#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 5°C Thursday 2 December 2021

Will I ever adjust to the fact that my mother is gone?

Despite all these years, the pain of losing her remains. Grief, unfortunately, does not follow a defined trajectory.

Claire Micks

IT IS AS palpable as it is indescribable. This bloody emotion that Just. Won’t. Go. Away. Which bores down into you like a corkscrew, right into your very core, and hollows you out, and fills the hole that’s left behind with something just a little less solid, a little less complete than what was there before.

Some fill the hole with busyness. Some with work. Some with social lives. With booze. With relationships. Me? I guess I try and fill the hole with words. And I suppose that as emotional crutches go, I’ve heard of worse.

Even now every time I think about it, it never fails to wind me. Startle me. Stop me in my tracks. And I wonder will I ever, ever, get used to it? As the initial tears of shock dry up, what’s left behind slowly sinks down into you. And makes the life that’s left behind just that little bit heavier that it was before. Will I ever adjust, I wonder to myself, to the fact that my mother is gone?

Here I go again, nearly a decade later, talking about grief. Would I ever just get over myself…

Despite all these years, the pain is still here

Every time I write a piece about missing my mother I always think afterwards, ‘Well, tick. There’s that particular subject covered off. Right, what’s next?’. And then a couple of months later I seem to always find myself back in front of this computer screen, writing about it again, somehow trying to make sense of the fact that she is no longer around, without wanting to appear to be overly sentimental about it. Or self indulgent. Or just plain pathetic.

And I’m acutely aware of the fact that she is dead YEARS, and I find myself self-conscious about the fact that, despite this passage of time, despite all those years that have rolled by, all those words I have spoken and written, I still feel a gap where she once was, which I can’t quite find anything to fill. And I feel like I’ve somehow failed. Parents die. Children move on. So why can’t I?

And yet here I am again. Trying to get whatever I feel inside out onto this page. Because all I really know is that keeping ‘it’ inside, does me no good at all. So out it all comes. Roll out the dredger. Churn it all up. Again. It’s all still in there, simmering away beneath the surface. Whether I like it or not. And maybe, just maybe, the odd ‘churn’, the odd wallow, the odd ‘Feeling Sorry For Meself’ session, will help me reconcile myself to the facts before me. Because ignoring them certainly isn’t.

Unfortunately, grief does not follow a defined trajectory

‘Would she ever just get over it!’ my imaginary reader responds, and that thought makes me want to shut up instantly. Because, rest assured, oh pragmatic one, the judge inside me thinks the very same thing. Thinks that nigh on eight years later, this is a subject that I should no longer need to ‘address’ in any shape, manner or form. So for all those out there who may raise their eyes to heaven, rest assured, a very large part of me entirely agrees your views on said subject. ‘Would I ever j-u-s-t b-l-o-o-d-y m-o-v-e o-n…’

But another, kinder, part of me is not so self-critical. Recognises that this is how I feel about missing my mother. Still. And that that is ok. That, unfortunately, grief does not follow a defined trajectory. However inconvenient that may be. That time may be a great healer, but there’s no formula for how long. And if Mr & Mrs Judge do not agree, or are irritated, or annoyed, or aggrieved, at me bringing up the subject again, head off now and click on the ‘Latest’ button. And for anyone else out there who might equally struggle on occasion, sure stick around and we might just find some common ground.

The truth of it is that the part of me that misses her is more powerful than the part of me that feels self-conscious about that fact. I’m just thankful for the likes of Michael Harding. Who single handed make it socially acceptable to just ‘dwell’. Think. To allow the past in to disrupt the present. Even when we don’t want it to. Even when it is inconvenient, and upsetting, and a sheer bloody nuisance. Emotions can be very annoying when they won’t behave themselves.

I think the thing that irritates me most about grief is its sheer unpredictability. The randomness with which it strikes. The fact that it catches you unawares. It jumps out at you when you least expect it. And punches you in the guts. And because the severity with which it hits is in no way linked to how long it is since the person went, we then feel that we have to hide our reaction, because to a large part of us, alongside the outside world, it doesn’t seem logical, or proportionate, or socially acceptable.

The moments I really miss her

Certain random moments grate. Unexpectantly.

The doting granny who collects the little girl your daughter’s age from the creche. She wears a ‘good winter coat’ my mother would have liked. Spits on her hanky to wipe the smudge of jam smeared across the four years old’s cheek. And you remember how your own mother used to do the same to you. And how that care and attention would no doubt have been lavished on the next generation. Had she been given the chance.

Or when my son looks at me with those huge, adorable eyes, and occasionally, quite out of the blue, the thought of her likely reaction to him brings a lump to my throat. The kind that makes you feel like you’ve inadvertently swallowed a lemon. Whole.

The scent of ‘L’Air de Temps’ in the perfume department. You stumble into it randomly, and the smell of it near knocks you sideways with its potency. Because, isn’t there something about a person’s smell, that invades your very being and evokes them like nothing else can?

A song on the radio. Whoever it is that is on between midday and one o’clock of a midweek morning on Radio 1 is an absolute no-go area for me. For if Karen Carpenter or Neil Diamond were to be allowed to interrupt my morning, God knows where I’d be. A strong cup of tea would, at the very least, be required.

Or my own personal Achilles heel, the time I most feel her absence is when I am sick. I mean really sick. The handful of occasions when some infection or other has had me bedbound since she died have been the lowest points for me.

If you were to chart my grieving ‘progress’, you’d see a slow and steady incline, punctuated by dramatic slides when the odd bacterial infection chooses me as its latest victim. Then, at those times when you are at your most weak, your most vulnerable, your most needy, you feel an absence in the room as palpable as if the window was open blowing a cool chill over your feverish body. Your independence, your adulthood, your confidence deserts you, and at the grand old age of 38, you still just want your mum.

At those times you need to be mothered. Cosseted. Minded. Like only a mother can. You need the person who will instinctively care for you beside you then. Because That Is What Mothers Do. And the absence of that figure, that support, that emotional crutch in times of difficulty, that is when you grieve. That is when you feel what you are missing. That is when it hurts like a bitch. On an entirely different level to that which your paracetamol is taking care of.

It’s like a small but distinctive piece of you was taken away the day they died, and it never quite grow backs. A stump. It heals, obviously, in a manner of speaking, but never quite manages to fulfil the function it once did. Never quite feels the same again.

I am getting there. Slowly. 

I feel tired after writing this. Drained. Dredging it up again is uncomfortable, unpleasant, ‘not nice’, like a meal that hasn’t sat quite right. I guess that’s why people don’t tend to do it. Better to keep it buried, perhaps. But I also feel calmer. Better. Less distracted, and ironically more focused on the life that persists around me, for having actually acknowledged the elephant in the room. Drained the wound. Massaged the cramp.

And more self-aware. A little sad, but calm. Resigned to it. Less angry, less annoyed at the world, less bitter about what was taken away. And maybe one small step closer to ‘acceptance’? Maybe. Or maybe not.

That’s the thing about ‘life goes on’. It does. It’s just that you tend to still miss the life you once had. No matter how hard you try not to. And I feel bad for the great life I have around me now. That I still carry this feeling with me. Sorry, life. I am getting there. Slowly. I promise. I just need the odd moan now and again to get me through. And you just happen to be here to listen.

Claire Micks is an occasional writer. Read her columns for TheJournal.ie here.

A time to grieve? Why we should consider a statutory entitlement to compassionate leave

Death in the digital age: How does social media affect children’s grief?

About the author:

Claire Micks

Read next: