After 29 years of nurturing, Mum and I had fallen into a routine.
Every week, our texts were pretty much the same. However, for whatever reason, on the night of December 7, we wrote something a little different…
“I’m beside the fire with a glass of red, looking at the stars. Thinking of you, Love Mama,” she said. “How lovely, wish I was there. Make a wish.” To which she replied, “And all your dreams will come true… xxx”
It’s the only consolation in what has been an otherwise inconsolable couple of years.
Later that night, Mum was killed in a farming accident, on Kangaroo Island.
I’ll never forget the phone call. And then the pain. The grief, so searing and debilitating, it bends your knees. Even now, the exact details of Mums death are too unbearable to talk about. So how does one go on? When you’re no longer anchored and buoyed by the one person who knew you before you knew yourself.
They say grief is a place none of us know until we reach it. Like love, it took me to surprising places: Extreme denial, delusional wishful thinking, reduced functioning, and above all, a shaken sense of self. With family and friends I shut myself off. It was never the right time to bring up the conversation. I wasn’t ready to talk of silver linings. I wanted to hide in the fog. So I would spend time going through her things, paging through a book, staring at an old photograph, caressing her wedding rings, which I now wear.
I remember reading Roland Barthes’s “Mourning Diary,” in which he wrote, “No sooner has she departed, than the world deafens me with its continuance.” I experienced a physical spasm of recognition at this, and the world continued, just as he said. But my heightened sensitivity made participating in it difficult and exhausting. “How do you feel?” they would ask, and I would think “awful” and say “ok.”
I did a fantastic job of performing the social norms of dealing with grief: putting on a brave face and appearing to “handle it” well. I was reporting, and threw myself into pursuing my career by working long hours. Although on-air, I was often shaky. Then after work, I said yes to every function. Every invitation. Every event. Being busy was the best way to mask the pain. Mask it. Run from it. And help camouflage it.