This week, social media is awash with #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. Personally, I’ve been on antidepressants for 4 years now. I’m not ashamed to discuss it with anyone who shows an interest, and one or two people do ask now and then. One thing people never want to discuss is how I am coping with bereavement. Today, I want to break that taboo, and share my own experience. Hopefully this post will help somebody realise there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Coping With Bereavement
My Dad died suddenly when I was 23. He was 54. I felt like I’d had the rug pulled from under me, and everything changed in a split second. Gone was the happy go lucky party girl, who loved her Dad more than anything. In her place sat this obsessive planner, who got everything organised for her mum, and cried herself to sleep with sadness.
The memory of watching my Dad go fishing at 10.30am, then me holding his hand as he died 10 hours later haunted my every waking moment for months afterwards. I felt guilty I couldn’t save him. It took me a good 5 years to come to terms with my Dad’s death, and to stop feeling angry towards the doctors who wouldn’t listen to me when I told them he was responding to my voice. The doctors who seemed more interested in freeing up my Dad’s bed than saving his life.
Losing My Mum
In March 2016, my Mum turned 64. Not long after, she seemed unwell and was taken to hospital with a suspected infection. I took my then 4 year old son to visit her while she was in A&E, and while we sat there, her heart stopped. It was awful. They managed to bring her back around, by which time my sister and brother were there too. She was saying she was sorry and that she loved everyone when I spoke to her for the last time. A few minutes later, she slipped away for good.
I was horrified and shocked when my Mum left us. So much so, I don’t remember the days after. Aside from crying as I told my daughter, the next thing I remember is a huge Asda delivery turning up which some amazing blogging friends had ordered for us. I think that kindness gave me the metaphorical kick I needed to begin trying to deal with everything.
The Immediate Aftermath Of Bereavement
I felt overwhelming, all consuming anger towards my Mum when she died. Myself and my siblings had been trying to get her to the hospital for days before she finally went. I couldn’t help but feel she would have been ok had she listened to us.
It took over 3 weeks for her post mortem to come back, explaining she had a blood clot on her lung. I suspect my Mum was worried she had cancer, so she buried her head in the sand. The most annoying part is, the clot would have been picked up and treated had she gone to hospital sooner. I felt like her death was preventable by nobody but her.
Coping With Bereavement – Moving On
It took me a long time to get over that feeling of anger. Emptying my Mum’s home was like torture. Everything made me feel something. It was like an emotional rollercoaster. Report cards from 1988 had me laughing out loud, while other things had me crying and riddled with guilt.
It’s been over 3 years now since I lost my Mum. It doesn’t get any easier. I still – even now go to phone her almost every morning. Sometimes, I get as far as looking for her name in my mobile phone to send her a photo of the kids before I remember.
Keeping busy helps me when it comes to coping with bereavement. Some days will always be harder than others. Birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s day etc. I can plan for those. It’s the times when, out of the blue I want my Mum or my Dad that hurt the most now. When I heard Manchester City won the premiership yesterday, my first thought was, “I bet my Dad’s fuming”.
Keeping Their Memory Alive
For me, the thing which is critical to coping with bereavement is talking about those we’ve lost. My husband never met my Dad, but he told me a few days ago he’d watched a show with someone so like my Dad, I had to see it. Hearing him talk about my Dad with such warmth and enthusiasm made me so happy. My Kids never met my Dad, but they can pick him out in a photo. Syd takes great pleasure in saying, “That’s my Grandad Tommy” every time she sees his photo.
I’m not sure how much the kids remember about my mum. They were 3 and 4 when she passed away. We talk about her often though, and Syd still associates the places we used to go for lunch with my Mum as “Granny’s shop”. Sam still insists on sitting at the same table my Mum always picked when we go to Sainsburys cafe. My parents might not be with us in the flesh any more, but their spirits live on, for sure.
Finally, if you’ve found this post useful, check out more of my bereavement posts here.