawn-out ending and that she was able to be “her” right up until the end. Perhaps this is the way she wanted to go, without fuss, without feeling like she was a ‘burden’ on anyone…if there is any comfort in that, remind yourself of it from time to time.
Let yourself grieve. Don’t try to fight it or think you “shouldn’t” cry. If you feel like crying in the middle of the supermarket, do it (I have). Let the tears and heartache out. It has to come out, so it’s either now or later…Grief finds a way to release itself from the body and the mind.
Take time off work, if you can. Some people say to keep busy but I found my mind just went into melt down for a good 3-4 weeks. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I needed time to just be with my father, to sift through my mother’s things, to smell her dressing gown, look through old photos, play songs she loved and just remember her. You’re now part of a club that no one ever wanted to be in, and the membership will take its toll.
People will say they understand, but they can’t. No one can. And even those who have lost their mum (like me) can’t understand your specific and individual relationship and how this will affect you. Know that people mean well, but this is something you will have to go through yourself. It may bring up all sorts of feelings, you may start questioning life itself and why these things happen. This is part of our life journey.
Most of all know that while her body may be gone, the love she showed you remains and the lessons she taught stay with you for the rest of your life. If you close your eyes and listen, you might hear her voice, her laugh, the familiar phrases she used. Embrace them. Call on them. Write them down somewhere. Remember the good times, don’t fixate on the end.
You’re not alone. People all around the world who have lost their mums feel your pain and send you so much love.
Please know, I’m sending you all the love in the world through one of the hardest parts of life you will ever go through.
In time, it will get a little easier. Not better, but easier to accept.