I lost my mum, to cancer, in 2017. I had travelled from NZ to the UK for a two-week trip to help care for her. I’d arranged to stay with a friend, close by, as historically, co-habiting never ended well, after about 36 hours after re-connecting. On arrival, it was clear she needed #palliative care. Thankfully, my aunt was staying with her before I arrived. I was #angry that my siblings who lived within a ten-mile radius weren’t stepping up and taking turns to stay with her – I didn’t tell them that – they’ll learn if they ever read this. It was in everyone’s interests to avoid that (added) conflict. Plus, I was far removed from the family dynamic for the majority of the time, living so far away. And they had their own lives parenting and/or working.
THAT BOUNDARIES WORD…AGAIN?
This was a time I needed to step up and stay with my mum, for her safety. For the first time in my life, I had to show the #courage and initiative to somehow plan and prevent us from defaulting to constant ugly conflict as it was creeping in, quickly! In order to create an environment to successfully care for mum during my visit, we had to agree on some ground rules, #boundaries. This was a first for us both. Such a difficult conversation to have, for me at least.
“Mum, if this is going to work, we’re going to have to show each other #respect. You’ve been talking to aunty like a piece of shit. I can’t imagine what this is like for you, I know you’re really poorly, however, can we try and be kind, to each other?’.
“Ok”, she said.
VULNERABILITY IS YOUR FRIEND
This was when I realised just how #vulnerable she felt – she was still mobile, but a very tough #war child. Her #resilience was next level! She didn’t take any shit, from anyone…EVER! That often got her into trouble. I was always scared of her, to be honest. She was #unpredictable and often #aggressive – always falling out with people, mostly through no fault of their own. She lacked social skills.
Whilst she was a difficult person, she was also really #fun, #adventurous, #generous and someone managed to #support my passions and dreams. Safety in the home was often questionable, however, she did the best she could, given her capability. Her parents never supported her dreams or offered her opportunity, at all.
SNAP, CRACKLE, POP
Without a doubt, mum had an antisocial behaviour disorder, and other undiagnosed mental health problems, in my humble mental health ADVOCATE opinion e.g. anxiety. She was definitely becoming depressed whilst unwell, unable to be her usual super-active self. Totally understandably.
I was so grateful to have shared those final weeks with her. It was #traumatic when she died. To this day I suffer from a bit of #PTSD from her death to be honest – certain things #trigger me. Ear plugs, whenever I see them, along with the sound of snapping and popping of joints. It would not be appropriate for me to share more details about these triggers in my blog. I’m sharing more to help highlight and create awareness around things that may trigger the reader, someone you know, in support of others experiences around loss and grief. Talking that stuff through can be a helpful part of leading to the “acceptance” stage of grief, and often associated #trauma.
WE DON’T NEED TO JOURNEY LIFES CHALLENGES, ALONE
I’m so pleased I sought advice from St John (where I was working at the time) about how and what to do, in case mum died during my visit. I managed to manoeuvre her into a comfortable and dignified position after she collapsed in the middle of the night. It was traumatic, but I maintain she left the world surrounded by love and #compassion, with her youngest daughter. That’s a gift. I made her as comfortable as I could, stroked her hair, told her I loved her, thanked her for everything she had ever done for me, and that it was ok for her to go if she was ready – following St John's advice. It was powerful and comforting to know I had this education and information in my tool kit. One of my siblings, a doctor, was quite shocked I managed to share those messages and language during our mum’s final moments. It’s quite cathartic in real-time, whilst I write this. For a time I was angry that of the three children, the youngest was subjected to managing the death of our mum. With time I realised I had missed the point of my visit, to help and support family, however that looked. This may have meant giving those living closer a break? I don’t know. Cancer affects far wider than the patient themselves. Some readers may think/feel, “that’s a selfish attitude”? That’s a reality. I built a bridge over the youngest child syndrome thing in due course (different resources note various schools of thought).
COUNT MY BLESSING
PERSONAL LENS AND FILTER
Some people reading this may think, she was your mum, of course, you should have stepped up! Those people are possibly the ones whose family dynamics are a little less #complex? Try not to judge others' relationships. You may not even know half of their personal story.
REFLECT, SHED TEARS, WHATEVER IT TAKES
Although I’m unsure if it’s accurate to write that my mum and I were close, she raised me, single-handedly. My parenting style is #consciously very different to hers to avoid childhood trauma for my son. I loved my mum but didn’t always like her. It’s ok to say and own that about our family members. There’s an expression: “You can choose your friends, you can’t choose your family”.
RESOURCE ON GRIEF
I miss my mum. Grief is a funny old thing. It can catch you, out, at any moment. Here’s a link to help learn more about the complex process and stages of loss and grief: