Slow Down, Your Mum Died Last Week

Mum had terminal cancer for 20 months, and the more ill she got, the more my life changed. I went from changing pretty much nothing in my life (other than implementing a little extra support), to dropping almost everything, attending lectures sporadically, accessing a lot of extra support, and going home every night to visit Mum and the rest of my family.

Perhaps naively, I assumed that once Mum died, things would go back to normal, whatever normal may be. That’s not exactly how things have gone, though.

For one, I’d forgotten to factor in emotions. Emotions are often useful, but since Mum died the majority of the time they’ve been a nuisance. They’ve left me lying in bed on a morning trying to remember how to get dressed and what I’m doing that day. They’ve made it difficult to get to lectures or to engage in social commitments. Sometimes they make it hard to get to sleep, to write, to see people or to speak.

I keep getting really annoyed at myself for feeling unable to do things that I could do two or three years ago. I used to be super busy, incredibly active and fairly extroverted. I wouldn’t have a spare five minutes in the day – always on the go seeing someone or doing something. Some days at the moment, it’s an achievement to get up, showered, and dressed.

I hate letting my friends down. They’ve put up with so much over the past months and years when I’ve been unable to plan anything or had to cancel last minute. When I’ve fallen off the radar and stopped replying to texts and other messages, they’ve kept contacting me and inviting me to things. I want to see them all again and do fun things with them. I want to be going out on an evening, going on day trips, chilling at home and watching a film, all of the things people my age usually do. All of the things I used to do.

Since Mum got ill, I’ve had increased anxiety, too. It’s not surprising really when you’ve been through what we have over the past few years. I’ve had to adapt to Mum’s changing health and the changes that it has brought for my family. I’ve had times when any moment my phone could have rung telling me that Mum was in hospital again. When walking around the village, there was a period of time when I couldn’t leave the house without someone asking me how Mum was – all because people care, but nonetheless catching me off guard as I went about my daily life.

I’d half thought that when Mum died this would disappear, because I’d no longer be waiting on a call to hear about her health, and nobody in the village would ask me how she was because she’d be dead. It’s not quite worked out like that though, I still find myself getting anxious about things and it makes it incredibly difficult to do the things I’ve always done.

I’m getting frustrated. I feel like I shouldn’t be accessing the help I’ve needed before because Mum’s died now and I should just move on with my life. I feel like I should just be able to dive back into my degree, attend all my lectures and engage with them fully. I feel like I should be jumping back into my social life and my volunteer work and everything I did and was before Mum got diagnosed again.

Last week, I sat down with someone and was airing some of my frustrations, they looked at me and basically said “Naomi, your Mum died last week”. Mum died and my body is grieving. It’s why some days feel like sludge. It’s why I’m so tired all the time no matter how much I sleep. It’s frustrating and annoying but it’s how my life is.

I expected to feel a lot of things when Mum died. Low, sad, upset, angry, tearful, yep, but frustration was not something I expected to feel. I’m probably expecting too much too soon, in fact I expect nearly everyone around me would tell me that I’m expecting too much too soon and that I need to be kind to myself (as my Mum would say) and be patient with myself. I can see where they’re coming from and the more I try and do things and can’t, the more I realise that they’re right. I just so desperately want to be a ‘normal’ 21 year old again, and some days it can feel like that’s never going to happen.

We’re currently collecting for Yorkshire Cancer Research in Mum’s memory. If you would like to donate, please do so here.


2 thoughts on “Slow Down, Your Mum Died Last Week

  1. Dear Naomi, i’m a friend of Cat’s, she has told me about your family. Firstly – so sorry about your precious mum. It’s funny how many people you will notice fail to even acknowledge your loss the first time they see you as time moves on. My dad passed away after a 20 year battle to brain cancer this March. I can identify with pretty much everything you write.

    But for now I just wanted to say listen to your mum because she is right – go easy on yourself. I remember the sense of disillusionment when things didn’t go back to normal after dad died. The truth is – they never do. From now on life is a readjustment, and it’s not an easy one. Yes the relief of not having to be scared of the phone ringing is there, as is the relief that the pressure of having to cram a lifetime of memories into ticking minutes is no longer there. But then it gets replaced with grief and thank goodness that is one thing that will at least get easier over time. Not that I experiencing this benefit just yet, but the emotions are not so sharp.

    The toll of illness will make you exhausted. For us our lives don’t stop living just because someone is dying. I was absolutely shattered. My dad was in Australia and I live in the UK. I had to juggle work, a husband, a mortgage and constant flights back and forth to Australia to spend time with him. And the emotional burden of waiting so long for someone you love to die. I lost friends, routine, normality, even some confidence.

    Don’t listen to the idiots who want to tell you you should have done it differently. Death is personal and I had to take the mantra “what I decide to do is the right decision” you can’t live with regrets and plus the only view that matters is your mum’s who (like my dad) clearly didn’t want your life to stop. Frankly, people don’t have the right to comment.

    I am glad you are taking a break. I took 6 months off work that is how exhausted I was, and I didn’t feel bad about it. Do some things for yourself now, you’ve been running on adrenaline for a long time and it’s ok to stop. You will find the fine balance of doing enough to distract yourself without completely blocking out the pain. It will hit you without warning from the side and take the breath out of you, but you will learn the breathe again. You will never make sense of the illness no matter how much you try, and your admiration for your mother will probably overwhelm you as you recall the grace of her final days. This was one of the hardest thoughts for me to face as the days passed.

    No matter how you feel in the end, the important thing is that you accept that it’s ok to feel that way. Frustration is a valid emotion, I totally get it. Use the support around you whilst its there and before people go back to their normal lives are you are left with your ‘new normal’ which never feels right (so best not to expect it to). It’s such early days. I am only just realising how early my own journey is. I remember having high expectations of myself and feeling the need to carry my family, in particular my mum. So I suppose it is natural to have this idea that the storm has passed, yet it’s really just the beginning of your next journey. Anyway all of this is just my take on things. I am sure you will write many blogs about it and it’s so good that you have this outlet as you are a skilled writer.

    Sending all my love your way today even though you don’t know me xxxxxxxx be easy on yourself ok, it’s such a huge loss. And I really am sorry xxxxxxxxxx

    1. Thank you so much for this – sorry it’s taken so long to reply. I so much appreciate you taking the time to write this and it really helps me to feel more at ease with taking things at my own pace and slowing down a little. xxx

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