Grief is a fickle thing, it creeps up on you right at the moment when you are convinced you finally bid this old unwelcome visitor farewell. I was never keen on this visitor joining any of my dinner parties, yet there he was, showing up uninvited, sitting at the head of the table spoiling the mood, nurturing miserableness. I expected his arrival initially, of course I would, but never did I expect his perseverance. This bugger had endless energy, night or day, he had something to contribute.
In the wake of my own mothers passing, grief took centre stage in the production of utter chaos that followed. Looking back at the first year following her departure, it is clear to me now that my focus was solely directed at outrunning grief and in doing so also outrunning any elements in my life that reminded me of the now gaping hole present. I was ruthless and determined, I spared no expense in giving up these once treasured things.
I had a no tolerance attitude.
When running failed me I would find ways to hide grief’s presence as best I could. I draped him in work, social events and holidays and ran from anyone who shared in this grief. I simply couldn’t allow for any group sessions on this topic.
Annoyingly grief came with a friend – regret.
This cunning partner in crime is however not as easily fooled and well known by many. Regret features without fail in each story shared with me recently. There is grief, lots of it for sure, with our own unique take on it, but regret, nagging scratching regret is present around every corner. I cannot help wonder why regret? I am yet to find any profound wisdom from regret, I am yet to find any resolution from regret and I am yet to find the bloody purpose of regret.
For me regret settled in soon after my own mother’s death, quite subtle at first but over the years, man oh man, did this one grow.
I flew out to South Africa and spent three weeks with my mother as soon as there was whim of things taking a turn for the worse. It was a strange environment with my mother bound to bed and family and friends aimlessly floating around calling on all their skills to bring some form of comfort. It was an extraordinary contradictory three weeks where crying and laughing went hand in hand with shouting and drinking. Many a glass of wine was drunk on the porch outside my mother’s bedroom numbing some of the helplessness we all felt.
The end of the three weeks coincided with a new job start for me in England, a job that was for me, the start of a career path I had envisioned. Given the situation, I was however in no rush to get on the plane back to England.
My mother insisted saying “Laura, you will go, this is the start of your life”. My mother rarely didn’t get her way and in the end I was back on a plane to England shortly after. It was not a fun journey especially for my fellow passengers I am sure, as a 13 hour crying marathon followed.
Two weeks into the new job I received a call from my uncle that simply said: “Come!” and so I rushed out of the building and jumped on the next flight out. I made it back to South Africa in time but the change in my mother from our last goodbye was remarkable. The most difficult element was that she could no longer talk, something my mother was renowned for and something that played such a big role in our close relationship. I would forever miss our talking sessions.
I’ve regretted not being there for those two weeks probably from the moment I stepped back into that house. At first it was faint, later replaced by the loss and grief, and then, regret took full swing.
I’ve heard similar stories from others, from the diabetic son who had to leave the hospital room to get food and missing the last moments with his mother, to the son who went to pick up a family member to come join the goodbyes. At the moment my mother gave her last breath, my uncle was out buying much needed food for the house and I’ve often wondered whether this was something that went on his regret list.
I know this though, regret, for me, in this case, has served little purpose except to be a nagging long-winded pain. In the end my mother was right, the new job did turn out to be a great opportunity where I learned much about life and it was the start of a journey that eventually helped me land here.
Walking the Camino Frances and launching Conversations with Rose is part of a promise I made to myself that is simply:
I will miss my mother and the unique relationship we had forever but I will no longer fuel regret. I will spend my ‘mother moments’ celebrating the times I did have with her and feel utterly incredibly lucky to have had that fierce personality of a mother in my life.
No more regrets!