On the 25th of February, I received a knock on my door with news that made my world fall apart.
I remember as a child my worst nightmare would always be one of my parents dying, but as I got older I realised this wasn’t likely to happen to me anytime soon. My parents were healthy, sure they divorced when I was 12 years old but generally a divorce doesn’t mean you’ll never see your parents again and I took that pretty well, I still obviously saw both my parents and that was fine. In recent years the relationship between my father and I hasn’t been the best, so my mum became the equivalent of both parents in my eyes. I realise this sounds a bit harsh but she had love enough in her that I knew she was all I needed.
When my uncle told me that she had died, I didn’t believe it. Immediately I burst into tears and struggled to breathe, hugging him tighter than I think I’ve ever hugged anyone. I thought to myself that it couldn’t be true, because I’d been home and seen her just three days before and she was fine. I knew she wasn’t ill because God forbid she was, she would’ve told me. So immediately shock just washed over me like a tsunami until a secondary thought of “I need to be home, I need to be home,” kicked in. I packed a suitcase quicker than I’ve ever done and was walking through New Cross crying my eyes out to start the journey home.
With horrendous traffic we stopped at a service station to get a coffee (kick of sugar for the shock) and I called one of my best friends to tell her. In doing so and speaking aloud for the first time what had happened I had to get out of the car because I genuinely thought I was going to be sick and my uncle has a really nice car haha, I couldn’t throw up in that. Thankfully no vomit occurred, but breathing was certainly a struggle. Next I attempted to call my sister to tell her, that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Then I spoke to my father, and that was an equally unpleasant phone call full of tears.
Returning to my town that day was the most surreal experience. We went to my grandparent’s house and quite a few more family members were there, and we were all just in shock. I went to see one of my best friends, who was very close with my mum, in the evening to tell her because I couldn’t do it over the phone, and that too was just a horrible experience. I slept like shit that night, to put it bluntly. After maybe three hours sleep I woke up to then realise again what had happened and no, it wasn’t just a sick nightmare my brain had conjured up.
The next few days I didn’t cry, not properly anyway, because there’s a lot more that has to be done when someone dies than I ever before realised. Especially when that death was so sudden and unexpected. Words have now blended into my vocabulary that I’d never needed and some I don’t even understand still. It’s been a whirlwind of paperwork and letting people know, taking phone calls and giving permissions for certain people to talk to relevant business’, it’s been so hard already and I know it’s nowhere near over.
Just over a week later and it definitely hasn’t set in. I still can’t fathom the thought of being my age and not having a mother, because she was everything important to me in this world, she wasn’t just a mother but my rock and my best friend. She knew me, and knew what was best for me, more than anyone else and more than anyone else ever will. Now she’s not here.
There’s a constant pain in my chest, I think the smile doesn’t quite reach my eyes at the minute, and most days I feel like I’m on the verge of a panic attack when a slither of realisation hits. I think about my birthday in a few months with dread. Mothers Day in a matter of weeks. Her birthday, Christmas. It’s moments like that where I feel like I’m going to be spending those days with a few bottles of wine and nothing else.
Saying that, all I’ve had recently are comments from people saying how strong I’m being. I suppose on the surface it looks that way but I’m not sure if I completely feel it inside. I went back to London for the weekend and attended the West End Fests concert and had to walk out halfway through the first act because of the monumental amount of crying that had to happen (which couldn’t be done discreetly at all). Aside from that, it was wonderful to see some of my friends again there and see some beautiful yet heart-wrenching performances. I needed that trigger for another breakdown, because if I don’t cry even a bit more now I know it’s going to be so much worse when it does sink in. Two bottles of wine and then some over the course of the weekend helped too.
(Above: what caused the (first) said breakdown mid-concert…)
I’ve received countless messages, cards, letters and even some flowers and I can’t say how grateful I am for them. The support systems I have holding me up right now are unbelievable, it amazes me how many people have turned to me and said that whatever I need, they will jump up to help me. It’s certainly a testament to how much an impact my mother made on people and how many people she helped for them to have this reaction in helping me.
When my friend Hannah passed away at the beginning of February I remember saying to mum that I was feeling a pain worse than anything I’d ever felt before. She said to me it was a pain I’d always keep with me because when you lose someone at this age it’s generally the first encounter you’ll have with grief and it’s the one that’ll hit you the most. I didn’t think at the time I’d be applying this also to another death, hers. She was right though, she always was. She also said though that eventually you can pick yourself up and be okay again, always remembering them despite the hardship of them not being there. That’ll take time.
I realise people may see this post and think it strange of me to blog at a time like this but already the days are merging into one, conversations are getting mixed up and I’m forgetting things that I’m sure I’ll want to preserve somewhere, so I’m documenting them here. It’s also a way for me to sort of convey easily how I’m feeling right now and what’s happening and for people to maybe understand that I’m not answering their messages or picking up the phone because my headspace is the worst it’s ever been right now and I’m exhausted from repeating the same things over and over. I struggle to talk to some people because I feel like I’m just spreading more sadness and I don’t want to do that ever. I don’t want more people struggling.
Selfishly (is it?) I look forward to the time where people won’t look at me as simply the child whose just lost their mother. It’s unimaginably hard, yes, but one day I’m going to be semi-okay. It could take weeks, months, years, but one day I’ll get there.
My mum is never going to physically be here for me anymore, but I know she’s always going to be in my heart. I said in a post online the day after I found out, “If I ever become half the wonderful woman she was, I’ll be proud of myself and hopefully she’ll be proud of me too.” which is true, but nearly every time we spoke she told me how proud she was anyway. I have text messages saying it still, and they make me cry every time I look at them. I know she was proud of me, but I still have so much to do in life and I feel empty knowing she won’t be on the other end of the phone when I want to tell her how things are going. In life she was my driving force, I did everything in the hope that she would be proud of me. I’ll continue to do so as if she were by my side still.
In 19 years she taught me the best qualities I have. I am forever indebted to her for that. She is the sole reason I am the person I am today, and already many have said they see so much of her in me. I really hope that continues to be the case. People seeing her spirit in me will now be the greatest compliment I can receive.
At the moment I don’t sleep well but I wake up with beautiful daffodils (and tulips here too) surrounding me as a constant reminder of my mum, they were her favourite flowers and I think my heart will ache even moreso when the seasons change and I won’t see them until next year. Songs have changed meaning for me since her death and I struggle to listen to most things because my brain converts them into sadness. I struggle being in my house because I know she won’t walk through the door; it no longer feels so much like home. The future is scarier now than I’ve ever imagined it.
There’s comfort in knowing every time we ended our phone conversations, and the last time I saw her, we both said “love you millions,”, “love you more,”. It doesn’t totally heal a broken heart, but it’s a start.