September 15th 2013: the day I became a member of the Dead Mums Club. It’s a day that’s still so vivid it’s tattooed on my soul. Every sight, every sound, every smell is still with me. I threw away the clothes I wore that day because every time I looked at them I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut.
I have been through so many emotions from the day of the cancer diagnosis to this; the most consistent is anger. I get angry over the stupidest things. I cry, I throw things, I swear, I rant and rave. I know it wasn’t mum’s fault, no one expected her seemingly innocuous stomach problems to be cancer but I am angry that she had symptoms for months before she saw a doctor. I am angry that even after her diagnosis she always put everyone else’s needs before her own.
One particular moment of rage sticks out in my mind. We were out for lunch, mum was regaining her appetite and strength post chemo and we went for burgers to celebrate. During lunch we had a conversation about the other patients mum had met and how some of them had to deal with their diagnosis alone. She told me that if she didn’t have children and grandchildren she wouldn’t have gone through palliative chemo. She would have resisted treatment and let the cancer consume her. I was incandescent. I wanted my mum to fight for herself, not for us. I asked her that as a single, childless individual was my life less valid than hers? If I found myself in her position should I just give up and throw in the towel because I don’t have any dependents? Of course not, she said. I understand her point slightly better now with time but in that moment I was furious.
I am angry that when my mum received the worst news a person can receive she was by herself. That on Friday 3rd August 2013 dad and I took her to the emergency department because of jaundice with no idea that it was the beginning of the end. That the oncologist broke the news to mum that her life would be measured in days and weeks rather months when dad and I were not in the room. She called me and cried for only the third time in my life. The cruelty of the situation made my blood boil.
I am livid that my mum, my parent’s friends, relatives and people I had never met told me to look after my dad when mum passed away. As if it was not the most natural thing for me to do. I moved back home, I made him meals; I listened to him crying through the wall or wandering the house in the middle of the night with insomnia. I carried on as many family traditions as possible to keep up the pretence that everything was ok. It was only when I was on the verge of mental exhaustion that I really became angry that no one had thought to look after me. Even though I was 31 I was still the child of the family, I had never dealt with anything like this before and the weight of the grief and everyone’s expectations was crushing me.
Today is Mother’s Day in the UK – a day that is steeped in sentimentality and schmaltz. Mum was never a huge fan of Mother’s Day; she hated being the centre of attention. I always made a point of giving her little gifts throughout the year so that she knew I was appreciative of everything she did for me. I am annoyed that it’s a day when all mothers are put on a pedestal. Some mothers are awful humans. My grandmother was one of them. My mum is lucky she turned out to be a decent individual with an alcoholic junkie train wreck for a parent. I am livid that companies pedalling this crap don’t appreciate how difficult Mother’s Day is for the motherless, the childless, single mothers and those who had shit mums.
The anger has eased slightly over time, thankfully. It was becoming a bit exhausting. Therapy is helping deal with a lot of the fallout from the bereavement. Of course the real source of my anger is obvious. I am angry at mum for leaving me. I wasn’t ready, we weren’t finished.