Teigan was 11 when her mum died of a brain tumour. On the seventh anniversary of her mum’s death, Teigan shares how she feels about anniversaries and growing up without her mum.
Seven years is not really that long ago
For some reason the seven year marker has always stuck with me. Strangely, it is because when I was studying GCSE English and we were reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. One of the significant quotes I remember is: “Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,” Scrooge replied. “He died seven years ago, this very night.”
At the time I thought that seven years was a very long time and it does sound like a long time when you hear it flippantly. In terms of the story, for me and probably anyone reading that, the character that was Mr. Marley, had been dead for many years.
I then had a sense of realization in that moment, that one day my own mum would have died seven years ago. This seemed to really shock me and ever since, I have had a continuous memory of it. Because in reality, seven years is not a very long time at all. It only seems that way because I have grown up from a child into a teenager, and there are so many things my mum has missed. But people have kept reminding me, and I need to remind myself, that seven years is not really that long ago.
Time is such a strange and scary thing. I think when someone you love dies, time becomes a terrifying measurement of how long they have not been around. The anniversaries then become something awful that you want to forget about all together as they force you to focus on the passing of years.
So here I am, at the seven-year anniversary of my Mum’s death, the 27th June.
And since that date in 2014, I have hated the passing of time. Time passing terrifies me in a way that is indescribable. I think that this anniversary feels so sad and scary because I am now 18 and I am experiencing this anniversary as an adult. The thing about time is that it will keep going forward and it is so uncontrollable.
My mum only knew me as a child
Each year, every anniversary would go by adding to the years, and before I knew it I was not a child anymore. My mum only knew me as a child, and that in itself hurts the most. It hurts the most because she missed some of the most important years of my life. She didn’t get to see me grow up and become the individual I am and am going to be. I am so different from who I was when I was 11.
The way I grieve for my mum has also changed. I think when you lose a parent so young, any ‘stages of grief’ go out the window. When you are a child, you can’t possibly fathom what that death actually means. I think that only now I can begin to understand that my mum has gone forever. That is something so huge that I can’t really put it into perspective. She has already missed so much of my life, so how can she miss any more of it?
I really don’t need a date in the calendar to remind me that my mum isn’t here
Anniversaries always feel strange and I have never been a fan of them. There is such a build up in the weeks leading up to it, you count down the days and wish you could just skip over it.
I really don’t need a date in the calendar to remind me that my mum isn’t here, because I do that every day anyway. I will think of her all the time. She is with me always, I am her DNA. I look at pictures and videos of her, I wear her clothes and jewellery. I look in the mirror and wonder if I look like her, I try to guess how much taller than her I would be. I read her books, her diaries and her letters, I think about her even in good moments, in poignant and happy ways. That is possibly the only positive thing about your mum dying. I look for her in everything, I see her and think of her in all moments of my life and that is a gift that no one else possesses.
The thing about the anniversary itself is that I feel like there is an expectation that you put on yourself. An internal conflict that simmers. You question whether you should mark the occasion. Whether you should post about it on social media or just keep it to yourself. No matter which way you choose to spend those significant days, they never seem right.
My advice to anyone going through an anniversary, birthday or date that brings more attention to the fact that your loved one is not here would be: To do whatever you want.
Just because it is labelled as an anniversary, it doesn’t mean that you have to be sad
I find it comforting to visit my mum’s grave on my own. I cycle there from my house, it gives me a sense of purpose and freedom. When I get there it feels immensely peaceful and it is such a beautiful place. Sometimes, I just sit and cry, other times I talk. But for me it is cathartic and makes me feel connected to my mum. I forget about time, and everything else. When I am there, it is just me and my mum. It is also good to grieve with your family, talk about the person you miss and be sad together.
I think it is no one else’s choice but your own. You don’t have to do anything different if you don’t want to. Days of grief come at different times and this day might not be then. I think on the years where I didn’t feel sad, I would feel guilty that I didn’t. I think it is important to remember that just because it is labelled as an anniversary, it doesn’t mean that you have to be sad.
Grief is not linear, you will never just be sad about missing that person on anniversaries or special occasions. But if you want to mark it, do that. Post about that person, tell everyone how much you miss them. It is important to do whatever is right for you.
I know that anniversaries will always feel scary, and I don’t think that will change as time goes on. I think each year will mean something different.
Regardless of whether it is an anniversary or not, I have comfort in the belief that my mum is with me every day, whether spiritually or not, I will always be half of her.
I will always be her daughter and she will always be my mum.