It’s September 2018 and you’ve no interest in a life without Mum. While she was around you could be strong for her. Now she’s gone you’re weak and full of panic; what do you do now? Right now you’re bitter and angry and you’re in pain.
Give it a year.
Remember how Mum would always say to break things down, and to not look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture is scary, and so is a year. 365 days seems inconceivable right now, but you can manage one day at a time. Stay in bed if you have to. You don’t have to leave the house, you just have to get through another day.
Before you know it, days turn into weeks and soon you’re working with months. Each time the 9th comes round it feels like a knife, at least for the first 6 months it did. Or was it just the anticipation that cut so deep?
Let yourself feel it. Hide under your duvet and let it wash over you, and most importantly, rest.
You won’t always feel like such a deadweight being pulled up a hill that you don’t want to see the top of. You won’t always feel that sense of dread and guilt at the prospect of leaving the house. You won’t always feel a crippling fear when you leave those four walls. But while you do, don’t push yourself, just rest. Go easy on yourself.
You won’t always feel so numb either. Evee is going to suggest that you begin a blog together, a flame of inspiration will flicker inside you as you bounce ideas off of each other. This could be a really good idea; you’ve never thought about writing before.
This year, you’re going to experience a completely different side to loss, one that you never expected. No one’s to blame. You were two good people just trying to make it through, you both gave it everything. But you can’t give from an empty cup, Katie. Go easy on yourself, you’re trying your best. I guess what I am trying to say is: all of that energy you put into others, put it into yourself. Run yourself a hot bath, make yourself a nice dinner. Work on filling your own cup, Katie. A relationship can come later. For now, you need to rest.
It’s a hard lesson to learn but try and say “No”. You carry so much guilt with you about letting plans fall through. You put so much pressure on yourself to not make mistakes and to carry on at full speed. One day you’ll learn that “No” is a complete sentence and you are entitled to use it as freely as you want. Don’t push yourself, and don’t let others push you. It’s a hard lesson for others to learn also, when you begin to say “No”. Not everyone will respect your boundaries.
You and your sisters will experience a betrayal like never before, from someone you thought you could trust. It will hurt deeper than that person will ever know. You will all take a step back and question everything about who you consider family. But just as you have learnt, you will all pick yourselves up dust yourselves off. You’ll take comfort in the fact that your friends are your family – blood or not.
I know you’re feeling so old and tired. I know you feel jealous when you check your instagram feed and see your friends going out and being young. You feel annoyed because that’s what you used to do when you had energy and it’s really not fair. This won’t always be the case though, you’ll get your time, you just need to rest first.
While you’re on the Camino someone will describe you as a “bomba de energía” and it will shock and surprise you that they can’t see the grief written all over you. You’ll think to yourself that maybe last year doesn’t have to leave you feeling so old after all, maybe you are getting stronger and beginning to heal.
Evee is going to take you on a little trip away to Cornwall to recuperate. It’s just what you both need. Also, you’re going to go to a local festival. On these weekends, you’re just two sisters. You don’t have to worry about the likes of probate or paying the bills. You’re 19 and 24. And you feel it. You will feel younger than you’ve felt in years and you’ll laugh so much until one of you wets themselves…
The people who stick around are really going to surprise you this year. My goodness, Uncle Peter is a pain in the ass, but when he is there, doesn’t it feel like home? And isn’t it so familiar when you all sit in the living room with your Butter Chicken from the local Indian takeaway? You can still tease Peter about his bald spot as you always have done and the three of you will laugh until you cry. In that post-laughter haze, you sit back and you think “hey, I can still laugh” and you hold that feeling all the more tightly because while you’ve lost so much, your sense of humour is still intact.
Mum used to tell you every day how proud she was. Make sure you tell yourself that. The funeral, Christmas, the internship, achieving a distinction, going to graduation, finally completing the Camino, securing a graduate job, learning how to do probate without a solicitor, Mum’s birthday, putting the house up for rent, helping Evee with university, not giving up. I am so bloody proud of you.
So, I’ll tell you what you’re going to do now; you’re going to take it day by day. You’re going to rest and you’re going to be gentle with yourself. One day you’ll realise that that feeling of high alert and panic will slowly start to thaw. You’ll put more trust in yourself and your surroundings, and one day you’ll feel safe again. In no time at all, a year will have passed and things will start looking up for you. Don’t worry about not being able to take Mum with you, you will feel her everywhere. Your grief will feel a little lighter, and a future will feel a little more manageable – one day at a time.
I am so proud of you.
Katie, September 2019
P.S – Go swimming. I know you’re not much of a swimmer now, but the sense of weightlessness in the pool feels good in a life that can be so heavy. And who knows? This time next year you might be the fastest person in the slow lane!
My best-laid plans are washed away
No time to make ’em all again
Sometimes life gets in the way
We’ve got to keep on breathing
Look how far we’ve come
Look what we’ve made
Started from nothing, building
A few photos from the last 12 months:
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