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.