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