A Grief Encounter
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a PR company inviting me to attend a special Mother’s Day event. ‘A treat for you and your mum!’ the invite read. My heart dropped into my stomach and I promptly deleted it. It’s just an email, I told myself. Deleted. Forgotten about.
Only it wasn’t forgotten about. As I carried on with my day, attempting to busy myself with whatever I had been doing before I’d checked my emails, I could feel a little doom-cloud descending. It felt like the light had been turned off on my day and I was annoyed at myself for allowing a single email to switch my mood from good to grumpy.
Grumpy is how grief manifests itself, for me. I have never been much of a take-myself-upstairs-to-cry-at-pictures type of person, though on a very small number of occasions that has happened. I’ve always coped far better with being in ‘a bad mood’ than I have with being in a sad mood because a bad mood means I can stomp around with people thinking I’ve simply ‘got a cob on’ and I can still function perfectly well complete with cob. A sad mood is a lot trickier to contend with.
I hadn’t prepared myself for the feelings this email would stir up because it came out of the blue and I was therefore completely unable to control my mood. The bad mood pretty swiftly became a sad one and before I could stop it, my mind went there. To the place I try so hard not to let it go. I imagined what ‘a treat for me and my mum’ would look like. I imagined us getting the train to London and drinking coffee and laughing at Mum’s insistence on wearing her backpack on her front so nobody could steal her purse. I imagined linking arms on our way to a spa somewhere, excited about being pampered after having left the kids with Grandad for the day.
And then came the usual crushing realisation: Mum is not here. She hasn’t been here for a very long time. In fact, this year marks the birthday where I’ll have spent more years without her in my life than I spent with her in it. I have lived more than half of my life feeling like something is missing and in many ways, becoming a mum has only made that void feel bigger. The birth of each of my babies has been tinged with an unshakeable sadness that I will never be able to hand them over for a cuddle with their Nanny Debbie. They will never know her and she will never know them. The sadness of that thought has been so intense at times that I have felt a physical pain in my chest; the true meaning of heartbreak.
Grief never ends. There is never a line drawn or a feeling of being ‘over it.’ You will overhear people say, ‘life goes on’ but you will know that your life will never go on in quite the same way again. Instead, you will make a new life and that new life can be happy and fulfilled and wonderful but it’s still more than possible that you will find yourself alone in your kitchen, fifteen years later, reading an email and having a little cry over the version of your life that you had to say goodbye to.
I didn’t reply to the email, in the end, nor did I reply to the chase-up email I received which asked if I’d had a chance to ask my mum if she fancied a Mother’s Day treat yet. I didn’t want to make the sender feel bad by responding, 'My mum's dead, actually. Regards.' She was just doing her job. It sounded like a lovely event.
What I did want, more than anything, was to pick up the phone to my mum and ask her if she fancied popping round. To talk about something trivial, like whether she thought it would be good drying weather at the weekend or if she’d caught up with Tuesday’s The Chase yet, as a single player had beaten The Dark Destroyer in the final chase. I wanted to ask if she had any ideas for World Book Day costumes and then I wanted to say, ‘Love you!’ before I told her I would see her soon. Normal stuff. Mum stuff. Bloody lovely stuff.
So no, I didn't reply. I did what I have been doing for the last five years whenever things have felt a bit much and I wrote a blog instead. Because every time I do, I reach people who have been feeling the same. There are so many people who will find the upcoming conversations around Mother's Day hard for a wide variety of reasons, of which loss is just one. If that's you, this one's for you.