Second Birthday Without You…What’s changed?

This month marks my Mums second anniversary Birthday. Last year I wrote about a year of firsts, but will this year be any different?

I haven’t written on my blog for quite some time now. What with the demands of family life, an ever increasing destructive toddler to chase and the end of my maternity leave and return to work, it is safe to say that I’ve had my hands pretty full. But that isn’t the only reason I haven’t written anything……

Before Christmas last year I found myself in unfamiliar territory. For the first time I noticed that my mum and her death wasn’t the only topic consuming my waking hours and my heart no longer panged at the thought of her. For so long, the opposite of this had been my reality. I had grown used to the majority of the time being preoccupied with the loss of my mother and the way in which she left this earth. My heart, although full of love for my daughter and continuing to grow with love every day, the painful pangs of grief still rendered me breathless and caused my heart to constrict with sadness.

And yet…here I was. I will be totally honest and say I freaked out. I kept asking myself “what does this mean?” and the conclusion I came to, which was predominantly born out of fear, was that I no longer missed my Mum. The horror that the woman who was the love of my life was now out of sight out of mind as they say, I think destroyed more that her physical loss. What was happening to me?

This shook my foundations and I no longer knew my grief. Once again it was an adversary that I had never met, but the biggest thing was that it made me question who I was a person. I placed a lot of credit on my pain as a symbol of my continued love and memory for my mum, without this pain I felt like i had not only lost my Mum physically but I was losing her from my heart. I was a terrible person.

My heart was the only place that she lived on.

As you can imagine, I needed some time to process this shift before I could begin to share it which is why I have been absent for so long.

But after allowing myself the space to understand my emotions and thoughts and to process them rationally, I have come to understand that this does not mean what I initially thought and the guilt I felt was unjust.

For so long I had lived with the pain and loss that we all experience when we lose a loved one. What I didn’t realise was that I had actually accepted that this was to be my reality for the rest of my life and I became ok with that. I even placed relevance on those feelings in that it meat that she was still part of my everyday reality and for that I was grateful. I needed that pain. What I also didn’t realise was that I not only needed the pain but I expected it. And that is where the problem lay.

Without knowing, I had placed an expectation on what I should feel like now I had lost my mum. This became detrimental because when my grief and feelings inevitably changed, I was unprepared, caught off guard and resorted to fear and panic to “cope”.

I felt that by living my life internally for the first time was the same as abandoning her and committing her to my history, to reside in my past alone.

Of course this is not the case and with hindsight and some rational adjustment I can see that this will never be the case. I believe the reason I came to these conclusions was because I was no longer grieving the way I thought I should. Grief is a journey, it is a path which is completely subjective, it can not be planned, it can not be avoided and it can not be hurried. Grief is a passage which must be travelled and experienced as you find it.

Once I stopped expecting to feel a certain way and I stopped trying to analyse the whys and wherefores, things became a lot easier to manage.

As humans we have to know everything don’t we. We have to know the whys: why do we feel this, or why do we feel that, where does it come from, what is the reason. But for man6y of us, and especially when talking about grief, there is no why. Either that or the why is not really that important. Knowing the reason for something doesn’t always change the outcome and rather than focusing our energies on the whys we should spend abit more time focusing on the feels. Accepting you current emotional state for what it is can sometimes be the antidote you need.

As with everyone and such is life, the ever present pain and overwhelming realisation that my Mum had died began to retreat. i began to feel ‘normal’ again, like my old self . I started to have hope, to look forward to the future and most importantly of all, I actually believed I had a future.

And what did I do to kick off this shift?

NOTHING

I didn’t purposefully do anything. It came out of nowhere, but I do believe my grief changed because of these 3 things:

1) I never tried to avoid, bury or ignore my grief. I embraced it and recognised that it was a part of who I had become.

2) I talked. I talked to my Mum, my husband and my family and friends. Having that safe outlet to pour my head into I believe helped me dramatically for without it I fear I would have been overcrowded by thoughts and feelings and well who knows the alternate future that may have been if I didn’t have this option.

3) Time. As with everything, nothing is permanent. Just like the weather, it won’t always rain but we have to wait it out. We’re unable to sustain one emotional sate indefinitely so it is inevitable that my grief would be no different. And I am sure that it will continue to do so for the rest of my life, sometimes positively and other times not so much.

Now I have allowed myself a period of adjustment I am ok with the change in my thoughts and feelings about my mums death and I can see a future that’s exciting. I am living my life on the inside now as well as the outside.

I still think of her, I still miss her and my gosh do I still love her and would do anything to squish her beautiful face again. She will forever be a part of my life regardless, it’s just now I am ok to keep going without her.

Big loves xxx

5 Ways To Help Accept Your Grief

When you have lost a loved one carrying on with life can be an arduous task. You’ve finished all the arrangements for the deceased and people slowly drift back to their own lives. I found that this was the time when I truly started to grieve and when I most needed something, anything, to help me be with my grief. I am by no means an expert but here are the 5 ways which have helped me accept my grief and find a little piece of peace.

1. Make time to grieve.

I listened to my Mum’s funeral song today for the first time 11 months after her passing and rather than being crippled with agony and longing , I was actually able to smile and think of how she used to sing that song while she was cleaning. I didn’t purposely choose to listen to the song, it happened to be on the radio this morning and I’ll admit my first initial thought was to turn it off, remove it from consciousness because I didn’t want to be reminded that she’s no longer here right now. But whenever I get these thoughts of avoidance, rather than do everything in my power to avoid them, I do the opposite and focus on them. The same with my grief. Rather than do everything I can not to think about my mum and to run away from the pain, I acknowledge it and allow myself to feel it. After my Mum died and before I gave birth, I spent the majority of the time on my own for 12 weeks and I used this time to do what I needed to do, whether that was to cry, scream, sleep, eat, write or just stare at the TV. I allowed myself to feel. Because of this I truly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am now in terms of managing my grief and living my life. Purposely giving myself that time was the best thing I could do in my journey of coming to terms with the loss. Even now I still schedule time in my day to sit and think about my Mum. On the occasions where I’ve been carried away by the days and tasks of being a Mum myself I really feel it. I start to get overwhelmed, irritated, anxious and distressed. My thoughts automatically turn to what I have lost and my mood plummets dramatically. Once I have taken that time to feel whatever I am feeling and more often than not have a good sob, I feel calmer and able to face another day.


2. Get it all out.

This may come as a surprise considering you’re reading this but I am quite a private person. I tend to be the listener and have taken the view in the past that others can’t help with my problems as they are mine and mine alone, so what is the point in talking about them. I suppose you could say this has been a positive result from my Mum passing in that I have found the courage to open up to those I trust. I believe that talking to my confidants has helped me greatly in figuring out how to adapt to my new normal and more importantly how to manage my emotions. When you lose a loved one you fundamentally change as a person, your very core being is altered permanently and whilst parts of the old you still remain, ultimately you have transformed into a new person. I remember my husband saying to me once that ” he had lost a mum but also his wife” and that’s true he did. Part of grieving is getting to know this new person, with new thoughts and feelings, new fears and new beliefs and a whole new way of living. Talking to someone I trusted enabled me to understand the new me but also to explore my new normal.

I have to give some credit here to my husband. He was the one I confided in and divulged my inner thoughts and feelings to, however I wasn’t and am still not a very willing participant. It took him to recognise when I was overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings and coax me to talk about it with him. He made me feel comfortable and secure, I knew he wouldn’t judge or ridicule me and actually sharing things with him allowed us to enter a new phase of our marriage and become closer.

Talk to someone you trust, talk about your thoughts and feelings, talk about your loved one but most importantly don’t bottle things up. If you struggle with talking then you can write it down, make a voice recording or even talk to your lost loved one. I’ve also known others who have used creative ways to express themselves including music and art. Whichever way suits you use it to release some of that pressure and to help you make sense of who you are and your new world.


3. Make a plan.

One thing that absolutely terrified me above all else was being on my own. Not just in terms of the rest of my life without my Mum or after I gave birth, but also when my husband and everyone else went back to their lives and back to work. If in the past I had ever felt lonely I would just get up and go to my Mums. Now that this was no longer an option I had absolutely no idea what to do. I spoke to my husband about this and we agreed to make a plan. We made a list of the things that I wanted to do but had not felt up to doing. This list was a ‘if you feel up to it’ list so there was no pressure if one day I decided not to do a single thing from the list or if I did them all in 20 minutes. The other list was around what I needed to achieve as a minimum everyday including things like getting up, washed and dressed. You don’t realise how difficult the simplest of tasks are when you’re consumed with sadness and despair. Life becomes pointless and purposeless. We agreed that if I accomplished the minimum list and then spent the rest of the day crying that was good enough. Having an initial plan gave me a sense of normality at a time when everything was so far from what was.

Now this may seem slightly contradictory but bear with me. In essence with this I did not plan further than each day. Anything more just seemed insurmountable for me so I took one day at a time. I could just about make it through one day without her. If you can’t contemplate a life without your loved one then don’t, remove that fear and focus on making it through that day only.


4. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

I am not ashamed to say that after my Mum died I did seek professional help and visited my GP. I needed it. Just as I would go to my GP for any physical ailments I did the same for my mental ailment. I have suffered from anxiety for many years and even though I’ve had periods where I have utilised medication alongside other talking therapies, generally I am experienced enough that I am now able to control my panic and function day to day. However after my Mum my anxiety went to a new level and I required some form of intervention in order to help me cope. I went to see my GP who prescribed me the best medication that posed the least amount of risks to my baby and one which I could safely breastfeed with postpartum. I was closely monitored by the midwives ,pre and post natal,and maintained regular check ups with my GP. My daughter suffered no effects from the medication whatsoever. The medication reduced the physical symptoms of my anxiety which meant I could focus on utilising coping strategies and tools. I was referred for mental health support and I completed 12 weeks of high intensity CBT therapy for my anxiety only, not my grief. I am by no way advocating that all those who are grieving need to be on medication or for that matter, need to receive some form of professional help. What I am saying is that if you feel you need additional support then don’t be afraid to visit your GP or seek other professional help.


5. Time

This one is very simple: give yourself the gift of time.

There is no time limit on your grief. Take all the time you need even if it is a life time. There is no such thing as ‘getting over it’ or ‘moving on’, grief isn’t a single period of change, it’s a continuous period of change and one which is not governed by time.

11 months on and I am able to smile at the thought of my Mum more often than not when once I would be rendered paralysed. I still have a long way to go but my grief tides are less frequent, less intense and have reduced in duration. Rather than “bad days” and “bad weeks” I have “bad moments” in each day. I can think about the future and get excited. Absolutely my enjoyment of life is forever bittersweet but I am ok with that. My Mum was one of my greatest loves and I’ll always mourn the fact that she is no longer part of my future. Having that tinge of sadness to everything I do means that I still miss her, I want to always miss her and never forget her.

Grief changes us, defines us and ultimately becomes us, but it does not have to take our lives from us.

If anyone has any other ways which they have found helpful when dealing with their grief and you feel comfortable in doing so, please leave a comment on this page so others can possibly find some benefit from it also. We are all in this together. Alternatively you can message me directly or via facebook or instagram and with your permission, share your suggestion on your behalf or anonymously.

Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional and the information provided above is based solely on my own personal experience of grief and should not be substituted for any medical advice or information. If you or anyone you are supporting have concerns regarding their mental health then seek medical advice.

https://blogofamummissing.com/disclaimer/

A dream is a wish your heart makes.

When having lost a loved one it’s hard to accept their absence in every form. But how do you prepare for their presence in your dreams where it’s a reality to spend time with the dead?

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how close me and my mum were and when you have someone like that in your life their absence is felt profoundly. I didn’t fully accept her death, in fact even now 10 months on I still don’t. The only way I can describe it is this; I know she’s not here at the moment but I’m waiting for the day when she comes back, I just don’t know when that is. So in the meantime I take each day as it comes, I accept she won’t come back on that day but contemplating anything more than this is just insurmountable. I suppose thinking and feeling like this is partly what enables me to continue living my life. If you read about the stages of grief, you’d probably say I was still in denial. I’m not for labelling and I don’t wholly agree with the stages, I find them vague and unhelpful but that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t say I was in denial, I very much know she has died, visiting her at the funeral home made sure of that and if she wasn’t dead nothing would have kept her away from her granddaughter. It’s just I am able to better understand her absence in these terms, its how I have come to process the void she left behind.

After being without her for several weeks and very slowly developing my own way of understanding , I slept for the first time. Prior to this I hadn’t slept more than 15 minutes at any one time, I wouldn’t even say it was sleep more unconsciousness to which I would suddenly jolt awake and remember what had happened. I used to watch my iPad in bed because I couldn’t stand the silence, I needed noise, I would fall unconscious, jolt awake and have to rewind the film or program back to where I was. I think it took me a whole week to watch Monsters University ( Disney and Pixar films were a safe bet), my husband can’t stand the film now he’s seen it that many times. So I slept and I dreamt, I dreamt of her, my mum. There she was in front of me again, she looked normal, she looked as she always had and like nothing had happened. I’ll never forget this dream.

 

When I woke up the next morning what shocked me most was not reality rushing in, was not that she wasn’t here, but that I felt better for having seen her and spent time with her. Despite it only being a dream, I genuinely felt that I had been with her like always and I didn’t miss her as much because I’d had contact with her. Almost like I’d had a little fix after being without for so long. I’ve read about spirits apparently appearing in our dreams is really them visiting us and I’m sceptible about such things, I’m a girl that needs concrete evidence. I didn’t expect to feel happy because the reality remained the same, but I was in a way. Now this is what gets me about grief, you never know what’s coming next, you never know where it will take you or how you’re going to react. You also never know when but when it hits you got to take it and ride it out. I thought if I ever dreamt about her I would be crippled with despair and it would set me back for days, weeks even ( remember I was pregnant and probably at my most vulnerable). I was actually worried about dreaming about her because I thought this is what I would have to face, like losing her all over again. I’ve had a range of dreams with my mum in them, some of them upsetting, some of them nondescript, but every time I’ve seen her I’ve always felt a little better.

I suppose the point of this post is to show that there’s no right or wrong way to feel when grieving, rather it’s a case of accepting and embracing your feelings for they are yours and yours alone. If you are supporting someone who is grieving for a loved one also accept and acknowledge their feelings, try not to pass comment with your own opinion( unless asked) and approach with empathy not sympathy. Those who are grieving are not looking for sympathy believe me and share you’re own feelings about their loved one. Grieving is a lonely business so it’s nice to know that we’re not in it alone. 

I don’t dream about my mum all the time and I have a variety of dreams including trying to save her, dreams where she has come back as if nothings happened and dreams where she is just there. But despite the type of dream I always feel happy to have been with her even if it is only in my imagination. After all that’s how we live forever isn’t it, in the minds and hearts of loved ones.

pink decor with quote
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