Someone recently told me that, when you become recently bereaved, you are reminded of all of the other bereavements you have already had. Those long ago forgotten bits of hell you have (or have not) come to terms with from before, all come flooding back.
There is also this horrible fear that you get. The fear of dealing with the pain of loss, because you know it hurts. This can be a bit dangerous, because you put grieving to one side, only to have it build up pressure inside of you and then one day… kaboom.
I’m more of a bleeding heart griever: I cry, I dwell, I burst into tears in front of people and embarrass the hell out of them, I have my head in my hands at my desk, I don’t sleep… you get the picture.
It is also easy to compare yourself to other people too. You look at friends and family and see how they are ‘getting on with it’ and note how they do things. Some go back to work the next day, some the day after. Others can’t face it for a fortnight, others, months.
I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule. As someone said to me today – there are as many ways to deal with grief as there are people on the planet.
One thing I note though, are the days.
Today is a bright, warm and sunny spring day in April. The 24th of April if you’re interested. Did you know that this is the first 24th of April in 58 years that my mother has not been around to see? Did you know that? Did the world stop spinning for you? Why not?
Every single day is a reminder: She Is Dead.
Every holiday period, like Easter, or Christmas all ring loudly with: She Is Dead.
In my head, I run through, over and over, what I would have said if I had done her eulogy. I’d have told the story of her life like a story. I’d have mentioned the weather report for the month of January in 1957, that summarized that the wettest days were the 4th and 5th. Her birthday.
It’s those details that haunt. My 20 year old grandmother Catherine (known universally as Renee) dashed to a hospital in Croxteth, Liverpool, to give birth to her first ever baby. Can you see how a story develops from there? Catherine was still a newlywed, married for 10 months and now she is about to have a gorgeous baby girl. She must have been excited, terrified and worried. She must have wanted it over with so she could meet her baby and really get on with the business of raising her own little family.
It was on that cold, wet January day, that she was born; that she took her first lungful of air. The first day she cried, received a kiss and a cuddle from her mother and knew what it felt like to be held close and safe.
I would have told it from the beginning. I would have quoted Auden and Thomas and Steiner-Rice. I would have spoken with crystal clarity so all gathered in church that terrible morning would have heard her story and I’d have rung clear with fact and description to make sure they never forgot it.
She wasn’t the tired, weary, broken little doll I saw at the end – she was more than that. She was my Mum, but she was also Catherine’s baby, too. I watched her last few, shaking, worn breaths leave her body, knowing that Catherine, my Grandmother, had seen her very first ones.
People are not the sum-total you see before you. They are made up of lots of different pieces, all knitted and folded together to create the person you see. People are not just images or conversations, they are stories.
My Mum was a beautiful baby and a beautiful lady – and I know I am in danger of popping on my rose-tinted specs due to the fact she died young, but I had to say that.
No, she wasn’t okay in lots of different ways and yes, I wasn’t able to have her in my life because of that.
I just think the fog that shrouded her life became too thick in the end and she couldn’t see clearly anymore. I think she became lost and broken, but not recently, the cracks in her began a long time ago and I don’t think she could be repaired.
But what about before then? When she was someone’s baby? The summer of 1957 was a hot one and her Mum and Dad, proud of their very first addition, took her to the park and took photos of her in her summer outfit and bonnet. I have the photos. The love beaming from the pair of them for that baby of theirs is utterly heart rendering.
I always maintain that if it hurts when you lose someone, you must have loved them or cared about them. If you felt nothing at all, then there is nothing to hurt then, is there? Of course I love her, of course I’m bloody, frigging heart-bloody-broken over her death. Christ, she was 58 years old. That is not okay. That is all kinds of not okay.
I will miss her with every bit of me that belonged to her and in every bit of her that lives on in my children and, if I get them, my grandchildren too.
As I once used to say to myself during times of deepest misery, sorrow and horror… one foot in front of the other.