This happened to me...Rebekah 1 400X400

When I was 15 my mum died of cancer, her name was Robbie and she was the healthiest woman I knew but they found the cancer too late. She was strong, funny and adored by her friends. My dad was embarrassingly madly in love with her and she and I fought all the time but she always told me she loved me and hugged me so tightly. Once diagnosed, my mum went through all the treatments she could but it wasn’t enough. I’ll never forget the 5am phone call my dad received from the hospice and when he came into my room to tell me. Days before we had been told she still had months to live; within seconds, those months turned into hours.  12 hours later my mum breathed her last breath. My dad and I were with her when she died.

I am an only child and was often regarded as ‘mature for my age’ so on a surface level, I was very involved in the funeral arrangements - meeting with the minister, flowers, funeral directors etc. Most importantly, I was trying to support my dad. Leading up to the funeral, I remember watching my dad try to write a eulogy and staring at a blank computer screen. He eventually wrote a letter that a very close family friend read on the day. The funeral is mostly a blur but I remember holding a cord with my dad, my mum’s brothers and her best friends’ husbands and being aware this really was it. She really was gone.  I wouldn’t hear that laugh again, be hugged and kissed goodnight again or told that I was loved by her again.Rebekah And Mum 400X400

One thing I’d like young Rebekah to know is…

Don’t worry about the people around you and don’t feel you need to be too normal too soon. This could mean that grief manifests itself in unhealthy ways – accept that for the time being. Give yourself space and time. You are a strong independent person by nature, don’t let that nature mixed with grief make you hard and so tough that people can’t get into the real you or that you forget the real you. It may make you compartmentalise meaning in areas of your life. You’ll live it to the fullest but in your heart you’re still broken. Your experiences form who you become but she will always be a part of you whoever you become.

If you have had someone die, one thing I’d like you to know is…

When you lose someone they don’t stop being a part of who you are. Their memory and your experiences with them when they were alive can still influence who you become. You don’t stop loving them because they are no longer around. I have learned that to honour my mum’s memory, I must live my life to the fullest whilst I still have a heart that beats and lungs that breathe.

One thing I’d like the people who are caring for you to know is...

The experiences of a young person form who they become. Give them room to be honest and don’t try to ‘fix’ them. The person they loved has died but that love is still there. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing what to say and when you don’t know what to say sometimes being present and silent is all that a grieving person/teenager needs. Finally if a person grieving has an off day please remember they may not have expected it and sometimes having the off day is as much a burden and causes as much pain as the root reason for the off day.