RECENTLY, I came across the following words penned by Vicki Harrison: ‘Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.’

As I write these words, I’m sitting in a coffee shop open for the first time after a long, dark, difficult season of lockdown. It is wonderful to look around and see people talk, laugh and enjoy time together again. 

We have come through so much. As we step out of the pandemic, there are those of us who are completely different people than when we first set foot into it. Many of us have emerged from this season without our loved ones.

I lost my mum during lockdown. It’s been almost a year without her. We have faced a year of ‘firsts’ as we adjust (and I am still adjusting) to life without her.

First birthday

First Christmas

First Mother’s Day, and so on.

But there’s something about approaching the first anniversary of her death that nothing and no-one has prepared me for; the reliving of the final weeks of her precious life. They were totally devastating and heart-breaking beyond words.

This time last year I was told my mummy only had a few weeks left to live. I will never forget that day. As the doctor and nurse sat with us I remember being so thankful for wearing a face mask, as I didn’t want them to see me lose myself in overwhelming emotions.

As the tears rolled my mum turned to me and looked straight at me. She reached out her hand for my mine and said “Darlin, it’s time – and I need you to be strong.”

I can still see and sense that moment. I can still hear her. I can still see the tears in the nurses’ eyes. I can still see the room. I can still feel the rawness of that moment. And, yes, I sat holding her hand knowing that she was ready... but I wasn’t. Knowing she was brave... but I wasn’t. Knowing that she was the one who brought me into this world... and now knowing it was my time to walk her out of it.

As I sit in this coffee shop I can’t help but think of her. She loved us heading out for coffee together. I would have no doubt she would be sitting here celebrating things returning to some sort of normality. But for me things are not normal. As I listen to the laughter and conversations that surround me I can’t help but think of those of us for whom life changed forever during the pandemic.

For those of us who return to coffee shops without our loved one. I guess it will still take time to adjust – for all of us. 

For me, grief is still here. Grief still interrupts my day and causes me to find space to sob it out. I still find it extremely hard to articulate my grief and so I don’t tend to say much (verbally). Before my mummy died she told me to write. Maybe something deep inside her knew that writing through this season would be therapy and some sort of healing for me – who knows? But I know as I sit here on the first day of coffee shops opening that I miss her sitting here with me. I know that as I approach her anniversary that those horrific memories of this time last year are something I can’t avoid. 

The waves of grief feel overwhelming. I love the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.’ (Isaiah 43v2). 

God, I miss her. And I know many of you miss your loved ones too. All we can do is learn to swim.