I didn’t expect that I would find myself writing again on the subject of my ninety year old mother’s passing away. I thought that I covered all I needed to say on that in my previous piece. I had my flash of grief, and acknowledged that I missed mum – job done. But I find myself in a weird place. I don’t feel like I’m still grieving – but something’s not quite right.
When our youngest sibling, our brother, was killed in a motorbike accident at the age of thirty-two, there was no doubt about the grief I and my remaining four siblings felt. It was raw and brutal. The heartbreak was harsh, and hurt like hell. Grief needed no analysing or pondering on then – it hit fast and hard, it ripped into our lives, and lasted for months. That’s what I thought grief was about.
Mum was different. Time and age had gradually faded her body and mind, and it was her time to go. When I saw her the last afternoon before she died, I knew that her hours left in this world were numbered, and I spent the remainder of the afternoon crying off and on with that realisation. There were more moments of tears afterwards, especially when I got the news the next morning that she had gone. I felt a deep sadness and sense of something gone from my life, but I didn’t get slammed with the sort of grief that I had experienced before. Alongside my sadness was some relief that I was finally free of the eight-years-long duty of having to be there for her, and managing everything in her life. Mum and dad both had multiple age-related health and disability issues between them, and being their main support person was tough beyond description. It didn’t ease up when dad died four years before mum, as the things he had still been able to take care of while he was alive then fell to me. I anticipated that although I wouldn’t forget her, I would get the grief thing done and dusted fairly quickly, and move on with my own life. I didn’t feel guilty at about that, I felt I’d earned it.
But things aren’t going quite as I expected. I’m not feeling clear and purposeful about my future direction at all, I’m feeling weird and discombobulated. Since mum died three weeks ago, I’m sitting here with my second monstrous head cold in that time. However, it forces me to not be busy, and just ‘be’. Whilst I don’t believe that too much random and uncontrolled thinking is very productive, sometimes we do need to make space for thoughts and feelings to surface. So far, the one clear thought and feeling that has surfaced, is that I’m in a weird place. Hardly the stuff of epiphanies, or a catalyst for getting on with my life with the new-found freedom I have.
Finally, it occurs to me that this feeling weird thing might be grief. Who’d a thought? Seems that grief might not come in a standard issue size, and isn’t always about feeling devastated. Here’s another thought – it just may follow its’ own course and timeline, irrespective of mine. The space mum took up in my life and thoughts was huge, and the sudden loss of that leaves a big space for me to bounce around in.
However we feel about it, loss can’t slip by without touching us. A reaction to loss, big or small, is inevitable. We can also be feeling two things at once – e.g. relief and grief. One doesn’t exclude the other – they can live side by side quite independently. They’re both valid, but it may take getting a second monstrous head cold in three weeks to just sit down and get the damn message: I don’t have to be grieving for grief to be present, and this process just might take more than a couple of weeks.