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Surprised by grief

It’s my mom’s birthday today. 3 weeks to the day since the anniversary of her death. Three is my lucky number. There’s a symbolism in there somewhere, but I don’t know where it is.

I feel awful. I woke up feeling tired and headachey and so sad. And despite some of this being diabetes related (I woke up with low blood sugar in the night and fell asleep too soon after correcting it, which leads to a hangover the next day), most of it, I think, is grief.

I’m surprised by it. I felt totally fine when I went to sleep last night – aware that today was my mom’s birthday, but not nervous or anticipatory or sad at all. And then I woke up this morning flailing around in the soup of sadness. Not even flailing, that would require too much energy. Quietly sinking…

At least I know the drill by now. I know that if I accept the feelings, they will pass in their own time. I know that today is not a day for watching or listening to anything sad, or for having high expectations of myself. I know to wrap myself in cotton wool and hug my kids and husband a lot.

I spoke to my dad yesterday and he was having a down day because he was remembering all the past birthdays (my mom loved birthdays, but only once she met my dad). One year he wrapped an emerald ring up in 4 giant boxes, using a whole roll of sticky tape. She thought it was an appliance, and then she thought it was a pair of shoes, and then she wasn’t sure what it was, and then she was so surprised and delighted when she saw the tiny ring box. Another year he fried onions so she would think he was making steak for dinner (his favourite, not hers) and then surprised her by taking us all out to dinner. I remember the year she turned 55 (I think), I bought her 55 tiny gifts… A sweet thought that the minimalist in me is horrified by! And another year, as a child, I tried making her a cake but forgot the baking powder so it was a squidgy mess…


I have been feeling so much better since the anniversary of my mom’s death. It has felt as if she’s moved further away, but in a really peaceful, beautiful way. Like I’m learning how to do life without her.

But today it’s all back. So much of grief (for me) is not about the person who has gone, but about what I’m missing. About how much I want a mom in my life, and how cheated I feel that I won’t ever have one again.

That’s not going to change. So I’ll just sit with it and wait for it to pass… I explained to Arty the other day that emotions are e-motions: energy in motion. And the only way for them to pass is by letting them be, not trying to bottle them up. I’ll try and take my own advice today.

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