How to cope with the death of a parent

 The real, raw, honest truth about death 

Ok, so I'm not going to lie. This is a really raw, real and an honest blog to write. But I think the more real and honest things are, the better chance that it will help someone else in a similar situation and can maybe ease their journey, even if only ever so slightly.

So I lost my mum 7 years ago to cancer. She was genuinely my bestest friend. The glue to my family and she was everything I knew. I had just turned 20 when I lost my mum, for 2 years working full time, going to college on a Saturday to complete my level 3 in beauty therapy (yes Newcastle College rocked opening on a Saturday) and going to the Freeman hospital once if not twice a day, was my life. At the time I just got on with it and maintained positive because my mum was always so positive. My mama (as I called her, we're not Italian or anything, however she made a mean lasagne) was just the best person in the world. She made me laugh so much, we were literally inseparable. 👭

I was always a bit of an odd girl when I was young. I wasn't like most teenagers who hated being in the same room as their mum or wanted as far away from her as possible. I was the complete opposite. I wanted to be with my mum ALL the time. My friends eventually stopped asking me to meet up on weekends with them because every Saturday was mine and my mums day. We would go shopping together (only food shopping but that was my favourite kind of shopping 😂) and we would have a look around the shops and go for lunch together. It was perfect. We would then go home and chill together watching rubbish TV. I lived for those Saturdays with my mum.  

When my mum got poorly 

My mum got quite poorly when I'd just finished my level 2 in beauty at college, she had gone to the doctor and they thought she had frozen shoulder so she had to get physio as she was in a lot of pain. A few weeks later I remember the day vividly when she came back from the doctors as they had been trying to get a hold of her. She came home and said she had an x ray done a few days before and they had found a mass on her lung. They were worried it was cancer. Hearing those words when you're 17 was crushing. I just kept thinking no way, not my mum. My mum was clearly frightened but she was trying to be her true warrior self and not frighten anyone else. 🤜🏻

A few weeks passed and she had all sorts of scans done, biopsys etc and then our worst nightmares were confirmed. She had cancer in her left lung. They had caught it pretty early which was good, but it meant she needed an operation to remove the tumour and possible radiation and chemotherapy. At the time my mum was in the hospital getting the tumour removed, there was complications and she ended up in the intensive care unit. I've never been so frightened in all my life. The sounds, the equipment, the brightness of the lights. It was seriously intimidating. I don't ever want to witness anything like that again. 

The day finally arrived when my mum could get home and get back to normal life. We weren't a very well off family so she pretty much had to get back to work sharpish. I worked full time so I made sure the rent and bills were always paid so there was no pressure for her to work too much, if even at all. But she was an adamant, independent wee thing! It felt like we were getting back to normal when all of a sudden she fell poorly again. She started developing this huge mass in her calf muscle. The doctors said it was cellulitis, water retention, DVT etc etc. After weeks of her struggling, she decided that enough was enough and she took herself to A&E. It was confirmed pretty much straight away that the cancer had returned and was now in her leg. My poor, poor mama.  😞

In those few months after finding out the cancer had returned, my mum went through absolute hell. Her spleen randomly ruptured so she had to get that removed, which was a huge operation. The cancer in her leg was basically slowly killing her so she ended up being rushed in to theatre one night to have her leg amputated and after all of that and her getting a prosthetic leg and learning to walk again. She got cancer for the third time in her right lung. The only wish she had, was to walk down the ward again, that she was in when she had her leg removed. She couldn't even get that. 

Despite all the bad times, there actually was some good times too 

It sounds like we were the saddest, most unlucky family. But despite all those rough times, there were some really good times too. My brother Adam and I were always close, but we got even closer. We would sit and have tea together in the hospital, take mum out for long walks in her wheelchair. Some times we just laughed and it was perfect. Do you notice how ive said a few times that my mum was always independent and adamant she was doing things? Well.. once Adam and I went to see mum one afternoon after she'd had her leg amputated. Literally 2 days after having a serious life threatening operation... we went to see her in her ward and all the nurses said 'well we've not seen your mam for an hour, she wheeled herself away somewhere'. So we went searching for her, here she is in the cafe buying herself a little slap up meal and a cup of coffee! 😂✌🏻 Quite the thing with a smile on her face. Other times she would be hiding under the cherry blossom trees as they were her favourite. We used to sit together outside in the gardens of the Freeman hospital as it was beautiful and peaceful. It was so fascinating to see all the helicopters flying in to bring hearts for transplants etc! All the time there was patients flying in to get new hearts. It was amazing to witness. To know someone's life was being saved by these unreal, amazing surgeons. 

Mum was put on chemotherapy tablets which either made you laugh or cry some of the things she would come out with. Her hallucinations and thoughts were unbelievable. She would tell us how there was a huge pink elephant sitting over in the bed opposite. Shouldn't that elephant be at the vet hospital she said! 😂😂😂 Other times she would ask when Adam was going fishing because he needed to get something for our tea.Adam had never fished a day in his life. 🐠🐟🐡

It was those days that lifted us up and made us laugh. Other days would break my heart. One day when I was going to college (studying hairdressing) I had to take a big hold all bag with me. I popped it in the living room whilst I made me and mum a cuppa... she started freaking out, asking why I was leaving. She promised she would be good and would be better and try to look after herself more (as I was her carer) I had to calm her down and remind her that I was at college and would never leave her. I remember travelling to college that day, sobbing. It was horrible. 

She was majorly independent at times though! By god she made my heart burst with so much pride and admiration for her! One day coming home from work, she was pushing herself along the street in her wheelchair. I said "mam man where you going" she said oh I'm just nipping to Morrisons, I'll be back later. I said "aww I'll come with you so I can carry the basket" she said eh no! I can put it on my lap, you get the kettle on! 🙊🙊🙊 honestly that woman was my world!!!!! 🌎

The day I lost my mum 

On my mums birthday on the 13th February she was admitted back into hospital with a collapsed lung, she was really poorly now. Constantly being sick. She started losing too much weight, constantly attached to oxygen, she had no appetite and started to deteriorate. I got called in for a meeting one day to discuss how the nurses were going to let mum come home to die so she could be comfortable at home where she wanted to be. Physically hearing those words tore my heart out. I couldn't imagine life without my mum, life just seemed dark and empty and it frightened me. 

She never made it home. 4 days later she decided she'd given all she had. I'll always commend her for her bravery and fight. She remained positive the whole time, never moaned once. She always said she was going to fight it and boy did she fight it. I think even Mike Tyson would give up against the fight my mum gave.  👊🏻 She passed away on the 10th March 2010. My four brothers and two sisters and I were left without a mum. 

How I coped 

I was numb for weeks after she passed away, I couldn't feel anything. It just all seemed a blur. I felt like I was just an empty shell. Some friends were great and were there for me, others didn't know what to say so wouldn't get in touch. Which you know what? It's totally fine. Everyone reacts in a completely different way. The exact same way that everyone copes in their own way. I personally though have never let my mums death anchor me down. It's all too easy sometimes to get caught up in the blame and the grief and never be able to see past it. My best advice to you if you are going through this now, is to just let yourself feel however you are feeling. If you need to cry, fucking cry. Sob your heart out, make yourself ugly cry. Cry so hard you feel it in your lungs. It's ok. 

I cried on public transport  

There was times I was hurting so badly that I cried on public transport, surrounded by hundreds of people. I didn't care, I was grieving. One thing I will say to you is, you NEVER know what anyone else is going through. You never know what people are fighting every single day, you never know if someone is literally pulling themselves out of bed everyday because they have to. So ALWAYS be nice. Smile at other people as you walk along the street. You never know who might need it. You never know what someone is battling.  

I turned a horrible life event into something positive  

I don't want to sound cheesy but I always told my mum from the age of 11 that my biggest dream was to open my own beauty salon. I would tell her what colour schemes I'd have, what treatments I'd offer, what my clients would be like. When my mum passed away, once I finally started getting on with the hurt and the grief. I decided it was time to start working on my dream and becoming a beauty therapist. When I got my first job as a beauty therapist, I don't think I was able to breath for 5 minutes, my whole life's dream was a reality. I live and breath for beauty. I've worked in various places and I'm now lucky enough to be living the proper dream. I own my own beauty salon and I've just expanded to a training academy to teach others my expertise. I focus every day on building myself an amazing career because I know it would make my mum proud to know that I've done what I always set out to achieve. 

How you can cope with death 

  •  Talk about how you are feeling, it's not selfish. It's a necessity. To clear your mind and learn to cope you have to talk about what's going on inside you. It's certainly not weak either. It's actually very, very strong and courageous. 
  • Cry. Anytime, anywhere. If you need to cry to let it all out and let yourself grieve then do it. 
  • If you need to scream as loud as you can then do it. Go to a secluded place on top of a hill or something and scream. It's amazing how much energy it releases  
  • Surround yourself with good people who love you. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and make you realise that you are still living your life and you deserve to live it in the best way possible 
  • Death can make things appear crystal clear. If you hate your job, change it!! If you're unhappy where you live. Move. 
  • If you need to get drunk. Get drunk. But DONT make a habit of it. Getting drunk or high to forget your life is not the answer. It won't ever go away. You have to face it head on and show death that it isn't going to stop you from living your life 
  • Never stop talking about the person who has died. The memories of them are still alive, they are still burning and they are still real. Keep a hold of all those memories and focus on the good times.  
  • Focus on things that bring you happiness. I focussed on building my career because it brung me tremendous amounts of satisfaction and joy. What can you focus on?  
  • Write your feelings down. Whatever your emotions are, write them down. At the end of every day write 3 things you are grateful for. Whether it's that you ate a tasty meal, a feather dropped in your path of direction, you feel healthy. Write down 3 things you are grateful for.  
  • Let yourself heal. If it takes you 3 months or 3 years, or 30 years. You will heal in your own time. That's ok. It's not a race.  

My my last bit of advice to you is that (and this is truly honest I'm sorry) you will never get over the death of a parent. You will just learn to cope with it every single day. There will be days where you cry hard because you miss them so much, there will days when something reminds you of them and you smile and it warms you inside. Whatever day you have, embrace it. It's ok to feel sad and it's ok to feel happy. Have whatever day you need to have. 

But don't ever feel guilty when life starts feeling really fucking good. Day, after day, after day. That to me is a blessing in disguise that they are living every day with you, always smiling in the background, that you got your shit together in your old kit bag, carried on and smiled smiled, smiled.  

Big love to you! ❤️ 

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The only picture I have of my mama! ❤️