Last July, just as I’d pitched up a tent in a field in Cornwall, I got a devastating call from my mum’s friend to say that she’d started coughing up blood not long after we’d left home and had been taken by ambulance to hospital. She didn’t want to worry us. The next day, we learned she had terminal lung cancer that had spread. My stoic, stubborn mother told us to go and make memories with the children, and that I wasn’t allowed to visit anyway, due to Covid restrictions. I did as I was told in between floods of tears. 
Before I start, it’s important to share that all grief is unique, as all our relationships are unique. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience leading up to my first Mother’s Day without my mum and how I’m getting through it. 
 
Last July, just as I’d pitched up a tent in a field in Cornwall, I got a devastating call from my mum’s friend to say that she’d started coughing up blood not long after we’d left home and had been taken by ambulance to hospital. She didn’t want to worry us. The next day, we learned she had terminal lung cancer that had spread. My stoic, stubborn mother told us to go and make memories with the children, and that I wasn’t allowed to visit anyway, due to Covid restrictions. I did as I was told in between floods of tears. 
 
Three weeks later, mum came home. We were fortunate that she lived next door, where I could care for her. Having trained as a Grief Recovery Specialist and supported others with their losses, I’ve learned where the pain points are. I knew to take the time to say and ask everything, share memories, make new ones, and importantly for us, laugh. We had a ritual of saying: “Goodnight, I love you, and goodbye” every night, or at the end of every hospice visit. She was amused by it but for me, I wanted to know that I’d said goodbye at the end of her life. And I did. 
 
Fast forward to December, the last time we’d had a conversation while she was conscious, we’d ended with our magic sentence. Then, secondary bone cancer in her forehead finally took her peacefully in our amazing local hospice, while I was holding her hand. 
 
Now, I’m facing my first Mother’s Day without her. I’m sad and I miss her immeasurably, however I feel an amazing sense of peace and calm, thanks to ‘completing’ our relationship. I’m not immune from feelings of grief but thanks to the actions in the Grief Recovery Handbook, I feel free to carry on living my life. It’s not a magic wand but it really has helped! 
 
 
My mum wasn’t one for a fuss. She was happy to receive a Mother’s Day card but would demand that I didn’t waste money on flowers or chocolates, or ‘expensive’ meals out. She was happy with a roast dinner. She loved her food! This Mother’s Day, we’ll enjoy a family roast and raise a glass to her. She wasn’t a typical mum. She didn’t ‘do’ cooking or shopping. But she always looked out for other people and had an ‘open door’ policy for friends in need. She was unassuming, kind, and thoughtful; a teacher to children who had been excluded. She taught me to be a ‘heart with ears’ long before Grief Recovery was in my life. 
 
We will get through the day like we do any other since she left, by talking about her with honesty, writing notes to her, and drawing pictures (our younger children have a memory box) and listening to each other. 
 
In a year where goodbyes haven’t always been possible, potentially causing another layer of pain, I want to let you know that you don’t need to live in a cloud of sadness. It is possible to recover without forgetting. The action steps in the Grief Recovery Handbook saved me. My loss journey could have been so different. There are Grief Recovery Specialists who are out there who can hold your hand through this. To find out more, click here. 
 
About the Author 
Maria Bailey
Maria Bailey is an Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist and looks after media relations for Grief Recovery UK. She has spent her career working in public relations. Maria now lives by the seaside in Devon with her family and dog, and is a school governor and preschool chairman. 
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