This is my mother and I when I was very young, i must have been about one or two years old I imagine.
I thought I should take the time to make a personal post about who I am and why I’m doing this.
Last year, on January 22nd 2011, I lost my mother to breast cancer. She was 48 years old and I was 22. She had been fighting the cancer for three and a half years, the entire time I had been away at University. I felt like my entire world had fallen apart around me. I remember every single second of that day, waking up in the morning afraid to go in my parents’ bedroom after the nurse had been to visit the day before and told us it wouldn’t be long now, holding my father and crying as we processed what was to come that day, trying to take care of my family who were gathered around. The way that she opened her eyes and clenched her jaw before she left this world, and then being absolutely afraid to let go of her hand until she was cold. We ate pizza from dominos that night after everyone had left. I didn’t sleep for days. I remember ridiculous things like cooking fajitas the day after when the undertaker came to collect her.
For the first week it was easy to keep it together; we had a funeral to plan. I had two weeks off work and then threw myself back into it, trying to concentrate on anything else but the crippling grief that was hanging over me. I ignored it as much as I could for the rest of the year. The first everythings came and went; her birthday, mother’s day, my 23rd, my sister’s 21st.
And then my boss got diagnosed with breast cancer. Watching her suffer was just too much for me to handle. In the October my grandmother passed away. Everything became too hard for me to cope with. Christmas was the worst.
In January I quit my job and spent the next three months housebound, I barely saw anyone or did anything. The shock I felt from what happened began to fade and grief took over me, sending me into more and more of a depression. I had spent so long trying to hold myself together and ignoring what had happened, that when it hit me it was like being hit by a double decker bus. I found it harder and harder to get out of bed every day, and making it through the day without crying was impossible. I felt so incredibly alone. I didn’t want to bother my dad because he had his own grief to cope with, my sister was 250 miles away working hard at finishing her degree. I felt completely alienated from the world, I had barely any friends, I felt neglected by my family. Once the initial period of mourning is over, it feels like the people around you forget what has happened and move on, like they’re afraid of mentioning it to you or even asking how you are. I was spiralling further and further into the dark.
Eventually, I managed to ask for help. I made an appointment with my GP where I sobbed and sobbed and begged her to make living easier for me. I began a course of antidepressants to stabilise my moods and started seeing a mental health nurse to talk through how I was feeling and coping. Getting out of bed each day got a bit easier. I started being more productive and I think I was generally getting a bit easier to be around by other people. I started looking for work and managed to find a job in an industry that I am interested in, that I really love, with an extremely understanding boss. I am getting up every day feeling good about the day to come. There are still days when all I want to do is lay in bed and sob, but I have found ways to cope with this. At the moment I am feeling better than I have for the last year and a half.
The last few months I’ve spent trying to look after myself and make my life easier. The struggle I have had over the past 18 months has been made a hundred times worse by feeling like I am completely alone in this. If I had had someone to talk to who knew how I was feeling, or could understand what I was going through, things would have been easier to cope with, I think.
And this is the reason behind Bereavement Zine.
I want other young people who are going through loss and bereavement to know that they’re not alone. It’s an incredibly alienating experience, particularly at a young age because we’re not ready to have to cope with problems like this. It’s not often that you can speak to friends about loss, and it’s hard to speak to family members sometimes because you’re all going through the same thing.
In short, death and loss is never going to be an easy thing to cope with, it’s the hardest and worst thing in the world. But I just want to make it a little less lonely.
You can read my personal story again, here. A more detailed version is in Issue One.