I lost my mum to cancer on June 25, 2014.
Fast-forward two years later, you would have thought that I have “moved on”. The fact, however, is that I still miss her as much as I did two years ago.
For some reason unbeknownst to me, I believed that my mum was going to come back. I thought, “Maybe she went on a long holiday” and deep down, I was hanging onto the hope that perhaps one day – just one day – she would appear at the door step, and call for me to open the door for her – as she always did and how she can’t wait to tell me about all the adventures that she had gone through.
But no, that hasn’t happened yet.
I wanted to text her, to call her mobile (we kept her mobile subscription), and to call her office landline. I used to call my mum on her office landline and ask her things like, “What are you doing now?” “What are we having for dinner?” I remembered calling her mobile one day. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to get out of that but I just wanted to call her. To have that dialing history on my phone – and to know that I have reached out to her. Will she know?
Maybe. Maybe not.
As I was writing this, I called her office landline. I waited. I was waiting to hear that all-too-familiar voicemail saying that she’s unable to pick up her phone. However, that number now belongs to someone else. Someone called Vanessa. How dare they give her number away? But what was I expecting?
No one taught me how to grieve. It’s not something that you learn in school, or even something you learn from your family. I don’t even think you can learn it by watching others grieve. Grieving is private.
A search online tells me that there are five stages of grief. Introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, the five stages are:
1. Denial. “This can’t be happening to me”
2. Anger. “Why is this happening to me?”
3. Bargaining. “Take this back, and I will do something in return”
4. Depression. “I don’t want to do anything”
5. Acceptance. “I am at peace with what had happened”
But what happens beyond that? I went past the five stages, and you would say that I have graduated from it. But what’s next? What’s after grief? The cycle continues – not in a linear way but it still strikes you hard, and directly at your heart when you least expect it.
Here’s what I learned to do. My mum was an extremely charitable lady when she was around, and I started living my mum’s legacy. I ran community projects and founded social initiatives – all in her memory. For instance, I founded the page, Strength Behind Cancer, to generate greater awareness on the emotional and physical struggles that cancer patients and their caregivers go through.
Grieving doesn’t stop. There’s pain, and it’s going to last. Perhaps it will hurt less in the future. But the pain and emptiness will still be there. How you convert that pain to something positive and towards helping others in your community is, however, within your control.
Let your loved ones be proud of you, and that’s the best way to show them how much you love them. Always, and forever.