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And Breathe

How are you doing?  I hope you've still got all your limbs intact during this run-up to Christmas?

After witnessing my first ever British Black Friday, (via online videos, I stayed indoors that Friday with a crash helmet on and wrapped in foam, you know, just in case) I am only partly jesting. 

So this is the first Christmas without Mum. 

Back at the beginning of 2014, that wasn't a sentence I thought I'd be writing any time soon.  But if this year has shown me anything, it's that life can turn on a sixpence and big things can change faster than you can say "What the feck just happened?".

It's four months since we got Mum's diagnosis, and two months since she died.  

Navigating the run-up to Christmas has been a new experience. Strangely I've felt closer to Mum. She loved making Christmas flower arrangements, swags of foliage wrapped in ribbon around the banisters and fireplace.  Having Christmas decorations everywhere has reminded me of all my childhood Christmases where Mum made me believe in magic. Sweet, warm memories of my Mum loving us. Laughing. Hugging. Putting my sister and I to bed on Christmas Eve with kisses and pillow cases hooked on the wooden knobs of the chest of drawers.

It's a kind of madness this grieving thing isn't it?

An intensity of emotions that I have felt could possibly somehow break me. 

The depth of my rage and anger has been the most overwhelming aspect of this grief for my Mum.

Rage at how much Cancer hurt her.  Rage at my powerlessness to do anything about that.  Fury at the unfairness of what my mum experienced.  Fury at myself for not knowing how to help Mum.  Anger at Life/God/The Universe for handing this to Mum. 

And relentless anger at my mum for leaving me.

I know.  I feel bad even writing it out and admitting it.

I know logically that my mum didn't want to go anywhere, and had no control over the cancer she was battling.  But in the days leading up to her death and in the days and weeks immediately afterwards, I have been heart-breakingly, eye-poppingly, teeth-clenchingly livid that she could leave me in the world without her.

And I have had to forgive myself over and over again for feeling that way.  

It's grief.  It does strange things to you.

Grief is changing me, and I've had to make some conscious decisions about what I want those changes to be. More brittle, closed, hardened, cynical? Or, open-hearted, softened, more sensitive and flexible, bending into life's challenges?

I think hard things can make us softer and stronger at the same time.  And I think that's beautiful.

I can feel angry, bitter, and resentful, knowing it isn't a permanent state of being to feel those things. I can give myself a break and understand that even though I'm feeling painful things, everything is OK. I'm OK. They're feelings, not the truth about me.

I can trust and know that I am bigger than anything I feel, no matter how painful it is.  I can understand that no feeling, no matter how overwhelming, will break me.  And I can allow myself to feel all my feelings, knowing that in feeling them, I allow them to flow through me and subsequently pass.  If I block them, or judge myself for feeling them, I stay stuck in them.

So, I'm not judging myself for my anger at Life right now.  I'm allowing myself to feel it, trusting that I won't always feel this way.

I know too that by choosing to look for the beautiful, the small sweet things of life, while I'm feeling this anger, I stay focussed on what is the real bedrock of my life.

I can feel livid, angry, resentful and furious at Life for the loss of Mum, and still believe in the beauty and magic of life while I'm letting go of these feelings.

And I do. I believe that Life is working for us not against us.  I believe in the tender joy of life, even in the midst of loss and sadness and deep, deep grief. 

It's a strange line to tread.  A wonky, contradictory balancing act.  And, for me, it's these uncomfortable contradictions that grief brings, that makes grief so tricky to experience. 

Here's Elspeth.  A painting I finished just a few days before we got the news that Mum had cancer again. She tells me to  "Look for the Extraodinary and the Fantastic".  

It's very important that we do.

    Sending you (and the people you love) huge love for Christmas and 2015.

Thank you for all your love, support and friendship through 2014.

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