On Grieving

I’ve been thinking a lot about grief and bereavement recently. This is primarily because January was a month in which a lot of prominent people passed away. David Bowie, Lemmy, Alan Rickman, and Terry Wogan all lost battles with cancer, and all garnered many headlines.

Much has been written about mourning the loss of celebrities in the wake of these deaths. Do we have a right to grieve for people we haven’t met?

Grief is a complex emotion, and for all the talk of ‘Seven Stages of Grieving’, not one that I think has any hard and fast rules. When my mum died, rather than focusing on my own loss, I was repeatedly devastated by the idea that she wasn’t ready to go. She didn’t want to die at 63, and that sense of a life unfinished was (and often still is) totally overwhelming.

What nobody told me, before I had been irrevocably changed by the death of a parent, is that I would be irrevocably changed by the death of a parent. My mum herself tried to tell me many times, when she spoke of the loss of her own dad when she was 42. I knew that she missed him every day, but I had no idea that it felt like this, because I don’t think you can know until it’s happening to you.

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When famous figures die, it can feel a little ridiculous to feel a sense of loss. Their passing will have no major impact on your day-to-day life; past the few days of intense media attention, for most people it will pass into a general sadness that they are no longer around to produce new work. No more music from Bowie, no more chances to see a powerhouse performance from Rickman, and no more laughing at Terry Wogan on Radio 2.

But for everyone that complains that grieving for a celebrity is ridiculous, I will just say this. I can only imagine the comfort that these people’s families will derive, eventually, from seeing such an outpouring of love. When people feel such a deep sense of loss at the passing of Alan Rickman, because he touched so many generations with outstanding performances. When people talk of feeling Terry Wogan was a friend, because they were so used to hearing his voice in their kitchen in the mornings. When people say that David Bowie’s music, attitude and influence allowed them to realise that being different was OK.

My mum’s funeral was the second-worst day of my life. I was almost hysterical with grief. But when I look back on it, I remember the amount of people who turned up, and I am amazed and grateful that people chose to show me and my family their love by doing so. It still brings me the most amazing amount of comfort, and I hope that all the tweets and Facebook posts and hashtags and Instagram posts do that for the families of well-known people that we’ve lost.

Birthday Number 33

I had a birthday last week. I’m still a little sad that it’s over, because I just love my birthday so much. It’s not about the presents, or the fuss, it’s just about the feeling that you get on your birthday that you get on no other day of the year. I have dubbed it the special birthday feeling, because I have a way with words.

I dubbed the week surrounding last Thursday my birthday week. I’m not usually so precious, but the truth was that I got up to a lot of fun things between 7th and 15th November! A few of them are 33 Before 33 things that I wanted to get ticked off before the deadline, and as such they will have separate posts shortly. But here are just a few of the things I got up to.

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  • I got a piercing (post to follow)
  • I went to the fireworks display at Alexandra Palace with Hannah; at only £6 I think it was a bit of a bargain, and it was a really long display, and totally worth the journey into London.
  • I went to my niece’s 6th birthday party; she’s currently undergoing an incredible Spongebob Squarepants obsession, and the whole party was themed as such! She dressed as Spongebob himself, encouraged her friends to wear yellow, and had crab patty cakes. All rather fun.
  • I went to the Lord Mayor’s Show in London on Saturday morning with my sister and her family. We’ve been going for years and it was the 800th anniversary this year – amazing to think something has been going for that long!
  • No big deal, but I met Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo at their Movie Doctors event. There’s a blog post to follow here too.
  • I had a birthday! This is a photo of me that I really, really like, wearing a present that my friend Laura bought me – it’s a necklace that says ‘Practically Perfect in Every Way’ in case you can’t see it.
  • On the evening of my birthday, I went for something to eat with some lovely ladies from work. I’m really grateful to this little lot for making my birthday special and full of laughter.
  • On the day that we went to London to see the Movie Doctors, Hannah and I also went on a little boat trip on the Thames. It was freezing cold, but good fun, and I took quite a lot of photos, including this one of Tower Bridge.

In all the excitement, I sort of forgot that I had turned a year older. My age means relatively little to me; I keep waiting for the year when I’m going to freak out about getting another year older, but it hasn’t come yet. I’m 33 now, and the only thing that bothers me about it is that it’s an odd number, and I much prefer even numbers!

Working Girl

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I’ve been in my current job for a little over a year now, and, as someone who wasn’t working for a while before that, it’s been an interesting journey back into the world of working in an office. Before I went to university, I worked for a national insurance company with a very specific structure, and so my job was very clear; I had a set amount of work to do, and I was expected to do it.

Now, I work for a much smaller company, and it’s a different kind of set up. There’s lots to do, and my job straddles many different areas. The company I work for publish two magazines and organise three annual exhibitions, and I have work to do in all of those areas. Working in a such a way requires a completely different mindset to how I used to organise my day, because instead of being a linear progression of working through post and diaries and phonecalls, my days can now be all over the place!

Just a few of the things I find myself doing on a daily basis are:

  • Browsing through recipe books and contacting publishers for permission to extract certain recipes.
  • Writing press releases
  • Covering social media
  • Proof reading magazines
  • Contacting media outlets to try and get them to cover our shows
  • Working with bloggers
  • Working with venues on marketing the shows
  • Sourcing people for magazine features

Obviously this list should also include drinking lots of tea, discussing last night’s EastEnders, and trying to resist the urge to buy chocolate from the sandwich lady!

All of this (especially the social media side of my job), and the fact that I have my work emails on my phone, tend to mean that I’m not always as switched off as perhaps I should be when I away from the office. Of course, the fact that I live with Hannah, who works for the same company, mean that we often end up chatting about work at home!

Simplyhealth have put together a quiz to help you find out about your work/life balance, to see if you are a separator, integrator, or volleyer. It tells me that I’m an integrator, and I have no trouble believing this! My work and home life are pretty intertwined, and for now, I’m fine with that. I think it’s nature of the work that I do, and the company I work for, that means that I will often feel the need to check in while I am at home.

Do you think you are good at separating work and home, or do you do what I do, and integrate the two? Take the quiz here, and let me know what you get!

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Mother’s Day

Today is the fourth Mother’s Day I’ve had to spend without my mum, a fact that seems almost inconceivable. I don’t refer to the fact that I lost my mum all that often on this blog; I’ve always felt that it’s not something that needs to be shared with the world. But on Mother’s Day, because I don’t get to tell her that I love her, I like to spend some time reminding myself that I was incredibly lucky to have nearly 29 years in the company of someone who couldn’t have been a better mum to myself and my five siblings if she had tried.

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So while I don’t want to get too maudlin on this day of days, here are just a few things I miss about my mum.

Talking

Talking is honestly one of my favourite pastimes. I can spend a very happy evening in the company of my friends and family, just chatting. I liked talking to my mum. Whether it was asking her to talk about the things she had done in her life – been to see The Beatles, been in a washing powder advert – or just shooting the breeze about the way our days had gone, it was always good to talk.

Hugs

Sad as it is, since my mum died, I just don’t have as much physical contact with people as I used to. I’m single, so no hugs are forthcoming from a significant other, and the other people in my life just aren’t so free and easy with their hugs. Last year I was writing a press release at work where I included something about how good for you a hug is, and it made me realise that without my mum, I just don’t have such easy access to this kind of dopamine high.

History

With my mum gone, I feel as though I’ve lost a link to the past. I don’t have any grandparents, and I rarely see my extended family on her side, so any information that I didn’t glean from her while she was here feels as though it is lost forever. I wish I knew an awful lot more about my grandad’s family.

A cheerleader

There’s nobody quite like your mum for telling you how awesome you are, is there? I don’t even remember specific examples of her saying to me that she thought I was amazing, I just always knew she felt it. She was proud of me (and all my siblings) for everything we ever did, and she never let us feel as though we weren’t completely and wholeheartedly loved.

A teacher

My mum taught me to knit, and, to a lesser extent, to cook. With knitting, though she tried a few times, it wasn’t until a year before she died that we sat down and I finally got it. Knitting will always and forever be special to me, because it makes me feel close to her. I do wish she was around now to help me when I go wrong and have to take back ten rows. Also, she used to cast on for me, because I find it really boring, and she was very fast.

I’m lucky enough to still have my dad, who I love dearly, though I don’t tell him that nearly enough (or ever, but I trust he knows it). There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t wish my mum was still here, and some days I find it almost hard to believe that she’s not. 

I won’t be as trite as to tell you to appreciate your mum while you have her, but days like today are a perfect opprtunity to just stop for a minute and breathe in all the wonderful things about the ones you love.