Another summer term is in full swing. Our second without Abi. So, how is it for a bereaved mum at this time of year?
Last year was a fog. We were fumbling through, trying to stay above water, keeping things ‘normal’ for our other children in the sense of their school routines, dragging ourselves along to plays and sports day, everything merged into one long ordeal. Abi had been dead just four months.
Now we’re a year down the road and things are perhaps a bit easier, but only with regard to not having the permanent headache and not feeling so lost and confused in the aftermath of bereavement. My head may be a little clearer (if now foggy from new-baby sleep deprivation), but my heart still feels as heavy as stone.
Admittedly, the sunnier days are preferable to the winter gloom, but they still bring up memories and longings for my daughter. To a grieving mum, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like. I am glad of lighter mornings, but I don’t skip out of bed delighted that the sun is out. I’m just thankful we have all woken up to another day.
As a grieving mum, this time of year is a bit like the emotionally charged build-up to Christmas, except I feel more isolated. At Christmas, most people remember someone they love who is no longer here; grieving together is actually comforting as it helps to know you’re not alone. But, as my grief is for my school-aged child, there are fewer people travelling this particular path with me. Everyone else seems excited, happy that the summer holidays are coming, looking forward to the future.
As with the autumn term, the anxiety starts to gradually develop as the weeks pass and will no doubt reach its peak on the last day of term. I never wish days away now but I would quite happily cancel July and fast-forward straight to the holidays. But I can’t.
This year is even more significant than last year – for my two middle children. My son, you see, is graduating from KS1 to KS2 (juniors) and my daughter will be leaving primary school altogether to start secondary school (year 7) in September! Both are teary times for any parent, but with the all-too-recent memories of Abi’s own end-of-school assemblies and parties, I can’t help but be thrown back time and again into the past. It was only July 2012 that she left primary school, that we went shopping for her secondary school uniform, that we watched how she seemed to change overnight into a young lady…six months later she was gone.
My middle daughter is very different to Abi and I have to give her space to be herself. I’m careful not to blend her special moments with Abi’s, so I will be attending all the fairs, sports days and plays for her benefit and trying to make my memories of her, for her. But it’s impossible not to do so with the gutwrench that is knowing my other daughter died so soon after enjoying all these moments herself. The hopes and promises of a future lost to her.
I can only take each event at a time, but above all I’ll do my best to show a brave face, trying to give my daughter and son a positive memory of Mummy being there for them so that in years from now they won’t look back with resentment that all I did was sit and weep.
How will I cope with the next four weeks of term? I don’t know how, but I know that I will. The days will come and go, and the anxiety surrounding them will always be worse than the moment. I’ll smile, be thankful that I’m here. I’ll set aside some special time for Abi but I’ll also focus on savouring the new memories my children will give me, after all, they are just as precious.