The other week Ada and I were standing at the living room window waiting for my dad to arrive to look after her for the day so I could go to work. He usually arrives by 9.15am so we perched ourselves as usual by the bay window so she could see his car pull up and give him all the usual exuberant greetings as he walks up the path to the front door. 9.20am rolled by and there was no sign of him. 9.30am hit and still no dad, so I called him and didn't get an answer. 9.40am came and he was still not here and wasn't answering his phone. As the minutes passed I had myself convinced he was dead.
He's not here, he's not answering his phone, he must be dead.
That was the rational conclusion I had drawn and I went into panic - conjuring up all kinds of scenarios in my head about what had happened. I was calling Dave, calling my brother to no avail to see if they had heard from him. At 9.45am my dads car casually pulled up at the front of our house and out he got and walked up the path to the house. When he got in the door I burst into tears. Relief. My poor dad didn't know what was going on. He was just having his breakfast with his phone on silent and I was over here thinking he was dead. Errr....
Let me draw back and tell you that I'm really not an anxious person. Not at all. That has never been my disposition; so much so that my husband gets frustrated with me because I tend to downplay things - like when the kids seem to be under the weather or there is some sort of situation that is worrying. "It's fine! It will pass. No point in worrying when there's nothing we can do!" So when this happened and my mind went to the very worst case scenario, my reaction really took me aback.
I guess when the worst has happened, it makes you feel like anything can happen.
My mum died without warning. Within 24 hours her condition went from controllable to fatal. Why couldn't something else awful happen? We're not immune to tragedy any more. None of us are.
This element of the grief process; this irrational but very acute sense of 'anything can happen' has taken me by surprise. I remember in the days after mum died, I would wake up in the middle of the night and be terrified that something would happen to one of the kids.
"Did I tie the blind cord up in Levi's room? What if he got up in the night and wandered over and got tangled up in his sleep? I haven't heard the baby all night. I need to go into her room and make sure she's breathing. Maybe she has caught her leg in the bar of the cot and it has cut off her circulation and she's unconscious" (REALLY...) These aren't things I would ever have lost sleep over in the past but now, anything feels possible.
I don't live in this state of anxiety all the time, but sometimes it creeps up on me like someone finding you in a game of hide and seek when you thought you had found the very best spot. Gotcha. Not so clever now.
On one hand the acute reality of my mums death, of her missing presence is so very breathtakingly real to me. We go to my parents house - she's not there. I come home from work on the days my dad is taking care of the baby and she's not there. She's not here.
On the other hand I still can't quite believe it. How is she not here? I look at pictures and she's so alive to me. I retrieved some old voicemails she left me and I listen to them and there is her sweet soft voice, telling me I left my purse at her house and that she'd bring it round to me later. How is she not here?
I'm still not really interested in going to her grave. It just doesn't serve me any comfort right now. In fact, I hate it. I still struggle with the idea that her body is in a box in the ground. I think because my mums body was such a source of comfort to me all my life - she was so tactile - that to think of her arms and her soft chest being six feet under when it still feels so unreal is just not helpful for my heart.
I look at my kids, who are so full of fun - the complete joy of my life - and think, mum would be so sad to be dead if she could see how funny and entertaining these two are right now. Ada took her first steps in the weeks after mum died. I know it's a weird thing to think, but as much as I feel sad for me, I feel sad for her that she is missing out on these precious moments and years with them. I keep thinking she'd be so annoyed to be dead. Weird, right?
I miss the presence of tender older women in my life. There is a deficit there that I am not able to make up. Someone who can see the struggles of a young mum and will offer a hand. Someone who will take me out for coffee or to go shopping with. A motherly presence.
I feel for my husband who is navigating this grief thing with me so tenderly. It must be so difficult to know how much I can deal with or what to expect of me on any given day. It changes so much. Some days I am able to get on with things, keep up with the kids and work and life and feel like I can cope. Other days I just feel "grievy"; a new term I've coined for a feeling that can't be pinpointed but generally just means I'm weary with sadness, longing, confusion.
People continue to surprise me in wonderful and difficult ways. My most sound advice for anyone who doesn't know how to support their loved one through loss is to just. do. something. Anything at all. I said in my first post about this that just acknowledging the situation for someone is healing. Grief shared is grief abated. Send a message when they come to mind. Fire over some food. Show up and bring coffee. Don't wait to be told. I know that's an awkward one, but no one who is grieving has a clue what they need, never mind any energy to ask. Just do something. Anything to acknowledge that this is still real. Someone I haven't spent time with in years turned up at my house last weekend with a plant and a card and it absolutely made my day. You remembered I'm still in this. You haven't forgotten.
I'm not worried if you say the right thing. I'm not worried if you have some sort of analogy about my mum being a butterfly or an angel or if you say that 'the good ones get taken soon'. Those notions aren't for me, but I know you want to say something that you think will help, so it's OK. I see your heart. Just say something.
I've had to check my expectations of others, letting some things go and having hard conversations I don't want to have. Those conversations either make space for people to understand and make it right or they won't. Grief makes you ballsy. I no longer have time for chasing or dancing around relationships that aren't mutual. My body and mind is preoccupied with staying afloat so I am looking ashore for the safe people and I'm more clear than ever about who those people are. It's painful but freeing.
I'm learning to take better care of myself - to feed my body well, to rest when I need to even if it means the washing stays in the basket for one more day. It took a lot of getting over myself but I finally hired some help with cleaning the house. It's funny the expectations you have of yourself.
I post pictures and videos on social media. I organise and host events and lead my team at work and I wonder if I'm making it look like I've got it all together. I hope you know that it's more complicated than that. There are many "grievy" days and moments woven into life right now.
One of my favourite authors, Anne Lamott writes “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
As far as that quote goes, my leg is still very much broken and sore; seeping in fact. So, for now I'll be over here - greeting the grievy moments when they come and preparing to limp-dance my way back onto the dance floor when I'm ready.