Nothing At All


I am different now. I tread carefully. Hushed. Afraid to wake her from her big sleep. For she is asleep. I have seen her. I have twisted the wedding ring around her finger and straightened the cross she is wearing around her neck. She was always tired and now I see that sleep has taken her and cannot let her go.

When I was pregnant with Finley I was consumed by this invisible child inside me. I did not know him. Could not imagine who he would be but the journey to Motherhood was an all-encompassing one. Though I moved through my days doing everything that had to be done, those nine months were other-worldly. All animation suspended as I, like all the Mothers before me brought a life in to being. That my Mum’s death should have parallels to my son’s birth has astonished me. Though my belly is full not with a child, but with the persistent flutter of grief, the sensation is eerily similar. As if I have been consumed by her as I was with Finley. Though I do not need to lose hours lost in wondering who she was, the way I wondered who he would be, I am full of her. Full of the same yearning. For him to arrive and for her to come back.

Her death now though has become a fact. There is no longer any sense of dis-belief. She is gone. I feel the weight of grief upon my shoulders and I am allowing it to slow me down. But I cannot cry. I worry that it is making me look cold: as if I have pulled on sorrow’s coat but have chosen to accessorise it with a clown’s mask. I am in fact bizarrely jolly in a way that must I think, seem quite inappropriate.  While the rest of the family seep tears in front of all those the infrastructure of our society provides to see us through the horror of burying a loved one, I beam at them, smiling as I nod at at all that they say and reassure them that all is quite well and their help is so very much appreciated, and I cannot thank them enough and I laugh loudly and get my head stuck in my jumper in the funeral parlour and tell the sleeping soul that is my mum jokes about the baby and the dog as I stroke her face and wonder out loud at how kind death is to the dead and how it is possible that she should be lying there looking twenty years younger and equally as beautiful as the very last time I saw her.

I am practical and efficient. Calm and comical at turn. Where I once considered myself to be sentimental I am now astonished to note that objects have no meaning to me. I do not weep over the clothes so treasured that still hang in her wardrobe or find pathos in the unfinished jumper in her knitting bag. I did not sob as I sat alone, registering my Mothers death with the same woman who once registered the marriage I did not have. I do not find meaning in everything she touched at home, nor feel precious about all that she once owned. I do not cry over her, but if I was capable, if only someone would turn the tap on, I would cry for her.  Because it simply isn’t fair that she isn’t here. It isn’t ok that she has left us to go on without her.

I had not anticipated this kind of quiet rage. In fact there is so very much about my Mum’s death I had not expected. I am irritated by the living. Cross with those who still have their Mums. Outraged by the cheek of those Mothers with the nerve to still be alive when mine is gone! And then there is the urge to tell everyone I meet. For I cannot abide the world going on without knowing that she isn’t in it any more. That the world is a lesser place without her.

Death then, isn’t the way I feared it was. It is darker and more beautiful. Even missing her is not what I imagined it would be. It is not the primitive visceral terror of the child not in your eye-line. But something far more complicated, and wildly exasperated by the energy of the dead still pulsing in your own veins. Where once she was beyond me, now she exists inside of me.

In the words of E.E.Cummings, I carry her heart with me (I carry it in my heart).

Death is nothing at all. It really is nothing at all.

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20 comments on “Nothing At All

  1. Alison, I think some things are too big for some people to cry over.

    I, who cries at every little thing, have never cried over a loved one’s demise. My grandmother has been gone 22 years, my mom 11 years, and my grandpa 10 years and I have never shed a tear even though I miss them very much. And all three died suddenly. Maybe the shock of that never goes away?

    Hang in there, kiddo. I’m so sorry you are going through this.

  2. Heather F on said:

    I’ve been thinking about you, Alison. My mom died when I was 12. We all experience death of loved ones and everyone’s experiences are unique. I wish I could just hold your hand, for even though we’ve never met, I feel of you as a dear friend. XOXO

  3. Oh, Alison, I am thinking of you every day. And I know that the anger can be so real, and it is one of the emotions that take us by surprise. And probably the last to fade. I wish I could make it better for you

  4. Alison, I have been thinking of you every day since reading about your Mum’s death. I’ve lost my Dad and my son, and know what you’re saying… We do carry them within us now, within our hearts.
    Grief is complex. I will not even start to talk about it here. But yes, she is gone. Your precious Mum has gone. Anger and outrage will be familiar shadows. I am sorry my friend. x

  5. I know. I can see it in your eyes. And all of what you say makes such sense. Such bitter sense. Sending you love.

  6. Chrissie on said:

    All you have voiced, exactly to the letter how I have been with the loss of my Mother. We were so close yet at the dreaded funeral I became a cross between a head teacher and matron, I am fine thank you ! In snappy smiling tones. No tears. Anger at those with very aged Mother’s. My husband’s is 92 on no medication, how unequal. I have kept my thoughts to myself your post has made me feel I am not alone in what must appear to others unrational behaviour.
    Agree with Dawn, shock to the system and beyond tears.
    I am very sorry.

  7. Esther on said:

    Alison, you,re still in my thoughts since i read about your mother,s death.
    I also didn,t cry after my mothers death, grieve comes in different stages ,
    Step by step you go through it,until the day comes when you can smile again by the thought of her without feeling sad …

  8. Karla Neese on said:

    Do not consider yourself inappropriate at all dear girl. This is simply how YOU are grieving. I understand the lack of tears. I was like that with my dad’s death – quiet, still comical but slowed. Thank you for sharing. Prayers continue for you.

  9. Kathy on said:

    Dear Alison
    How beautiful and eloquent your writing is. I remember after my own darling mom died I mooched around the house with a feeling of not really being there; it was as if I was watching myself from a distance. I was actually amazed (and angry too) that the world continued to go on without her in it. Shortly afterwards I discovered y0ur lovely blog ( I believe you started it around the time of Mom’s passing) and it has brought me much comfort and pleasure since.

    I think of you daily and send you my love.

  10. Carlie on said:

    Alison, I am sitting here, stunned, in the topical sunshine, my hair a cloud in the wind as we speed down a highway in The Florida Keys. What a strange shock and pain to hear about the death of your mum on our getaway from winter. As someone said above, I’ve never met you(though I’d love to!) but I feel like you are a friend. I wish we could and have cupcakes and iced lemon water under one of these Palm trees and laugh painfully and inappropriately, and I’d love to hear stories about all the pieces of her motherhood and the whys and wherefore of her going on. Death is strange, mothers are magic, friends are good and real, even if they are thousands of miles away and have no hours logged in the same room. Sending you lots of love and peace as you wade through it and fold your mother into yourself. coxoxoxox

  11. It strikes me that as there are all kinds of people, there should be all kinds of ways to grieve for them, and for ourselves for what we have lost, and gained. Xxx

  12. lynne on said:

    You will always grieve, it will just be in different ways, over the years. I lost my mother today, 35 years ago. I was out of the country when it happened, and couldn’t get back home for 3 days. I had to take care of things and push aside my grief so I could do that. And then I had to return back overseas, for I was in the military. And I had to go back to work and to my life, so far away from home, and I grieved in little bits of time, here and there. I am still grieving for my loss of her, for the fact that she was not there when I married, when I had my children, when I needed a mom. My daughters never knew her, and she’d have been a wonderful grandmother. But much of what I do, she has taught me. She is with me, and I am with her, and your mom is with you all the time. Be kind to yourself. You must grow up now. And it’s awful. I am thinking of you with much compassion.

  13. You will. When the time is right and you are free to cry, you will. But for now you’re being the jolly one, the strong one, the capable and organised one.
    Perhaps that’s what you need to be, for you or those around you.
    There will come a night when you sit and weep. There will come a time when you hold her picture, or her book, or her hanky and weep.
    Don’t rush to clear her. Don’t race to sweep away all the clothes and detritus of a life well lived and left empty. In a while (a year, a month, next week) you will want to hold all that you have left and weep.
    Bless you all. Be strong x

  14. Averil Pickering on said:

    You are in a limbo between one place and another, that is often how the time between a death and the subsequent funeral feels. How dare the rest of the world keep turning on its axis at a time like this! Don’t oveanalyze your feelings and actions, this is just how you are processing what has happened. Doesn’t matter about other people’s opinions, it is you that this is happening to. It will pass, and once the funeral is over the healing will begin. Hang in there.

  15. Jane Grayson on said:

    Do not hurry

    as you walk with grief;

    it does not help the journey.

    Walk slowly, pausing often:

    do not hurry

    as you walk with grief.

    Be not disturbed

    by memories that come unbidden.

    Swiftly forgive;

    and let Christ speak for you

    unspoken words.

    Unfinished conversation

    will be resolved in Him.

    Be not disturbed.

    Be gentle with the one

    who walks with grief.

    If it is you,

    be gentle with yourself.

    Swiftly forgive;

    walk slowly,

    pausing often.

    Take time, be gentle

    as you walk with grief.

    Please email me if you want to talk. I’m only in Manchester. Praying for you and your family xxx

  16. Thinking of you today Alison,much love heading your way xxx

  17. Alison I am thinking of you and your family. x

  18. Lynn Dirk on said:

    Your pain and grief follow me as I go about my day. I wonder at it, feel bad at it, pray about it, forget it and remember it yet again. Every word you write is grief. I send loving thoughts and hugs.

  19. Margaret on said:

    Today must have been very difficult for you, I know it has been for me and my mum has been gone over two years. My thoughts have been with you today.

  20. Danielle on said:

    I know that feeling. I have no advice. Only know that you are not alone.