It’s been a month since Mum died. Thirty-one days. Seven hundred and seventy-four hours. Four thousand, four hundred and 60 minutes.
It feels like a long time, as though it’s been years, but also feels as though she could have died yesterday or last week. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from grief it’s that time stops making sense and you just have to roll with it. Sometimes hours can feel like days and other times days can seem like hours, but as long as you’re moving forward it doesn’t really matter.
I miss Mum more than ever. Christmas is beginning to enter the shops and it’s always been such a special time of year for us. Mum made the cake in October, and we’d start making mince pies around then, too, most of which were frozen until Christmas. As Christmas got nearer we’d make a shortbread Christmas tree and a gingerbread house. We’d always planned for her to visit me at uni and go Christmas shopping together, in York, but it never happened. The Christmas market is being constructed at the moment, and I remember going around Leeds Christmas market with Mum during cancer round one. We wrapped up in our woollies, ate caramelised nuts and browsed the stalls assigning presents to people.
I’ve encountered a few situations over the past month where I’ve really, really, needed Mum. I’ve gone to Dad or older female friends for advice and though they have been fantastic and incredibly helpful, it’s not the same. I still often find myself going to text Mum or drop her a Facebook message only to remember that she can’t reply. The one thing that sticks with me, whatever the situation, is the message ‘be kind to yourself’, because that’s what Mum always used to say to me, and it’s pretty good advice for most situations.
I didn’t realise how often I spoke to Mum. The first time she was diagnosed, I was on my gap year, so when Mum was on a chemo week and I wasn’t at work, we’d spend time together knitting and watching TV. We grew a lot closer over that time. I think when your Mum has a brush with cancer you appreciate her a lot more. I would text her most days and if I didn’t we’d normally end up in a Facebook conversation later on in the evening. In February we thought she was going to die and since then our communications have only intensified, I would speak to her about even more things and we’d wish each other goodnight most days. I miss her wishing me goodnight.
But it’s the hangover from Mum’s illness and death which surprises me the most. For months I have had my phone on me at all times, waiting for a text or call to say that she’d died, or was about to die. Now I jump when I get a phone call. I panic if I can’t find my phone. I am more anxious and jittery then I ever was before Mum’s illness. I rarely have a full night of sleep, I often dream of Mum, or of her dying again, or of Dad being diagnosed with something. Often when a family member contacts me I expect it to be them telling me that somebody else is poorly or has died. Some days I struggle to leave the house for fear of someone asking me how Mum is, because that’s something which happened for a long time. I’m struggling to go out with people my age because I can’t remember how to do it, it feels like it’s been such a long time. I’m slowly building my life back up, but part of that is realising how far things have slipped from where they were, and that’s something I learn more about every day.
One month has passed. We’ve survived the funeral. Things are beginning to settle and everybody has gone back to work, school, and wherever else they might go. One month of questions for Mum float around my head. One month of things I want to tell her. One month of smiles she hasn’t seen. One month of problems she hasn’t solved. One month of moments she hasn’t shared. One month of conversations from which she’s been absent.
Some days are okay; I can smile, laugh, work, see people and generally live life. Other days are hard and I have to just be patient with myself. I miss her. I miss her so much. But I can live my life alongside missing her. Most importantly, despite missing her, I can still be kind to myself.