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So, today marks the last day of our year of firsts.
On this day last year, 6th February 2017, we held our Final Farewell to mum at Torquay Crematorium. The day before that, 5th February 2017, we held the most amazing celebration of her life at Dartington Hall. Today my family and I enter a new phase in our grief; we enter the year of seconds.
I have found that this second year is considered by some, to be the year in which “she/he should be over it by now”. Some people openly verbalise that, some just radiate it; others seem to begin averting eye contact, or even fleetingly roll their eyes, when you bring up the subject of grief for your loved one. There’s no escaping it, there’s a general feeling that by the time you enter your second year of bereavement, you should be ‘moving on with your life’. But that’s not how it happens. That’s not how grief works. There is no predetermined time-frame into which your feelings can neatly fit. Grief is not a 12-month contract for which you must negotiate an extension. Grief is what it is, when it is, how it is, for however long it is. Some days it’s fine. Other days it’s not. Today happens to be not OK for me – and I’m not going to apologise for it or suppress my feelings around it. Today, my grief is expressing itself as anger, and it is determined to be heard.
This year Mothers’ Day will be my second Mothers’ Day without my mum, it will be the second Easter, the second birthday, the second Christmas without my mum. Whether it’s the first, second, third or twenty-third, I will still miss her. I have a right to be angry about that. And I have a right to express it without being shut down by well-meaning platitudes or societal expectations.
Here I stand at the threshold of another year of memorable events without the woman who gave me life. I stand at the threshold of another year without the woman who loved me unconditionally; who taught me everything I know about love, kindness and compassion. And, as I stand at that threshold, I find very little comfort in the knowledge that, at least, it will no longer be the first time I am experiencing these events without her. This coming year will be just as hard; in different ways perhaps, but just as hard. I feel that it’s important to acknowledge that because so many people live with the belief, hope or expectation, that everything will suddenly get easier from now on. For some, it might, for others it won’t. Yet, from some of the comments I’ve personally heard this past year, the generally accepted mourning period still seems to be that magical 12 months. Those of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one, or those who have been trained in bereavement counselling, know that this is not the reality of grief. However, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard: “once you get over the firsts, you’ll be OK”, “it gets easier after the first year” or “time is a healer” (yes, people really do still use that one).
So today, I am choosing to mark the final anniversary of my year of firsts, not by reflecting on the love that I still feel for my mother; not by reflecting on how much I still miss her; not by expressing my unending gratitude for having been loved so deeply by her for almost 50 years; but by expressing my anger. Anger is just as legitimate a feeling, with as much right to expression, as any other emotion associated with grief. Yet so often, especially if it is expressed after that magical 12-month threshold, anger is seen as a sign of not coping, not having “processed” your grief, not “moving on”. Today, I write this blog to mark the final day of firsts and I intend to use it without apology as a platform, to shout out from the roof tops exactly what I feel like saying to people at times. I intend to blast through some people’s expectations of me as a grieving daughter, or as a Counsellor and Soul Midwife, and simply let my anger roar.
To those who say “once you get over the firsts, you’ll be OK”, I roar “BULLSHIT!”.
To those who say “she’s no longer suffering” or “she’s in a better place now”, I roar “BOLLOCKS!”
To those who say “time is a healer”, I roar “F**K RIGHT OFF!”
Tomorrow I might feel differently. Tomorrow I might return to my calm, centred, compassionate, understanding self. Tomorrow, those well-meaning platitudes might not anger me as much; I might be in a better place to accept that it’s just their way of trying to support me, because they don’t know what else to do or say.
Today, however, I feel angry. Angry that a part of society is trying to dictate how I should feel, how I shouldt express it, where, when and for how long that expression of my feelings is acceptable. Today I step over the threshold of my first year without my mum, and enter the second year even more determined to ride each-and-every wave of grief that comes – without apologising for it. I am honouring my grief in whatever form it arrives, for by doing so I honour the life and the love of my mother. She deserves that. I deserve that. Everyone who has ever lost a loved one, deserves that.
And so, today, I roar.
On this day last year, 15th January 2017, my beautiful mama crossed over the threshold.
Today, after a year of painful firsts, rather than choosing to focus on the sadness of her death, I am choosing to focus on the joy of her life.
I remember with joy and gratitude, the love and the light she brought into our lives; the love she shared and the love she inspired.
I remember the beautiful sparkle in her eyes and how her beaming smile could light up a room.
I remember her beauty, her elegance and her kindness; the way she laughed, her sharp wit and her cheeky sense of humour.
I remember her strength, her courage and dogged determination; her loyalty, humility and dignity.
More than anything though, I remember her love.
She loved her family with all her heart and devoted her life to taking care of us; especially my dad, her soulmate. The flame of love that burned between them was like no other. My mum loved more deeply than anyone I have ever known and I feel her eternal love around me still.
Mum I love you, with all my heart, now and always. Thank you for giving me the gift of life, thank you for so many precious memories and thank you for your beautiful gift of love. I am truly blessed to be your daughter.
First posted on: www.suzigarrod.com/blog, on 15th July 2017
6 months ago today, my mum died.
She took her final, gentle breath in this life at 5.20am on Sunday 15th January. I held her hand as she slipped away, kissed her lips, stroked her cheek and sang her favourite lullaby one last time.
Today, at 5.20am on Saturday 15th July, I sat in quiet reflection; silently honouring her love and her life, shedding the tears of a daughter who misses her mum; whilst watching the dawn of yet another new day without her.
As I sat down to do my morning practice, I spotted a black feather, a symbol of the sorrow and the grief that I was feeling at the time. The shadow of my heart.
When I finished my practice I walked through the fields for hours, listening to the birdsong, connecting with the trees, the grass and the hedgerows; watching the cows and the sheep slowly begin their day. The shadow had lifted and I felt peace in my heart once more.
I reflected on how the soothing sounds of my tuning forks, the ebb and flow of my breath in meditation and the simple beauty of nature had brought me back home to myself once more; back to acceptance, back to peace and the knowing that all is as it should be.
I stood for a while holding the white feather in my hands, tears of joy and gratitude gently rolling down my cheeks.
I sent out a prayer of gratitude to the Universe. I gave thanks to all the teachers who have shared their wisdom with me and given me the tools to embrace both shadow and light with love; to Mother Nature and the healing messages she brings me through the blessings of her gifts; and to my ever-loving, beautiful mum, for I could feel her beside me, holding me close, sending me love and reassuring me that all is well.
As I neared the entrance to the field at The Healing Weekend, contemplating the day ahead, and wondering how I would feel when the throng of visitors arrived later that morning, I found a third feather.
This feather was black with a white spot near the tip – a sign that, no matter how much sorrow or pain there may be in my heart, there will always be a glimmer of joy and love to guide me back home; from the shadow to the light.
I was gifted with so many other insights on my walk this morning and will write a blog post over the next few days to share the messages I received. For now, my gifts to you are the amazing tools I use each day – my tuning forks and mindfulness meditation – the wisdom of the feathers and the infinite beauty of my mum.
It’s always the firsts that are hardest to deal with after a bereavement; the first night, first week, first month; first birthday, first anniversary – the list seems endless. There’s no hiding from it; the firsts in bereavement always hurt. It’s only been 2 months since mum died, so this is my first Mothers’ Day without her.
Every day in the week leading up to it, I was confronted by Happy Mothers’ Day cards. They seemed to be everywhere; in every single shop on the high street; a taunting reminder – as if I needed one – that I wouldn’t be buying a Mother’s Day card this year. At one point, I found myself standing in front of the card section in Tescos, tears gently flowing down my cheeks, as I watched a young girl picking out a card for her mum.
I miss my mum so much and the physical pangs of pain still grip my heart every so often. I know that they will for a long time to come. That’s OK, it’s normal; that’s what grief is.
The now familiar wave of sadness didn’t last long. Like every emotion, I’ve felt since mum died, I allowed myself to feel it fully. I immersed myself in the depths of the sadness I was feeling in that moment; allowing myself to express it in whichever way felt right. On this occasion, my expression happened to be gentle tears. On other occasions it has been deep, soul-wrenching sobs or fiery outbursts of anger. I accept that whatever I’m feeling in any given moment is valid and that it deserves to be honoured. After a few moments of gentle cyring, I took a deep breath, whispered “I love you mum” and carried on with my shopping.
It’s highly likely that this wave of sadness would have returned on the actual day of Mothering Sunday. I may have felt very sorry for myself and hidden away from the world, had it not been for a chance meeting with a very special lady.
Doreen is 91 years old and, when I met her on the Friday, I discovered that she was still recovering from a nasty fall, a fall which had left her with concussion, two broken wrists and a severely bruised face. Paul, Doreen’s son, told me that she hadn’t been expected to survive, when she fell 3 months ago, so I watched in total awe as Doreen did a little jig in her kitchen, proudly showing off her dance moves without the aid of her walking stick. I told her she was an inspiration; I really admired her zest for life, her refusal to give in even though the odds were stacked against her. She reminded me of someone.
“Well, what else can you do?” she said with her beautiful cheeky grin “you just gotta get on with it”. Then she wiggled her hips and waved her hands in the air with a huge beaming smile on her face.
In that instant, Doreen had turned my sadness into joy.
She may not be my mum, but she has that same determined, courageous, loving spirit; and when she smiles, her eyes beam with joy. Doreen is simply happy to be alive and grateful to be sharing her life with her family. She may not be my mum, but she represents the essence of motherhood; and as I watched her gleefully and defiantly dancing in her kitchen, I felt so much love for her.
So, on Mother’s Day this year, I delivered some flowers, some chocolate and a “Thank you” card to this beautiful 91-year old lady named Doreen. I thanked her for the gift she had given me; the opportunity to once more bring a smile to another mother’s face; the opportunity to make another mother feel loved and appreciated. Thanks to Doreen, I was reminded that every mum – regardless of whether she is mine or not – deserves to be admired, loved and thanked from the heart, for all that she is and all that she brings to this world.
This year was my first ever Mothers’ Day without my mother. It might have been just another one of those painful bereavement firsts; another difficult day to get through, rather than a special day to celebrate. Thanks to Doreen, this year’s Mothers’ Day became the first time I consciously expanded my heart to send love and gratitude, not only to my mum, but to every single mother on this earth – including myself. It became the day I realised that, even though my mum has died, I can still buy Mothers’ Day cards in years to come; I can still celebrate and honour all that I love and miss about my mum, by celebrating and honouring those qualities in other women.
Seeing the joy of life beaming from Doreen’s eyes that day, has enabled me to totally reframe my painful first. Her gleeful dance transformed my sorrow into joy and forever healed a part of my heart.
Thank you, Doreen for your beautiful gift and thank you for your beautiful soul.
With love and blessings