The Heavy Burden of Grief

Photo by nappy on

What Can’t be Cured Must be Endured

Diana Rigg – Mother Love (1989)

Today, 3rd February 2021, marks one year since getting the all clear from cancer. I’d been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in November; had a double mastectomy in January and on this day, one year ago, I gripped my husband’s hand as we sat in a small, sterile room waiting for my consultant to open his notes and tell us whether my nodes were clear or not. I tried to read both his and the nurse’s face for a sign – was it good news? Happily, it was. My lovely nodes were clear; the cancer had not spread and my drastic operation meant that the cancer, that had once been there, was now well and truly gone; cut out of me.

The relief was immense.

So was the guilt.

You see, since losing Faye in 2004, I hadn’t wanted to be here. At first, I’d pray that I wouldn’t wake up – that I’d die in my sleep. When that didn’t happen and my heart, shattered into a thousand pieces, defied all logic and kept on beating, I thought that it would only be a matter of time, before I was diagnosed with an incurable disease. I ‘reasoned’ that Faye had gone first to pave the way for me, knowing that I’d find it easier to die and leave loved ones behind if she was already there waiting for me. But, year after year trudged by; time dragged on and … I stayed here.

I kind of got used to it and made some progress, in that, I started to exist in my life rather than just survive it. But, I never fully appreciated it. It was like being on hold on the phone – number 768,591,234 in the queue waiting until it was my turn – my time to go. I was in limbo, in no-mans-land, betwixt between our world and wherever she was. It felt as though I was not always completely present as a part of me, even just a tiny bit of me, was always with Faye. A part of my heart, my identity and my very being belonged to her and that was just the way it was. Even if there was joy, there was always a tinge of sadness.

I remember going to my first counselling session, a year after her passing, and dictating my terms and conditions to the therapist – that I didn’t want her to fix me and I didn’t want to be cured from my grief – because that would diminish the love I felt for Faye. I didn’t want to ever, ‘get over her,’ in the way that society seemed to want me to. I was her mummy. I’d love her forever and I didn’t want to be made better. My grief was never going to be neatly packaged, in a box, with a, ‘use by date’ stamped on the front. It was impossible – so, she needn’t bother!

That is how I existed.

On the 15th anniversary of Faye’s death I mourned her in my usual alcohol-fuelled state. I cried puddles that became lakes and I drowned myself in wine. After, I looked at the bleary eyed woman with pain etched into the crevices of her face, with a heavy sadness pulling her skin and mouth down, down, down and, I didn’t recognise her. I wondered if Faye would want this for me, or, whether she’d want me to live life and properly feel joy -wholeheartedly – 100%. So, I set about making different choices. I gave up alcohol and I chose to live. Four months later, I was diagnosed.

I pleaded and begged to stay. I had gorgeous, sensitive, teenage girls who needed me and I really, really wanted to stay – for them AND for me. But, I felt so guilty, like I was betraying a promise to my darling Faye. It felt gut-wrenching but, I knew that I’d do anything to stay. I was going to fight for this life.

After a lot of reflection, I’ve realised that Faye doesn’t need me to go to her because she’s already here with me. That betwixt feeling that I’ve had, is her way of telling me that she’s around. Plus, I believe that in heaven, our loved ones don’t endure the passing of time like we do, so when I do eventually go to her, as far as she’s concerned, it will be in the blink of an eye – as if we were never parted. So, I’d better start making the most of whatever time I have left. Being given the all clear, was the wakeup call I needed.

This weekend I watched ‘Mother Love’ on catch up TV and I listened as Diana Rigg’s character uttered the words, ‘What can’t be cured must be endured.’ It made me realise that, for so many years, I had endured the passing of time and my life because I was trapped in my grief. The image of the back-pack weighed down with heavy rocks came to me and I knew that that was how I carried my grief. But, in the past year, I have been replacing the rocks with feathers – angel feathers – and the heavy load is now easier to manage. I still don’t want to be cured or healed, but I am healing and it feels good. It’s a softer and kinder way to remember Faye.

And today, as I went for my morning walk, I picked up the most beautiful white feather and put it in my pocket. She’s here … and feathers are so much lighter than rocks.

Do you recognise that betwixt feeling? Are you able to live your life fully?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sending love.

Published by love-loss-and-life-ever-after

Sharing my experiences of grief after the loss of my daughter Faye.

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