A Daughter’s Grief This Xmas :: By Stacey Caruso
As we come into the last two weeks before Xmas everyone is busy buying last minute Xmas gifts, wrapping up their year of work with Xmas drinks and prepping their menu for the family Xmas day lunch. It’s a time of celebration, being with those you love, and winding down from a hectic 2015.
For me, this Xmas will be a very different one, and I’m sure there are many of you out there who have been where I am and experienced all that I am feeling leading up to this December 25th. This week marks three months since losing my beautiful mum, Celia, and our first Xmas without her. Three months — wow! It’s amazing how the time just slips by so fast when you’re grieving, just trying to get through each day, each hour, each minute.
Anyone who has lost someone close, especially their mum, probably knows that this is pretty much all that matters in your life right now, regardless of whatever else is going on. Priorities get realigned, work stress, relationship dramas, or your social life are flecks of dust in comparison to the ocean of emotions that you are feeling right now. Despite all that is happening in our lives, nothing else seems as important or significant as this. Sounds brutal but this is grief. Each day is a challenge and a rollercoaster of emotions and sometimes you just want to shut the door and lock everything else out, because it is all just too hard or irrelevant to you.
Time does not heal this wound, it just makes the pain more tolerable or the waves in which it comes and crashes over your body less frequent. Life as I know it will never be the same, nor would I want it to be. I have lost my mum, the most important woman in my life, the reason for my being, my connection to this world and the life that is mine. She’s gone, and no matter how many years she was sick or how much relief I feel that she is no longer suffering, she’s not here. And there are no words of comfort that can ease the pain in my heart.
The first two weeks after mum passed I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. A numbness if you will, so much so that even responding to all the calls and texts seemed to be too difficult or require too much energy. I barely had my brows on let alone any concealer or foundation to cover my stressed out skin! My care factor was a big fat ZERO! Mum would have made a comment for sure, lol. Not in disgust but this was a woman who wouldn’t leave the house without a little blush or lipstick, even if it was just to go to the corner store. Mum was not vain, make no mistake of that, but she had a beauty, a pride, she was English rose if you will. She tutted at me once when I invited a male friend over to watch a movie and I sat comfortably on the couch in my daggiest $10 men’s Target trackies awaiting for his arrival. ”Aren’t you gonna put something else on?!!”, she’d ask almost horrified. Nope ma, if he doesn’t like me like this then too bad!! Lol. Gotta love her.
It’s amazing to me how only now, after her illness and her passing that I’ve realised how so incredibly strong my mum was. Funny how that happens, huh? Only upon reflection do things become so clear. I never thought of her that way, because she stayed in a dysfunctional marriage for almost thirty years, or how she hated doing anything out of her comfort zone like driving me to the airport when I would have to fly back to Melbourne or driving anywhere that was unfamiliar because God forbid she got lost!
But she is the strongest woman I know, and it took her illness for me to see that. From 2009, after her heart surgery (to fix a leaky valve), until that 15th day of September, she endured battle after battle and never once did she complain or say, “Why me”. She spent her last two years or so living in a nursing home with residents that were ten-twenty years older than her and eventually became the most dependant patient in her house. She hid her sadness from her girls and even til the bitter end kept her heart beating until there was nothing left of her. Ironic, since it was her heart that got her into this mess to begin with.
Not only was this beautiful soul our mum, she was out best friend, our teacher, our protector and our hero. She was our #1 fan and would not only do anything for her children, but for those around her. How lucky are we to call such a spectacular lady our mum? Someone we could laugh with, cry with, share our secrets with or just be with. There was never a moment we would cherish more than those with her.
I could talk to mum about anything and when I was in Canada she would be the first person I would call back home to talk about the latest boy drama or to get advice – even though she wasn’t always the best at that often just saying, “Well i don’t know” or “You do whatever you think’s best.” Cheers for that mum, never one to give me a straight answer when I needed it! My friends were always surprised how much I told mum, but that was the kinda relationship we had and the amazing mum that she was.
I have such conflicting emotions running through me at the moment which I’m sure many of you who have lost someone can relate to. A loss and an emptiness that nothing will be able to fill. As much as I’m relieved that she’s not suffering anymore, I miss going to see her on my days off and just holding her hand, resting my head on her chest and the smell of her skin or her hair. Seeing mums and their daughters shopping together or lunching together is extremely difficult as I want to be able to do that with my mum. It all just seems so unfair. I want to be able to call her to ask her how to cook her famous meatballs or even chat about the weather! Have her over for brunch or spend a day shopping together. It’s adjusting to a new life without her, a new normal and it’s extremely difficult at times. Seeing everyone else’s lives carry on can be a real challenge; at work, at the local coffee shop or the supermarket. Sometimes tears are screaming within me because I just lost my mum and I want to yell to the world, “Don’t you know what’s just happened to me, why are you carrying on like everything’s normal?” I want to feel all of this. I want to be alone, with my sisters and immerse myself in mums family. I want to sit with those friends who are happy to sit with me in silence, amongst the tears, the conversations about mum and the hurt that I feel or whatever emotion is running through me at that moment without any judgement or expectation.
Tuesdays will forever be a tough day for me, as I will always remember where I was on that Tuesday, September 15, whether it be two weeks, eight weeks or twenty-four weeks later. On the Monday night I was blessed to sleep by her side, hold her hand and watch over her, just as she would have done for us when we were babies I’m sure, checking that we were still breathing.
I will remember in those last days playing her favourite music and movies, and taking a trip down memory lane smiling at some of the fun and happy moments we shared with mum and those who came to visit in those last days. And I will never forget holding her hand as she took those last breaths and left us to join the angels in heaven.
I feel her around me all the time, and know that she is now my guardian angel, guiding and protecting me. The first time I heard the song Photograph by Ed Sheeran was the day after her death driving in the car and since then I have heard it on so many significant occasions; when I’m alone, talking about her, or cooking her lasagna recipe at home. Too many times for it to be a coincidence. I know it’s her telling me that she’s here, beside me, and no matter where I am I can keep her in my pocket and I will not be alone. There are signs like that everywhere and they give me so much comfort, it’s indescribable.
So as this most challenging year for us comes to an end and my family gets ready for our first Xmas without our beloved mum and nanna, take the time to stop and acknowledge those special women in your lives, your mothers and grandmothers, and truly cherish all that you can still do with them.
What I would give to be able to pick up the phone and hear my mums voice just once more. It’s funny how now that she’s gone I’m able to visualise her well again, and can see her walking towards me or standing beside me, healthy and smiling. That was something that was very difficult to do, when she was here sick for so long.
On Xmas day we will be together, and through the difficult moments, as I’m sure there will be a few, we will be celebrating her life. Her favourite Boney M and Dolly and Kenny Xmas tunes will be playing and I know deep down in my heart that she will be there with us, singing along and getting into the xmas spirit as she always did.
Mum, not a day goes by that I don’t miss you with every ounce of my being and wish you were here to talk with, laugh with and just be with. You have left a hole in our hearts and our souls that will never be filled, but I know you would want us to smile again and be the very best versions of ourselves.
We will do you proud, and know that I carry you with me each and every day.
I love you, Stacey xx