Well the thing is that I’ve started writing this and it’s late at night and I’m sloshed so it half won’t make sense and the other half will be Too Much Information but I feel like over sharing (“when don’t you ever?” come the cries from the peanut gallery). Here’s a thing about grief but mostly about me, I guess.
So, it’s been what? Six years and a heavy pocket of change since my mum died. I was 19, my brother was 15, my dad was 46 and we were all far too fucking young. By the time I publish this it will be October 15th, my mum’s 52nd birthday, had she not died in 2008 before we got to be friends.
Do you know what I mean? I’m an adult now. I’d just started getting to that point in my life as a “young adult” where you stop battling your parents because you’ve finally figured out what space you occupy, what the new dynamic is now that you can make your own decisions and go to jail for them. It’s a point I think lots of kids, and especially kids who grew up in poor families like I did, look upon as a real milestone because as you become independent of your family unit you can start to give back to it.
Holidays like Mother’s Day, Christmas and my mum’s birthday twist my stomach not with sadness, though sadness is present, but with resentment. Burning, violent resentment that just as I’d reached that tipping point where I’d be able to take my mum out for lunch on these special occasions and get her nice gifts and generally be the model daughter I definitely never was as a frustrated teenager who was distrustful of authority, she was gone and all those experiences that I sometimes hear my friends discuss (when I can’t block them out or only pretend I’m listening) were robbed from me and now I won’t ever get to be my mum’s friend as well as her daughter because we won’t ever get to relate to each other as adults. It eats at me. It hurts.
I can’t tell you about everyone’s grief, but I can tell you about mine. I can tell you about my difficult teenage years – how I was rebellious and badly behaved and angry and fraught and I always made my mum cry. I can tell you about the first term I spent at university knowing my mum’s cancer was terminal and the dark, intense guilt I still feel now because I dropped out without completing my first year. I can tell you about how I struggle with essentially being a surrogate parent to my brother because none of the adults in my family (of which there are many) were prepared to deal with the almost inevitable mental health issues that come wrapped up with being a 15-year-old boy who lost his mother but had no safety net or support network to fall back on. I can tell you that what little motivation and ambition I had to succeed in life has all but evaporated because the only person I ever wanted to impress is dead so doing well at things seems empty and meaningless now. (Who am I living for!?!) I can tell you that I’ve had a shit Christmas six years in a row. I can tell you that I feel weird when I have fun because I wonder if my mum can see me and I wonder if she thinks it’s too soon for me to be happy. I can tell you that it doesn’t really matter because I’m not happy, not really, and haven’t been for years. I can tell you that it’s taken me half an hour to write 600 odd words and I’ve been full on ugly crying since paragraph three.
That sense of “what would mum think” is all-pervading, especially right now when I feel professionally unfulfilled and I live with someone who treats me like so much dogshit. Would she think I deserve it? Did I make my fucking bed? No. I think the crippling thing is that she would be ashamed of me, probably, because I was always so forthright and confident and Ready For The World (and those were values she personally instilled in me even though she didn’t always practice what she preached) but because I feel like I have no back up and no one in my corner I tend to take a lot of shit lying down nowadays. I mean, sure I moan and whinge, but there was once upon a time when I would nip shit in the bud and 90% of the reason I felt empowered to make sure I wasn’t screwed over was because my mum made sure I understood I wasn’t a fucking doormat. But it’s hard to remember that without reinforcement.
Worst of all, I fear “what mum would think” is that I’m a horrible person because I swear too much and I have no patience for anything and the decisions I make are quite bad. I mean, I would never say “cunt” with such alacrity if my mum was still alive, just as an example. There’s a line from a Harry Potter book which I can’t remember off the top of my head but heavily paraphrasing, Harry essentially says he’ll never know what his parents would want for him because they’re dead and that’s a big part of this whole thing. I just don’t know what my mum would say and guessing doesn’t work for me. It’s hard. Everything is so hard.
I haven’t visited my mum’s grave in 3 years because I feel weird about it and that makes me feel guilty. GUILT. Guilt guilt guilt, that’s my whole grief experience from top to bottom. Guilt about the way I handled my mum’s illness when she was alive. Guilt about everything I’ve done thereafter. Guilt because in the minutes after she died I had to make sure everyone close to her knew because nothing in me could bear the idea that anyone could go about their day for a few hours thinking everything was fine when it wasn’t (vindictive). Guilt because in the two weeks between death and funeral the only thing I remember is that on the one day I felt like eating my dad and brother had already shared my dinner between them. Guilt because I wasn’t a good big sister. Guilt because I wasn’t an understanding daughter. Guilt because my Nan had dementia and Alzheimer’s and didn’t comprehend her youngest child was dead and I hated her for it. Guilt because when people tell me that their parents are ill, I hope they fucking die because I want everyone to feel that exact, specific soul-destroying sadness that I do. Misery <3’s company.
One day, some time after the terminal diagnosis, I cried to my mum that it didn’t fucking matter what she thought about things anymore because she’d be gone and I’d be the one still living and trying to deal with it. It was a horrible thing to say, and we both cried about it, but it was true too. Because here I am, still crying, and where the fuck is she at? And once again I feel guilty because even though most of me hopes she’s somewhere the rest of me hopes she’s nowhere because I’m so, so pathetic now because grief has changed my entire life, my entire personality, my entire everything and I don’t want to say “I told you so” to a dead woman, but oh my god I TOLD YOU SO. I told you that I’d be left to deal with it and it will never ever be fixed. I hope you’re nowhere that you can see me like this.
I read another thing recently about a guy who basically retarded his own development because he got into a motorbike accident that killed his girlfriend and he felt he wasn’t worthy of a life anymore. I think sometimes that applies to me. I’m scared of growing up a bit because my mum isn’t around to see it and if she’s not around to see it what’s the point?
I don’t even know what I’m even talking about anymore. I just miss my mum and everything is difficult and I think that’s what grief is, really, even though it’s kind of not fundamentally, it’s just that I’m quite self-centered about it all.
Anyway. Today would have been my mum’s birthday. Just in case you can still see me somewhere, mum – I love you and I miss you and not being able to talk to you breaks me every time I wake up from a dream where you were still alive and I have a disoriented “oh shit I haven’t phoned my mum in ages!” moment and then I remember why that is. I miss you.
I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you.