Sunday 17 May 2020

5 Years Later...

Today marks the 5th anniversary of mum's passing. 3:24am, to be exact.

I unintentionally stayed up past that time, and just like I did on the morning in question, looked at my phone at the exact same time, not knowing back then, that mum had just taken her final breath.

I started to reflect on the differences from then, til now, and while many things have moved on during that time, some things haven't changed at all.

Her handbag is still on the chair where it was last left. All of her clothes and shoes are still in the wardrobe. I've relocated some of her jewelry to my bedroom so I can wear some of it, but her art supplies are still under the table next to the piano, now covered in cobwebs, dust and whatever else.

I think one of the biggest things I've noticed in that time is that the pain has reduced. 

When I looked at my phone (also changed) to look at the time early this morning at saw it was the exact moment of her passing, I remembered how I felt back then and wondering was going to happen, and how I personally was going to get through not only each coming day, but the rest of my life, now that it had been changed forever. I knew as I was driving into the hospital car park that day, after praying for the first time in possibly years that I'd make it there in time, that whatever happened, life wouldn't be the same, I just had no idea what that meant.

The shock took months to subside. I'd never cried so much possibly in my entire life, and I resented the fact that not only was the world continuing on as it always had, while I was left to figure out what my life meant without a mother, but that every new person I'd meet for the rest of my life, I'd need to rip off the band-aid of telling people that she'd passed on, and dealing with the residual grief that came up as a result.

The first birthday without her I was fortunate enough to have a great group of friends around me who joined me for a low-key gathering at my old apartment. The birthday after that, I was hit with the sobering realization that she was really gone and wouldn't be calling to excitedly wish me happy birthday, ask me what I wanted, both for presents and dinner, and to check when I'd be over to celebrate with the family. I cried constantly for the whole week.

In the days after her passing, I started doing research into what happens to bodies after a person dies, and often found myself wondering what she would look like if I were to dig her up now. The same thing I wondered several years after my paternal grandmother passed on. (I was 9, and she was the first family death in my lifetime)

I'd been told by family friends that the hardest part about the loss of a loved one is the little things, I didn't realize how true it was until those little things started coming up. Not being able to call her when I got out of an exam at uni, not being able to update her each time something new happened, like when I grief-bought new clothes and couldn't ask her opinion on them, instead turning to dad who had absolutely no clue how to respond. 

One of the biggest things are the occasional, but incredibly vivid dreams where she's still alive. Even though I not only witnessed her taking her last breath, but also saw her body in the coffin, then being buried, it's like my conscious mind knows she's not here, but my unconscious mind is still trying to reconcile the information and hasn't fully processed it.

The first dream was the two of us arguing in the kitchen, as per normal. She was adamant she hadn't died, but I knew she definitely had, and couldn't understand how she'd come back to life. The rest of the family just acted like it was completely normal, which just made it even weirder.

Other dreams were of a similar nature. Mum seeming off, but definitely alive, and me wondering why no one else had noticed, and being completely baffled as to how she was there in the first place, until I woke up and it all made sense.

For me, the hardest part is not having a mother who's present. We didn't have the greatest relationship when she was alive, and between the cancer, other physical ailments and her gradual memory loss which would have likely been more devastating to experience that the cancer, she wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway, but it's knowing that she's not here. Her stuff is, and anytime it's been moved, I've had a mini meltdown at the change, but there's nowhere I can go and see or be with her. Her physical body is in a body in the ground of a cemetery. Her legacy is in the memories of those who knew her and were personally affected by her, in some manner or another, but she isn't here.

Over the past few years, I've developed a stronger interest in spirituality, supernatural and paranormal phenomenon, and I think that's helped me to deal with her loss a bit better. Believing that while she's not physically here, her soul or spirit lives on elsewhere and she's watching over and guiding me from there, and as I like to imagine, spending her time socializing with all those who passed on before her, makes me feel okay about not having her physically here. Her body had been through enough and she had to let it go, but she taught me what I needed to know in the time she was here, and the rest I just wait for signs of, as crazy as it may seem to others.

(Credit: Pinterest)

Life has continued on. I've graduated university, changed jobs a few times, moved back home again, and really started to reflect and appreciate the life I had with her, even if it wasn't long or full enough. 

I started to pursue acting and modelling, which is something I've always wanted to do, but that she'd never have approved on, and as dad told me as a child, the one rule was not to upset mum. But I've also started to share my story of growing up with a mentally ill parent and how that's affected me, and continues to affect me.

I intend on making a documentary one day about her life, and showing what it's like for someone who has mental illness, but also detailing the stories of those who knew her, and of my own family's experiences in dealing with her (with permission of course), so I can help to shine a light on, and work towards breaking the stigma around mental health, in the hopes that more people become aware of it's existence, recognize the signs for themselves or someone they know, and get the help and support they need, without feeling ashamed or judged for doing so.

As bittersweet as it is to not have her here, she's left me with an amazing story to tell, memories that I can cherish for the remainder of my life, and knowing that just like she was throughout my life, when it's my time to go, she'll be there waiting for me with the rest of my departed loved ones.  

(Credit: Pinterest)

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