Across the world, different cultures and faiths have different ways to remember the dead, but all with their roots in memory and the importance of not forgetting those we knew. #IRemember, which takes place from 22 - 26 November, creates a space to share memories and to break the taboo around grief and bereavement. Here, Audrey remembers her mum Pamela, and shares her experience of grieving.
My mum Pamela Ann Oakey died in April 2019, when she was 63. She had cancer, and we had 15 weeks from her diagnosis to her death. She was crackers - generous, disorganised, funny, constantly wore crocs, loved to read, love to watch the soaps and loved her grandkids.
In the past two years and seven months I have learnt a lot about grief. I have learnt how, at the beginning you are surrounded by social buoyancy of understanding, hugs and kind words. In the beginning people allow you your grief.
I’ve also learnt how after the funeral, this acceptance fades, people move on and life continues for everyone else, as indeed it should. But for you the bereaved it doesn’t. Life changes irreparably - you stop your old life and begin a different one; a life without that person.
An unpredictable journey
Our parents help to define us. They might be close to us, they might be estranged or they might be somewhere in between, but they are a constant nonetheless. When a parent dies this constant is gone. The absolute void of death takes over where they once sat in your life. You build a life around this gap, and your life goes on with this gap in it. You learn to live with it, and in many ways you welcome it because it’s representative of what they once were.
I always imagined grief to be a predictable, linear journey but it isn’t. I imagined the triggers for the sadness or the anger would be foreseeable – anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas – but they aren’t. For me they are far more chaotic, like finding old earrings, a song, a smell, a random memory that descends on you suddenly at a random time and leaves you gasping.
Grief is a club we all get membership to eventually, even though we may not want to. Our society is quick to try to fix what is seen as a problem. You grieve, therefore you are broken, let’s fix you and move on. But you can’t fix grief and we do not want to be fixed.
For me the predictable days are easier because those are the days that others remember your loss too, when society once again makes allowances for you. On those days it is ok to grieve and to acknowledge the gap, to say, ‘oh it would’ve been mum’s birthday today.’ People understand anniversaries; they don’t understand when you see a lady with a similar hair to your mum. (I once followed a car for several miles because the driver had my mum’s hairstyle).
We all do smile again, and life continues after the death of a loved one, however you change after being bereaved, and that is ok. Grief is a club we all get membership to eventually, even though we may not want to. Our society is quick to try to fix what is seen as a problem. You grieve, therefore you are broken, let’s fix you and move on. But you can’t fix grief and we do not want to be fixed. We want to be acknowledged, listened to, and maybe have someone make us a cup of tea if we see somebody with our mum’s haircut, but please don’t try to fix us.
I miss you mum.
Share your #IRemember story
Share a memory of someone you would like to remember – this can be a friend, family member, colleague or pet. You can include a photo, video or just stick to text if you want.
Share your memories on social media tagging @DyingMatters and using the hashtag #IRemember