Surviving the ‘firsts’ after bereavement

Calendar showing time passing

One year. I have survived one year since my mother died.

The first Mother’s Day with no mother, my first-ever birthday with no card, gifts or call from her. Her first birthday with nowhere to send a card or gift to.

The first Christmas with an empty seat at the table. Our first wedding anniverary with only one card to open. My children’s first birthdays with no gifts from her,  just a card and a cheque from my grieving father.

The first anniversary of my mother’s death is the last of ‘the firsts’.

A year ago I longed for my telephone to stop pinging and ringing. Today I long for people to remember and to acknowledge my pain. I need my mother’s death to be remembered.  She didn’t think so, but she was important, my Mum.

But this anniverary is not remembered, by more than a few anyway. The world has moved on. My pain is yesterday’s news. After her death I wrote my first book, journalling the 40-day period between her death and funeral. In it I shared a text message from a friend: ‘This is the hardest part, when the world returns to normal and you’re just left behind’. Spot on.

Another friend has the tenth anniverary of her mother’s death coming up next week. She is feeling as raw as I am today – the ten years have rolled away for her.

I will get through this ‘last of the firsts’, as will she. This is not a public show of ‘funeral-style’ grief. This is private and personal. There are no right or wrongs for this time.

See also  A place of contentment

Sharing our feelings

I talked with my mother this morning at the crematorium, where her ashes were scattered a few months ago and I laid daffodils from her garden next to a beautiful bouquet of roses left earlier in the morning by my niece. My youngest daughter spontaneously wrote her feelings on a piece of paper and nestled it between the flowers. Precious words for the Nanny she misses so.

In a moment of solitude before leaving the crematorium I made a silent covenant with Mum. In it I promised to try once more to heal the rift that has developed between my two closest relatives. I know she and I are both disappointed that they have not found a way forward with one another amongst their grief.

I then lunched with my father in town and shared a takeaway with my brother at my niece’s home that evening. I cried, I reminisced and I looked forward.

As well as the end of the ‘firsts’, today is the beginning of the ‘seconds’. Amongst my reflections today I cuddled my friend’s newborn son, made plans for my father to visit us the following month, met my friend’s new partner for the first time and said goodbye to one of the strangest years of my life.

I leave this year honed and refined by pain, strengthened by my faith, not only able to survive, but thrive, surprised that I have been able to use this experience to encourage others. This experience that many will share during their lifetime, the death of the one that gave them life.

I have not been able to do this in my own strength.  My faith, my family, my friends, have all carried me through this.  I have been exposed and through that vulnerability have been able to share my experience to encourage others.

About Denise Stevenson

I'm a married-mum-of-three, living in SW France with my husband. I am founder and president of an international church and have just released my third book, Aerobics in a Wig, following my faith journey through breast cancer.