Phoebe, whose mum died when she was nine, shares how she feels on Mother’s Day and what she does to remember her mum.
It’s weird isn’t it? Dreading Mother’s Day at the age of 21.
It almost feels as if you’re the only one in the world being swallowed up by anger and resentment towards those who are lucky enough to wake up on Mothering Sunday with their lovely mummies in their lives.
But for myself and other ‘demi-orphans’ (as we say in my family), it’s a time where shop windows seem to be shoving our pain in our faces at every turn, a time where you know you’ll probably be the only one in your friendship group without plans on Mother’s Day, a time when our ongoing feelings of loss and loneliness are made all the worse.
In fact, when you’re a grieving young adult, loneliness is a big part of it all. But there’s a difference between ‘alone’ and ‘lonely’, a difference that people like us understand. You see, I’m not alone during this time at all. I have beautiful friends who know about my loss and support me, therefore I know I am not alone. But feeling lonely is a very different thing and it’s more apparent than ever when you’ve lost someone close on a day that aims to celebrate that very individual – because whilst the world celebrates the one person you do not have any more, you have to watch it all happen, and that is truly lonely.
However, after 12 years of grieving, you come to learn therapeutic ways that ease the pain brought to the surface by Mother’s Day and, indeed, all the other anniversaries. I’ve learned to laugh at the shop windows, because as my lovely dad once said ‘Laughter is the glove that allows us to touch anything too painful to handle’ and that is so true. Talking is something else that has helped me. I’ll talk when I’m sad, when I’m angry, happy or simply hurting… talking helps me keep her alive, it helps me feel like she was once real and it makes me feel like I’m human and I am just grieving and that’s ok. Another way we coped in the earlier days was by having a special vase with her favourite flowers out on the day. This made her feel closer and most importantly, it made me feel like I still had a mummy because some days feeling motherless is unbearable.
You also come to learn that each year is completely different. As each year goes by, my grief has changed and grown just like I have, so some years it hurts more than others. And that too, is okay. Grieving isn’t linear and it never will be. It’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs. The ‘ups’ being those days where things seem easier to handle and more peaceful than the ‘downs’, where the pain is so heavy and the bitterness is there unavoidably on the surface. Such ‘downs’ I call ‘puddly days’ – it’s a term that helps me understand that this is just a sad day. I’m not going to drown in a river of sadness but I will be in a puddle for a while which I’ll soon be out of. It also helps people close to me know when I’m hurting more and, after all, some recognition of my pain by others is one of the most helpful things to me.
However, I want to end this blog on a happier note because despite my loss, I know I’m one of the lucky ones with a beautiful dad – he is my best friend, my father and, in so many ways, he has been my mother too. He’s done everything he can to help keep her alive within me and for that I am so grateful – so for me, I celebrate him on Mother’s Day.
When I experienced loss, nothing felt better than being cuddled and held by those I loved most. As I grew older, I understood that I needed to learn to hold the grief myself, but allow myself space to still feel the pain I felt after losing my mum. Most importantly, I needed to continue with my life – a fulfilled life that I deserve. At my lowest points or on my ‘puddly’ days as we called it in my family, I focused on specific items that made me feel less lonely, sad and anxious.
I soon realised that many of my friends often enjoyed indulging in my cwtchy things when they were going through rough times too, which is exactly what inspired me to start up Cwtchy Care. I wanted to create a box that would help bereaved children and adults, and others struggling with their mental health. A box full of specially chosen, comforting gifts which not only are items that I use and love, but each gift also draws on the neuroscience about the positive impact such things have on mental health.
Ahead of this coming Mother’s Day, I sold my first box and it was ironically beautiful and sad that the box was bought for a Mother, because Cwtchy Care simply exists because of mine.