Today marks two years since I lost my brave, wonderful mum to cancer. It’s a very strange kind of anniversary, if you can call it that – I wasn’t sure whether to do something to acknowledge it, or to shut myself away and wallow in my own grief…instead I chose to just go to work and get on with the day, because I really didn’t know what else to do.
Back in October 2012, when we found out that mum’s cancer had returned and this time it was terminal, the overriding question I had was ‘how long?’. Of course, no one can ever tell you exactly long but that’s the one thing that was burning in my brain. How long have you got left? How long before you leave me? They said she had an aggressive tumour in the psoas muscle (bottom of the back/hip), which in turn had blocked the function of the kidneys. She had an operation to have stents inserted to support the her kidneys, and they thought they had caught them in time, but just six short weeks later, she was gone.
I think I started grieving for mum weeks before she passed – I don’t know why, perhaps it was my way of preparing to lose her. We never really spoke about what was coming in detail; she always told us that she had to deal with it in her own way and she was so strong and brave during those last weeks. What she did tell me was that although she didn’t like what was happening, she had made her peace with it and she wasn’t scared. But then that was mum all over; strong, practical and a fighter – when life dealt her a bad hand (and she’d had her fair share of struggles in the past), she dug deep, picked herself up and carried on. I guess in her eyes this was no different.
The weeks after she died were very strange – it was like living a a semi-dream state, where your heart feels the awful reality of what’s just happened, but your head carries you on. I had an 18-month-old to think of, I had work to go back to and in a very surreal way, life just goes on. Christmas came and went, and we all went through the motions as a family, not really sure what else to do.
Just six weeks after she passed, I found out I was pregnant with Little Monkey. I have no doubt in my mind that he was a gift from her, the circle of life, one-in-one-out. So the first year of life without her went by in a haze of pregnancy and I gave birth to my beautiful angel baby just 11 months after losing my mum. It was such a bittersweet day and I wish with all my heart that she could have been there.
I thought I’d be a bit of a mess in the weeks after giving birth, hormones flying all over the place and grief rearing it’s ugly head with a vengeance, but to my surprise, I just got through it. I think I just battened down the hatches and got on with it (sound familiar?), because, quite frankly, what else can you do? Falling apart wasn’t an option.
So here I am, two years later and I think the magnitude of losing mum, having a baby and all of the milestones in-between are starting to sink in. My sense of loss and missing is more acute now than it was in those early days. My heart aches when I think of how much I want to tell her, to share with her and how desperately I wish she could meet her new grandson. I hate the fact that I can’t just pick up the phone and talk to her and ask for advice. I hate the fact that my sons won’t know how wonderful their nana was. And I hate the fact that I can never fully enjoy my own Mother’s Day with the boys, because it’s always tinged with sadness.
Of course there are so many thing that I’m grateful for too; that I got to have her as my mother for 32 years, that she taught me to be the person I am today, that she loved me unconditionally and I grew up knowing I was truly cherished and that I belonged. Something that I will make sure my sons know as they grow up too.
I don’t know if these things get easier, all I do know is that you have to slowly come to terms with living a new kind of normal. Things will never be the same without her in my life, but I have to believe she’s still here, watching over me and making sure everything will be alright.
I wasn’t even sure whether to write this post, but I’m glad I did. I guess the point of it is to mark the fact that she lived and died – to talk about her out loud and remember that I still have a mother, she’s just not here right now.