This is What Grief Looks Like To Us
We lost our mum at 11.25 pm on the 9th of September 2018, a day after her 54th birthday.
Our mum was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. She had an operation an operation, extensive chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.
In 2013, life started to pick up again, and our family began to heal together again, physically and emotionally. But in 2016, we found out Mum wasn’t cancer free due to lymph node activity. She had to have several more rounds of radiotherapy, and tablet form chemo. She was always on some sort of medication for the rest of her life. Things settled down in 2017, and we achieved many milestones we are glad Mum saw. However, underlying the year 2017, Mum was getting very thin, and towards the autumn of that year she had dropped several dress sizes. So much so, that her work colleagues began to ask “what’s going on?”
In December 2017, we found out the cancer had spread to two vertebrae in Mum’s spine. 2018 was the year where Mum got worse, and began to spend more time in hospital, undergoing radiotherapy and due to falling ill from the treatment. The cancer spread 3 times that year, to more lymph nodes, and then her eye. Finally, in June, we found out it had spread to more than 50% of the liver in under 6 months. This was a drastic mutation. It was fast, strong and it was terminal.
Losing someone is a crushing, alien experience because it leads to an amalgamation of thoughts and feelings you don’t recognise in yourself. There are always the days where you will be cleaning or eating dinner and once again you revisit a painful memory, or suddenly slip into sadness the way you slip into a swimming pool. It might be sudden and overwhelming, or not very dramatic at all, but each time it’s different.
Then there are the days where you blissfully forget what has happened and you think “I have to tell Mum that.” The days where you cannot stop crying, you cry yourself to sleep, you cry at a song, you cry in shops (in our case Wilko’s and Coffee #1), or you cry in the car over the sound of radio.
In many ways, these days are terrible but the easiest to deal with because anyone would say “that’s textbook!”. The signs are visible, our grief is waving a red flag at everyone around you “Hey! I’m hurting!”. And yeah, when you watch films, crying on the floor is how actors and directors present grief; the snotty tissues, wearing black, and staying in bed forever.
But this is our reality of grief.
It has been different for both of us, but combined, we have experienced nightmares, night terrors, coupled with bouts of insomnia. Migraines, depression, anxiety and sickness. We have had panic attacks, flashbacks and extreme fatigue. We have argued together, with other other people, and we have shut people out. We have had insane moments of hysteria with we have been laughing at inappropriate moments in films (most notably A Star Is Born, if you’ve seen it, you know the scene), or we have just laughed at how terrible life has been. We bumped into a friends who asked if we had lost our mum, and we have had to fight down the urge to say “why, have you found her?!”
The point is: grief is different for everyone. It is not like the films. There is no “textbook” way to grieve. If you have had all of these chaotic, contrasting feelings, then you can empathise, and if you can’t, that’s okay too.
Nobody expects someone to write a book the same way, or run the exact same pace in a marathon, or drink the same drinks. Your grief is personal to you, because your relationship with your loved one is and was different to anyone else’s. But we are all going to grow, whether we grow around our grief or with our grief.
In time you will come to realise that your life does continue after the death of a loved one. At first, we couldn’t even picture 3 months into the future. But time continues. Soon enough, you realise that all those grief filled days have turned into weeks, which in turn have become months.
And you realise, you will survive, and you will learn to live again.
Katie & Evee