Whenever Mum used to drive us anywhere, I’d sit in the passenger seat, Evee would be in the back, the phone would be connected to the speakers by aux cable. Mum would call us “Music Maestros” and I used to roll my eyes but smile at her approval of my playlists. We’d listen to our favourite songs, as loud as we could push it before she would say “that’s too loud!”.
When we went on long car journeys, we’d put on Dire Straits or Meatloaf, because according to her, they were perfect artists to drive to. She loved driving in the fast lane of the motorway, and Evee and I would scream the heartfelt lyrics so loudly into our “air microphones” whilst playing our “air instruments”. We enjoyed the journey in the car, in our own little bubble.
I’d always get a sense of pride when she used to say, “Oh I love this song, who is it?” I’d usually reply with the name of some alternative folk artist who plays the guitar “Ben Howard”, “Mumford & Sons”, “Damien Rice”, etc. On the way back from work one day, Mum turned the music up when I put someone new on:
“For I’m so scared of losing you
And I don’t know what I can do about it
So tell me how long love before you go
And leave me here on my own
I know it
I don’t want to know who I am without you”
She turned the music up, and I thought she was going to cry. “What a beautiful song” and we were both silent. I never thought that just a few years later, I would have to know who I am, without her.
I still don’t know who I am.
I knew who I was when I was with my Mum. She thought I was incredibly funny. I used to know exactly how to make her laugh – even when she was annoyed at me (which annoyed her even more). Not many other people would describe me as funny though. I used to play the guitar, and it used to make her happy, but I don’t do that anymore.
From March to April of this year, I was spending my weekends sleeping and crying big, ugly, desperate tears. The type of crying that requires me to put a bag of frozen peas over my swollen eyelids. I’d spend my days in bed, my mind playing memories of Mum on repeat and imagining that she was still alive, which provided me with a few moments of numb escapism.
This momentary make-belief was always violently wrenched by the brutal realisation that that wasn’t my reality anymore. Overwhelmed by my despondent moods and repetitive thought processes, I went to the Doctors a couple of months ago. He told me that after 6 months, I shouldn’t be spending so much time in bed crying. Disconcerted about my uninterest of leaving the house, he asked “Well, what did you do before your Mum passed away?” I felt anger burn up inside of me in response. I used to spend time with her, you complete moron, I thought.
Tomorrow marks the 9-month mark and I still don’t know who I am.
I still struggle, particularly now I have finished university. What do I do with my time now? I was so excited to finish university to spend a few months with my Mum. We talked about life after university a lot – she always told me that the world was my oyster. Now I am faced with life after Mum. Life without Mum, with myself, a stranger, who still bases their decisions on what their Mum would do.
Yesterday, I was on the train back from a 3-week trip away. A notification flashed on my phone as Evee had posted her blog post – The Human Condition. Her post is lined with the intricacies about her inner conflict as her heart begins to mend with time.
We are similar in so many ways, we have shared so many life experiences together, and we have made this blog together. However, this experience of grief is undeniably different for each of us. After reading her post, my initial reaction was that I am just not there yet, but that’s okay.
If you have felt similar anxieties about your “progress” during your grief journey, I would like to remind you that everyone’s grief is completely personal to them. Put less pressure on yourself.
And, to the doctor who told me that I shouldn’t be crying so much at the 6-month mark, I would suggest that he doesn’t tell patients in the future what they should or shouldn’t be doing at the 6-month mark. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. I used to stay in bed and cry because that’s what I needed to allow myself to do. I am thankful that I didn’t suppress my emotions because 3 months later I don’t need to do that anymore.
Everyone’s relationship, personality, experience and journey, is different. That goes for grief too. The way in which people grieve is different. It cannot, and should not, be compared.