Learning to Let Go

Letting go is hard for anyone, with pretty much anything. Letting go of one of the only things that has been consistent in my life since Mum died, is really really hard. But necessary.

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Volunteering at Time to Talk day 2014 – the day I heard Mum’s terminal diagnosis.

I’ve volunteered with Shout Out Leeds for three years and in doing so, I’ve met some wonderful people, had some amazing opportunities, and really grown as a person. We’ve supported each other through ups and downs and (hopefully!) made a real difference with the work we’ve been doing. I was actually with them when I got the text from Dad asking to meet up on the day he told me about Mum’s terminal diagnosis.

I started with the group as a fairly inexperienced member and learned a lot from those older than me, as time went on, I began to lead on things and eventually I took ownership of the Twitter/Facebook/Website. It’s now reached the point where I’ve gone as far as I can go with the group, and I have to move on and continue to build my life in York, rather than constantly returning to Leeds. I’m beginning to get paid for a lot of the things we would do in Shout Out for free, and as much as I’m an advocate for volunteering, I also need to afford to live. I had a good chat with the facilitator of the group, and we decided now was a good time to move on, before I began to get frustrated or stagnate.

My friends and I joke about ‘adulting’ all the time. We all seem to bounce between changing lightbulbs and colouring in, buying non-slip bath mats, and consuming frozen frubes, navigating tax and eating our tea off disney plates. We’re fumbling our way into adulthood with much hilarity and the occasional unmitgated disaster.

Part of this adulting is learning when to let go of things. Working out what to take with us, and what to leave behind. Knowing when it’s time to stop, breathe, and regroup. It’s not easy! Occasionally there will be times when it is clear that something needs to go, and sometimes it might even be a relief to cut something out of life, but more often than not, it’s really difficult. There are no right and wrong answers and no guidebook. It’s just life. It’s giving things a go, experimenting with things, taking risks and watching what happens.

I find it hard to move on because I’m leaving Mum behind. But I can’t remain in the place I left Mum forever. It’s not possible, and she wouldn’t want me to. She would be telling me to get up, get out, and live life. We’ve all got to keep on keeping on, and learn when it’s time to let things go.

 

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Some days are just HARD

Nothing specific has happened today. Well one or two things, but nothing of great significance (compared to Mum dying, anyway… I compare any challenges in my life to Mum dying, it’s a pretty effective tool for minimising any stress). The whole country feels somewhat unsettled after the EU referendum which certainly isn’t helping, and my Facebook feed is pretty unpleasant. It was noticeable in The Hut today that many members were more anxious and/or flat than normal. I had two appointments. Neither were bad, in fact they wer both pretty positive, but both contained things which are difficult to hear.

Nothing ‘bad’ has happened. Some days are just hard.

I’m tired, I’m not sleeping well at the moment. The sleeping tablets I’ve been off and on for the last 10 months (sleeping is hard when closing your eyes prompts images and memories of a very poorly Mum) aren’t cutting it right now. It takes ages to fall asleep and once I do, I wake up all night. It’s not ideal, and all day I just want to nap. I’m tired, and I don’t just mean sleep tired.

Life keeps throwing up challenges and sometimes they’re cope-able-with, sometimes they’re cope-able-with-a-bit-of-help, other times it can feel hopeless. Perhaps I’m not making any sense, but I’m not sure I understand myself right now or that I have the words to explain how I feel. I feel mute.

I miss Mum, that much is clear. I want nothing more than to run home into a Mum hug. I want my Mum to look after me, to help me through the difficult days. I want to text her when I’ve had a tough appointment, I want to let her know when good stuff happens, I want to ask her advice on which food containers to get for my cupboards. I want her to come into my room on the mornings when the world feels bleak and I’m unable to move, to bring me some cornflakes with skimmed milk and brazil nuts, to get my clothes out for me and remind me how to get dressed, just like she used to. I want to go into her room at 2am when I can’t stop crying, to sleep next to her in the big double bed, to feel safe.

I want to feel safe, anchored and ‘me’ again.

Father’s Day

Mother’s Day was hard… that was to be expected. But Father’s Day? I didn’t think that would really be of any significance. Turns out I was wrong.

I was just sort of going about my day earlier – standard Sunday stuff; cycle to a shop, attempt food shopping, feel proud for actually buying some salad and not adding to my ever expending washi tape collection etc. I was feeling a little more anxious than usual but wasn’t really sure why.

On my cycle home, I realised it was a Father’s Day thing. It’s not uncom218 (2016_04_23 16_52_32 UTC)memon that I dream about Dad dying, or Dad having cancer. For a long time after Mum was diagnosed I panicked at every text or call, terrified that someone else close to me was ill or had died. I’ve got a bit better at that now which is handy because I don’t think it’s healthy to panic innumerable times a day. The dreams still pop up every now and again but I don’t normally worry about it during the day any more, apart from today.

It feels odd being a daughter with only one parent. It feels odd having a Dad without a Mum. My Dad is great in pretty much every way, but it’s weird having a Father’s Day without a mother. I don’t really know what to do or say. We focussed so much on Mum while she was ill, I can remember every Mother’s Day, but I don’t remember Father’s Days, I don’t remember what we used to do…

Today has prompted lots of anxiety, a few tears, and the majority of the day spent buried under blankets, crocheting and watching various comedy programs. It caught me by surprise. I’m not alone in it, though. I’m in a Facebook group with other young people who have, or had, a terminally ill family member. I posted in there earlier today and a number of people responded with similar feelings.

Grief is a funny thing and there’s no rule book for it, no logic, no handy flow chart to guide you through. You just have to take each day as it comes, and sometimes that means spending the day buried under yarn, engrossed in TV, and I think that’s okay.

 

 

Where’s the “good” in “goodbye”?

I was going through old cards and letters the other day as I began to put things up in my room (I’ve been very creative with command hooks. I should probably have bought shares in command hooks…). I found the last birthday card that Mum ever wrote for me (which made me cry). I also found the card my family wrote for me when I first went to uni, which has found it’s way onto my wall.

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The more I read it, the more I think it’s excellent advice for life. (I wish you could FaceTime dead people, though, but Mum was cremated and I don’t think ashes can talk).

I was wandering round a shop today when ‘No Good in Goodbye‘ came on. As it came on I was scrolling through my phone and people from my uni course began to post their results.

Admittedly I got a bit of a ‘pang’ and my mind began to race about what could have/should have/might have been.

It feels stupid because I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am right now and I’m more content with life than I have been in a long time. If I’d have stayed at uni I would most likely have become even more unwell and probably wouldn’t have finished. I wouldn’t have met some of the wonderful people I now have in my life and would have missed out on some fantastic opportunities that I’ve been granted. I probably wouln’t be blogging for Blurt, or have the job I have now (which is basically my dream job).

I’m struggling to match the ‘me’ that I am, with the ‘me’ I’ve always thought I ‘should’ be. I’ve had a few conversations in the past week or so when people have been really surprised that I did Art up to AS level and DT to A2 level. They’re really surprised that I have a bit of a creative streak (something I’m debating blogging about more…). I guess I sort of abandoned creative me, and tried to become academic. There’s nothing wrong with being academic, but I don’t think it’s really ‘me’. I’m actually not a huge fan of reading and writing, I’d much prefer to play with paint, talk to people, or design a website. I like doing and being rather than sitting and reading. I like learning through doing or talking to people.

Uni was so tied up in Mum’s illness. I didn’t notice it at the time. I didn’t really think I was any different from my peers. When I’ve gone back through cards, letters and photos, though, it’s become increasingly clear how much Mum being ill really did affect it. I can see my social life dropping off. I can see the distraction setting in. I can match photos and cards to points in Mum’s illness. We tried to keep everything as ‘normal’ as possible, but looking back  I can see how far from ‘normal’ things fell.

There is no ‘good’ in ‘goodbye’ and as each day goes by, I miss Mum more and more. There’s more I want to tell her, or ask her advice on, or just chat to her about. But maybe there is a bit of good in the bad? Maybe Mum’s illness and death and my leaving uni have forced me to reassess who I am and what I’m doing with my life, and maybe that’s no bad thing…

It’s Far Too Easy to Drown in the Past

These past few weeks have been hard.

I think I maybe need to take a break from Facebook, or at least go on it less. My timeline is full of people finishing uni, going to the end of year awards at uni, doing other things that I’m currnently unable to do. Lots of people are going out a lot. Lots of people are returning home and putting up pictures of them with their Mum. Some people are getting jobs and celebrating with their Mum.

It’s easy to look at what I’ve lost. It’s easy to look at people finishing uni and feel like I’ve failed. Why didn’t I just stick it out? I didn’t stick it out because I wasn’t in a position to, I wasn’t enjoying it, and a few other reasons, but it’s hard to remember that when everyone is finishing and when you bump into people in the supermarket who ask you about finishing your degree.

It’s easy to look at people on nights out and at award ceremonies and feel frustrated with myself because at the moment going out for a few hours during the day renders me utterly exhausted. A year ago, I was one of *them*. But things have changed, life has changed, and I’ve got to accept that and stop dwelling on it.

Seeing Mums on my various timelines doesn’t usually affect me too much, I like seeing people being happy. Sometimes it’s hard though, because I miss her, because I haven’t had a hug in days and I can’t remember the time before that, because sometimes it can feel really isolating and lonely. It’s made harder when I try and talk to people about it and they just don’t get it at all. I wish I knew more people in my position, it’s so hard being young and motherless and it’s something you don’t really understand until you’re thrown into that situation (a situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone).

It’s hard when my health is not quite where it should be. Nothing drastic, but my asthma flared up again and prescription list has grown, something Mum I’m sure would have offered a sympathetic ear about (and an opinion, the side effect of being a doctor…). I’m also extremely tired all the time at the moment. I’m sleeping a lot, and minimal activity can leave me exhausted. There are a few reasons why this might be, but tiredness really doesn’t help when it comes to the whole coping thing. It also means the Race for Life was a no go this year, which was the right decision, but a really crap decision nontheless.

I need to stop looking at what might have been and focus on what I’ve got because I have so much in so many ways. I’m lucky that I have a Dad and brothers who mean a huge amount to me, and other family members who take an active interest in my life. I’m starting a new job soon, and it’s literally perfect for me (as anyone who I’ve taken the time to explain it to has said!). I have some close friends who take the time to listen to me and chat things over. I live in a lovely place. I have arms and legs that work and I’m able to get from A to B on my bike.

Things are okay. I am doing okay. I need to stop being so hard on myself. I don’t quite now what to do to help how I feel right now, but burying myself in yarn and watching hours of Netflix seems to work a little bit, so perhaps that’s the best way forward for now. Sometimes it’s the little things that help the most.

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind” – C.S. Lewis

Silence is Noisy

We’ve passed the seven month mark. Seven months since Mum died. I’m not sure when I’ll stop counting these milestones. Maybe it’ll happen when things get easier. I’m not sure it’s getting any easier yet, in some ways it’s getting harder. The day Mum died was hard, but every day since, there’s been a nagging voice in my head saying: “The longer she’s dead, the more she misses.”

I moved house again last week. A few months ago I had to move out of halls very quickly due to taking a Leave of Absence from uni, so I lodged with someone for a couple of months. But last week I moved out, into a flat which I’m sharing with a friend. I’ve also got a new job – I’m still waiting for a start date, but it’s another life change. They’re both really positive life changes, but changes nonetheless.

My Dad has been incredibly helpful in all this, as have a couple of friends. They’ve helped me make decisions, taught me valuable life lessons, and in Dad’s case, helped me move everything I own from one house to another.

I have noticed Mum’s absence, though. When you get a new job, one of the first things you usually do is tell your parents. When moving house, your parents (with any luck!) provide a vehicle of some kind and some extra arms and legs for carrying things up and down stairs. Mums, in particular, are good at remembering things you forget (such as cleaning products – a quick trip to the shop now means we have the best-stocked cleaning cupboard in York, but it’s something I hadn’t factored into the big move).

There wasn’t really anything that she would have done that didn’t get done anyway. In fact, I can’t think of anything in particular that would have been her ‘job’. At one point I did consider she may have helped me buy some new work clothes, but then I remembered she used to practically pay people to take me shopping, so maybe not!

A lack of significant ‘role’ for her doesn’t mean I’ve felt her absence any less, though. I didn’t miss her too much during the actual house-move (another pair of hands would have been useful but we can blame my brother’s man-flu for that!), but I missed her that first night. I don’t know why I missed her then – even if she was alive she’d have been at her house, not mine – but I did.

Before Mum died, I never knew how much space an absence could take up. I didn’t realise how noisy silence could be. I don’t really know how to describe it, and perhaps it’s something you never really come across until someone close to you dies, but absence can seep into every aspect of your life and can grow at an alarming rate.

It goes deeper than a simple nothing. “Nothing” can easily be masked by white noise; the radio, TV, a trip with some friends, tasteful home furnishings, or a chat on the phone. “Nothing” is easy to cover up. But absence is deeper. No amount of noise can stifle it, no amount of talking can deplete it, no amount of looking-after-yourself, being sociable or distracting yourself can make it go away. It demands to be noticed.

Time is moving forward, life is changing, and good things are happening. None of it makes the absence disappear, and sometimes it makes the absence even more noticeable, but it’s also essential. My life can’t remain in 2015, it can’t get stuck in a time when Mum was still alive – it’s got to carry on, and that means that I’ve got to keep on doing what I can to live in the present.