Today is the fourteenth of September, two thousand and twelve. Exactly seven years ago I lost the most important person in my life, my mum, Kate. To honour this day I will spend time laughing and probably crying a little. I will tell my babies stories about their grandma. We will look over photographs and I will be thinking how lucky I am. (The story is over here if you wanted to know a little more).
Mum was a nurse. She ran emergency departments and hospitals. She worked night duty for twenty years - straight. She did amazing things I will never know about. She taught me right from wrong. She was far from perfect. She was real. She was fiery and funny. She was a big risk taker. She was a little bit out there. She worshiped Stevie Nicks. She hated butter. She danced a lot, especially after wine. She has the same middle name as Olivia and I, Frances. She once hung out with Lou Reed for a whole day. She read a lot of books and even wrote her own. She would sneak the occasional cigarette. She wore Stella McCartney perfume. She once travelled to New Mexico to do a new age workshop. She was not afraid of confrontation. She was warm and loving, she gave great hugs.
I don not want this post to reflect the sadness that I have been through the past seven years, I want to remember some of the bad but most of the good. I want to share with you the positives I have discovered through this journey of grief.
Is it just me, or has death been really prominent in the news this week? Perhaps, I am a little sensitive to it, a bit more aware of anothers' suffering in that moment. The tragic news of the death of a young footballer in a silly mishap or seeing the Prime Minister, face a washed with grief, after learning of the death of her father. I know that every year, on this day, I am reminded how precious life is.
When I was eighteen years old I had a mother. When I was nineteen years old, I did not. Her death happened so quickly, so suddenly, so unexpectedly that I am still coming to terms with it this very day. Nothing can prepare you for an unexpected death, even for someone like my mum, who talked openly about death and dying, it is beyond anything comprehensible. OK - correction, nothing can prepare you for death..full stop. Whether you know it is coming or not, the way in which we individually react is often, very unexpected.
What is grief? The first thing I have learnt on my grief journey is that grief is pretty much unexplainable. Each and every person will grieve in a way that will most likely be different to another person. It is a situation where anything goes...thank goodness. Grief can affect you when you break up with someone, when you leave your job, when a pet dies, when a friendship ends, basically any loss can trigger grief and that is totally OK. It is like being winded. You literally cannot breathe. Its like those dreams you have when you can feel yourself falling. Sometimes, grief is not so bad, you can get up in the morning, get dressed and mingle with the real world. But often it will catch you by surprise and grab hold of you when you least expect it to. The main issue I had with grief was its unpredictability. Being nineteen is hard enough without layering grief into the picture. I intended to grieve easily and relatively quickly....what a fool I was. I didn't do it properly - I didn't do it at all and it came back to bite me hard, many years later.
My grief appeared as something else. It arrived at my door in the form of mental illness, I literally thought I was going off my rocker. It was not until I spoke to my loved ones that I understood what was going on. Not only was it mental illness, it was physical illness. It really grabbed hold of me and kicked me in the arse. While most of my issues have long gone, I still suffer from a daily dose of anxiety and worry constantly that I am not good enough.
Now that I am a mother, grief has once again come to pay me a visit. It strikes at 3a.m. when you are holding a sick child, when your child says their first word, when you need to know how to breastfeed. I still battle with it, daily. I find talking about my mum is a massive help. Talking about what I don't have and what I do have provides me with comfort. I have learnt to love like I have never loved. I stop and smell the roses. I eat that second slice of cheesecake. I sometimes say yes when I would have said no. I talk about death. It is not something to be afraid of, embrace it. It is important that my children grow up with my mum, they know who grandma is, her picture sits on their mantelpiece. The know that she loves them and she is always there.
Go out and grab life by the balls, do it today and do it everyday.