Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Forgotten Time



There is a period of time during the grieving process that I like to call 'the forgotten time.'
Now this may sound like some high budget Hollywood film about the prehistoric times, but sadly not. This is the time directly following a death, or trauma, and in my case is the 3 months after my mum died.

As I'm sure you may able to tell this name is due to the fact that those months are a complete haze to me; everything is a blur with only small insignificant moments that pop out in my mind.

It is such a strange time, initially spent in pure shock and devastation.

When I wasn't crying then I think I just sat around on my sofa feeling numb. Nothing felt real.

I will forever be grateful to my mum's best friend, Mary, who just took charge of the funeral completely and booked in all of the appointments to make the necessary arrangements. She would pick me up to go to the funeral directors, the church and caterers, and then drop me back home. I didn't have to make one phone call myself.

Then when the funeral came around a few weeks afterwards, I was still in my bubble. I hadn't seen any friends at all as I couldn't bare to talk about it or to talk normally either. I felt safe at home with my dogs away from the world.
Apart from my obvious family and friends I honestly couldn't tell you who came to the funeral either. I know that there were lots of people in the church, but I couldn't look at anyone in the eye and the day is such a haze that I just don't remember.

One memory that I do have around that time is of going to Tesco's to buy some ingredients to bake chocolate brownies. I remember my hip bones were protruding out of my dress, and my body felt uncomfortable to be in. I had hardly eaten apart from a small jacket potato or portion of lasagne each day.
I didn't even want to eat the brownies but thought it would keep me busy for an afternoon.

I also wouldn't watch television. It seemed as though every channel and advert was about cancer or had someone unwell on. It was haunting me. So I just watched YouTube videos that I could control.

A trip up into London for a makeup event, that I thought would be something to look forward to and make me feel 'normal', ended up with me feeling extremely anxious and almost crying on Oxford Street.
I stood outside of Tottenham Court Road tube station and looked at the crowds of people in front of me who were smiling, laughing and happily living their lives.
None of them knew what I had been through, they couldn't see my bruises, and I felt so vulnerable and lost. A small speck in a huge world which now didn't include my mum; my safety net.
It was not a nice moment or place to be.

After that night I went home and just continued my hibernation.

These are the only real memories that I have, and this may well be because I spent a lot of time tucked away and not making memories anyway.
But also I believe this is because it is our minds way of protecting us. We function on a very basic level when dealing with great grief. We just need to get through each day and breathe and sleep. Nothing else is important. Just fight or flight mode. Self preservation.

I also know that I did have moments of laughter too. Every emotion under the sun I felt at some point. It wasn't all sadness, but very numb and obviously unimportant.

So if you are reading this and have the forgotten time as well, then don't worry. We do what we need to get through and that is all that is needed.
If you are living this at the moment and have no motivation for life, then equally don't worry. It shall return, I promise. Life continues on around you and one day you will be ready to re-enter.

Our bodies and minds are pretty amazing, and they protect us in the best way that they can.




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Monday, 4 February 2019

The Morning That She Left Me



It was 6.14am when I watched my beautiful mummy take her last breath. It is something I will never forget and something that I never really believed would happen.
Sure, she had been unwell for a few years now, but I think in order to cope day to day you never truly accept the fact. The fact that life may continue on without her, the person that brought you into this world and was by your side through everything. It's just not something that you can comprehend.

It's now over 3 years ago and honestly I still don't really believe it's happened. To her, to me, to our life. It is still very much incomprehensible.

That devastating morning, I remember sitting in my back garden eating jam on toast. It was almost October but still very mild and honestly the fresh air and sun was a blessing.
My auntie had suggested it, as we had been cooped up in the house waiting by my mum's side for days. I hadn't eaten for around 5 days and probably had only had a couple of hours sleep to be honest too over this period.
The jam tasted so sweet and I surprised myself by wolfing it down.

There was myself, my brother, my auntie and my mum's best friend as a constant in the house. We took it in turns to occasionally lie down or attempt to eat something. But how can you simply allow yourself to rest when your mum could, according to the district nurses, go at any moment?

I honestly felt as though I may at any moment have a nervous breakdown or perhaps just explode myself. My legs would uncontrollably tremble and on occasions I felt so nauseous it was unbearable.

You see we never talk about death in this country. It's a very taboo subject and something that we all avoid. We don't want to acknowledge the fact that it is the only certain thing in life.
I had no idea what was going to happen during this process.. whether it would be like in the movies or a really traumatic event.

It turns out that it was neither. 

No dramatic last words and then a collapse to the ground.
Instead it was a long process.....the body gradually shutting down, different functions/actions stopping one by one and more and more time asleep. Our body is actually pretty fascinating.
The interesting part to me however was how you can rally multiple times before it happens. My personal favourite was my mum waking up and asking (rather rudely) why everyone was just staring at her! It made everyone laugh!

I was actually in Cyprus at the time (something I can explain another time) but I spoke to her on the phone straight afterwards and she sounded perfectly normal and as if nothing was the matter at all. Very spritely and happy to talk. It was lovely, but very bizarre. You get a sudden false glimpse of hope that perhaps your world isn't falling apart around you... perhaps she's getting better?!

But then the deep sleep comes again and you remember the truth. Nurses flit in and out every few hours and we actually had to phone up in an emergency a few times too as we could see that my mum's pain was creeping in again, despite the already high pain relief.
It was wearing off quicker than the 4 hours, and we actually had a few disagreements with a nurse who didn't want to administer any more sooner, as it could send my mum off into a deeper sleep that she might not wake up from. Basically, it could potentially speed up the process, and this isn't allowed or legal.

Now, if anyone is reading this who has been in this situation themselves, you will completely agree with what I am going to say next. I would have much rather my mum passed away a few hours earlier than have her lying in front of me in pain, when nothing can be done to improve the situation. That, I can tell you, is just torture, for everyone involved.

There are certain aspects of those days that I will keep to myself, but one thing that I think may help others and bring you comfort, is that my mum would keep saying 'hello'.
It wasn't to us in the room; she was asleep and not aware of us in those moments, but she would lift her arms up and say hello in the happiest, friendliest way. She was pleased to see people.
I don't know who she was seeing, but it was lovely to witness.
That's something you do see in the movies, our past loved ones coming to collect us and take us onto the next life isn't it?
Who knows if it was this or just dreaming... I like to think it was the former, but all I care about is that she sounded happy.

I think that it's really important that we start a conversation about death, in the hope of making it less scary. If I had understood the basic process then would I have found it easier? The likelihood is no, not easier, it was my mum so it was always going to be devastatingly difficult, but it would have made those few days run a little smoother and I wouldn't have been so frightened at each new stage.
My mum wanted to be at home, and she was, which I am so grateful for. Everyone deserves to be where they desire and to have a comfortable, secure and pain free death. No exceptions.

All I can tell anyone who is scared for this process to begin, is that you will be ok. It will undoubtably be heartbreaking but you will one day not remember as much of the bad and think back on the funny rallys and the special moments that you shared. I promise that there will be some. Death is a process, and not one to be feared.

My mum's body left me that morning but she sure as hell didn't leave me in spirit.



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