A lot of lovely people have been asking how I’m feeling lately, and it’s a difficult question to answer. Not only because I feel different every day, but because the feelings don’t fit into words as easily as they used to. I usually settle for: okay.
I have noticed a few different flavours of grief, though. That first week at the hospital, it was raw and ugly and heartrending. Words like ‘horror’ and ‘agony’ didn’t seem over-dramatic. I have blocked out large parts of it, but I remember crouching down and howling in the hospital corridor. I remember turning my back to stare out the window so my mom and dad couldn’t see me and wailing silently, my face like that painting of ‘The Scream’. It was so inconceivable to me that my mom was dying, so horrific that the decline was so fast, so awful that there was nothing we could do.
Once we moved her home, things softened. There were fairy lights and flowers, carers and hugs, no hospital bleeps, no horrible disinfectant smell, no visiting hours. But she was so much less there, so fast. So the grief became deeper. I kept feeling like I wanted to vomit, only it was from sadness, not sickness.
Last week, after she died, it was all-consuming sadness. I don’t think I stopped crying for more than a few minutes for days. The funeral was lovely but similarly saturated with sadness, and other people. There wasn’t any space to breathe.
And now I’m back home. Back at work. Back to mothering. Only this huge part of my life is no longer there, and it feels a little like I’ve lost my compass. When I’m busy or distracted it’s okay, I can function. But then there are the spaces between where I remember, and it is like someone twisted my guts. I keep getting emotional stomach cramps, where I feel like I’m suddenly doubled over with pain, but it’s from the heart. Or I’ll be getting ready to go to a meeting and think, “I’ll call my mom from the car to catch up” – and then remember. Each room of my house, each part of my life is filled with reminders of how intrinsically our lives were (are?) linked.
Last night I went to sleep so sad. And this morning I woke up in it – like a soup. The air feels thick, my shoulders feel weighed down, and when I look at myself in the mirror all I can think is: I am so sad.
And I know, I know. This is so normal. It’s all part of the process. There’s nothing you can do to speed it up. This too will pass… Or at least fade. I’m just not sure when, or how.