Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year?

In a few short hours, 2010 will be making its hasty exit while 2011 clamors to take pride of place. 

New Year's Eve has never been an occasion that I'm particularly fond of. Going out was always too fraught with stress ... reservations that were never properly honoured, the battle to capture a taxi... it always made more sense to stay in at my Mum's. 

This year will be the first New Year's in a very long time - gosh, we're talking decades - that I haven't marked this milestone in her company.

Unlike many people my age, I never had an issue with spending these holidays with my Mum. She was always so much fun to be around. She loved to play board games, eat calorie-laden naughty foods that you only cook up on such nights, and don silly, sparkly cardboard hats festooned with 'Happy New Year'! We would all struggle to keep our eyelids from closing prematurely but somehow, someway we would just about make it. New Year's Day was always greeted with a brunch of epic proportions: pancakes, bacon, toast, a frittata... and lots of Christmas cookies. We'd watch the Rose Bowl parade, play more games and dip into some of the DVDs that we received from Santa. 

This year will be the first New Year's that I am at home - at my own abode. I really cannot shove 2010 out the door fast enough, for this year was the one that took away my beautiful Mum, and for that crime it has surely overstayed its welcome. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coping: The Great Book Search (Part 2)

Thanks to the kind heart of one of my dearest friends, I finally feel that I've discovered a book that is helping me with my grief. 

'Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms: Who and What You See Before You Die' by David Kessler has been a godsend to me. 

It's beautifully written, and has been an amazing comfort to me. Kessler handles the topic of leaving this world for the next with sensitivity and compassion. I only wish that I had found this book before my Mum passed away. 

I always be grateful to my dear D who gave me this insightful book. xo

Monday, December 20, 2010

Skip the Popcorn, Just Bring Tissues

Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be difficult at the best of times but when Christmas arrives in all its finery on your emotional doorstep, your heart is inevitably greeted with even more painful moments. 

Take movies for instance... most motion pictures created for the holiday season are full of warm remembrances, love-filled reunions and clarity of thought -- all subjects that are difficult to embrace when you're missing someone who you will never see again.

As much as it feels out of character, I've chosen to avoid some of my usual December celluloid picks ("One Magic Christmas", "The Homecoming", "The Christmas Box", and "Little Women" - the Liz Taylor version, Mum's favourite) because I'm just too raw for their stories right now. And let's not forget the animated Rankin & Bass classics - they're even more of an emotional minefield ("Nestor the Long Earred Donkey", anyone? "Ears, Nestor.").

The common thread in all these movies: their themes, all so beautiful and moving... and yes, I watched them all with my Mum. She loved each and every one of them. Atop of my avoid-at-all-costs TV viewing list is "The Family Stone". The last part of the story, after all the hilarity and family hi-jinx... well, if you've seen this funny yet touching film, you'll know why. The tree decorating scene at the end... heartbreaking, and right now too close to home. 

So for this year while I *try* my best to partake and honour Christmas like my Mum would want me to, I'm sticking within the cinematic safety zone of Will Ferrell's "Elf" and "Love Actually." I'm not sure yet how I will fare with these flicks. I'm a big softie, and can cry at just about anything. Yes, I have been known to tear up during both of these favourites, but at least I'm hoping that I'll be able to stir clear of a full-fledged waterfall. I can't promise, but I'll try. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Without the Merry

I was told it would be tough.

The first Christmas following the loss of someone so deeply cherished and loved.

I feel like I'm inhabiting someone else's body. Christmas is my favourite time of the year. Always has been. Normally, my tree is up just as our city's Santa Claus parade is wrapping up on TV. I strive to send out Christmas cards no later than December 1st, and search the shops early for the perfect gift wrap, and bows. Cookie baking is a joy, especially as my annual batch of chocolate chip just happen to be my Mum's favourite.  

But not this year. 

Dragging our tree out of storage and painstakingly taking a full day to decorate its branches - my heart wasn't in it. I was happy to be reunited with all my favourite baubles but they deserved more than me going through the motions while I hung them in their pride of place. Instead of hopeful anticipation, I felt sad, detached. Melancholy. 

The tree has been up now for a few weeks and surprisingly, I have all my shopping done (albeit from all online sources - I didn't have the heart to dig through all the cheery crowds in person). On the surface, this holiday appears to be just like all the others. The outside packaging is full of festive spirit and no one is none the wiser. Inside, however, my heart aches from the constant weariness of missing my Mum. All the tinsel and fairy lights wrapped around my tree won't make it heal anytime soon. And those cookies? I haven't been able to cross that threshold yet. Without Mum to enjoy their warm gooey brilliance, it all feels somewhat half-baked. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

There is No Escape

I just got back from my first proper vacation in four years. 

I've been anxious about travelling this year. The deep desire to disappear for a spell has been gnawing away at me but simultaneously, the notion filled my heart with dread. How would I feel several time zones away from home? Would events of this year seem clearer? Would I come to accept my new Mum-less reality and return home ready to start a new chapter without her? And who would be waiting at home to hear about my adventures upon my homecoming? Travel has wonderful healing properties - doesn't it?

In the past when I've packed my cases and gone off into the far blue yonder for a spell of exploring, it always felt like my Mum was there with me. Before I departed, I would make sure she had all my contact details. She was my first port of call when I actually arrived - a phone call home to her from our hotel, the first action I took to let her know we were okay. Part of the pleasure of going somewhere was to find the perfect keepsake to bring back for her. Mum didn't travel much preferring to stay grounded at home, so it was a treat to bring back stories, photos and souvenirs for her, to show her what we had discovered. She loved all the minute details, hearing what we ate, what we saw. Reporting everything back to her felt like reliving the experience over and over again with her approval making it all the more sweet. It felt like she was there with me every step of the way.

Unfortunately this trip was like no other I've ever experienced. Instead of gathering keepsakes to bring back to her, I carried an overwhelming sense of melancholy in my stomach. Going away to England didn't make me feel better about this year. Despite my Mum never setting foot in the country, being in London made me miss her even more. That quest for clarity? If anything, I felt even fuzzier about everything far from home. I continually would spot something I loved and have this incredible pull to tell her. Under normal circumstances I would have. I'd be straight on the phone - long distance, be damned - giving her the scoop immediately. Instead, there was no one on the other end of the phone line. My behind the scenes traveling companion was no longer with me. 

The infamous notion that you can run away from your worries, or troubles is an attractive idea but I sincerely doubt that it is feasible. Grief and despair just end up stowing themselves away in your luggage. There is no escape. You just end up taking them along for the ride. 

My trip was a long time in the making and I'm ever so thankful to have had the chance to disappear for awhile - even if the respite was felt only physically, not mentally or emotionally. If travel works its healing magic by making you think more deeply, or question where you are going, perhaps it has done its deed. All I know right now is that I seem to miss my Mum more than ever, and searching the globe for answers didn't do the trick. There is no escape.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Coping: The Great Book Search

It's been six months without Mum, and my attempt to find books that I can relate to on the subject of grieving has left me weary.

I've searched Amazon, and numerous stores in the quest to find *something* that even remotely echoed my sentiments and emotions, and I haven't parted with a single dollar. The closest I've come to unlocking a kindred spirit book-wise was 'The Heart Does Break', a stirring collection of essays by Canadian writers. While not every account spoke to me, several did especially Jill Frayne's achingly beautiful piece. This publication ~ one that I discovered before my Mum died ~ is still a lone presence on my nightstand. 

I'm not religious, and only somewhat spiritual. The majority of the books on the market cater to this segment of the population. I wish there were more accounts of the grieving process that didn't revel so much in abstract ideas, or fantasy. I'm thirsty for reality, even if it hurts. Such tomes could possibly prove to be a more gritty and less comfortable read, but I would welcome them - warts and all. In my experience, grieving isn't pretty. It's suffocating, dark and cold. Focusing on another world (heaven?) is a comforting notion but I yearn for a more tangible reflection of the process too. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Coping: Words that Hurt

Bookshelves are tumbling over with etiquette guides to all of life's major events: births, engagements, weddings, even divorces but there's a lack of guidance when it comes to death, and grieving. Unfortunately, there are no lessons on how to behave when someone dies, or how to deal with those who are left behind. Sure, it's not the most happy of topics to study, or discuss, but I wish there was some sort of protocol as to what should - and shouldn't - be said. 

"Isn't it time you moved on?"     "Feel better -she's in a better place"

"How long are you going to be like this?"                   "Life goes on."

"Get over it already"                              "You can't live in the past."

Just a sampling of my particular non-favourite phrases said to me, or others that I know - all of us members of the club of motherless daughters. Perhaps the people who uttered these 'words of wisdom' thought it was better to say something... even if it was somewhat misguided? I can understand the discomfort in speaking up when someone dies. It's horrible. I'm not a fan either, but a simple "I'm sorry" is always a good choice especially when the alternative can sting - even unintentionally. 

Sticks and stones can hurt but words can too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Milestone: Six Months

It was fitting that on the six month milestone of my Mum's death it was raining - nonstop, bucketing down. 

The weather was somewhat poetic - mirroring what I was feeling at this half-way point of my first year without Mum. 

A few months ago, I figured that with time I'd feel more settled, more accepting of my Mum's passing.

I still think of Mum most hours of the day. The six month milestone was very difficult, not only the day itself but the lead up to it. Missing her so very very much. Six months on, not much has changed. 

I wish that I could hear her voice one more time.

I wish that I could sit beside her, feel her warm embrace and soft skin.

I wish she was here to enjoy the glorious Summer just passed.

I wish for so many things.... 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mum Loved: Summer

For some reason this month, I'm finding it harder than usual to accept Summer's gradual exit. I'm notoriously an Autumn girl. I adore Fall clothing, sports and the crispness that the air brings. Suntanning and perspiring profusely top my list of pet-hates. I actually begrudge the odd bit of tan that I do have - obtained by daily walks with my dog - being pale is what I *do*. But this year, I let all the goodness of Summer wash over me. I couldn't get enough - I finally made it my friend. 

I think the main reason for my brief sojourn into Summer bliss is down to my Mum. She loved the warmth of these months. She would spend hour upon hour in her beautiful garden, tending to its every minute need. Perhaps I was channeling her joy of the season in an attempt to feel her presence?

Mum's passing in March meant that she'd never get to prolong her love affair with the Summer. The fact that she was robbed of this small pleasure breaks my heart. She would have been so thrilled with the heat, and made due with the lack of rain. Summer last year she spent primarily in hospital, and once she came home, Mother Nature decided to give us a lukewarm August - definitely nothing to get excited about. 

A part of me thinks that perhaps this year, Mum pulled Mother Nature aside and told her to create a Summer that would make her proud - one that would get her loved ones outside, into the fresh air - and away from being stuck indoors feeling melancholy and alone. It's true that a sunny, warm day does raise the spirits - it doesn't erase the pain of missing someone so badly, but it does make you feel a little bit more peaceful and happy... even if it's for just a short spell.

The fountains and reflecting pools at our neighbourhood reservoir park are no longer flowing. I actually had to wear a sweater *and* a jacket for my afternoon trek with my dog today. Without a doubt, Summer is taking its leave, and it hurts this time more than ever. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Inspiration: Jewel's Shape of You

Last week's Emmy Awards broadcast featured many laughs and interesting speeches, but the most thought provoking moment involved singer, Jewel performing her hauntingly beautiful "Shape of You" during the program's In Memoriam tribute. 

Surprisingly, Jewel has never recorded this dedication to a dear friend who passed away. Her lyrics are very personal, and moving.

Here's a video clip featuring "Shape of You" from a concert of Jewel's last year. Enjoy.

(there's also a link to the actual Emmy performance which you can access by clicking here, but please note that NBC has a tendency to shut down the exhibition of their clips on YouTube. Have a look before it vanishes).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Normal: Absent Friends

When people speak of times of profound sadness and upheaval, the story is often full of accounts of people coming out of the woodwork to offer support, assistance and love. 

When my Mum died five months ago, we were very lucky to have many caring people, both family and friends, around us. I don't know what we would have done without each and every one of them. From their warm remembrances in their mailed cards, to special deliveries of chocolate chip cookies and offers to take our dog so we could do 'what we had to do,' the willingness to pitch in was amazing. 

On the other side of the coin, what was equally amazing was that a number of friends disappeared. Vanished without a word... no phone calls, emails...poof! Gone.

Death is an uncomfortable milestone. At times it's hard to know what to say, what to do... often people just don't do anything - except go AWOL. Thankfully those who were there (and continue to be) for us outnumbered the people who weren't but still, I do find myself reevaluating the people in my life now. If someone who has been there for all the giddy, happy moments can't find it in themselves to offer a hug, or just a simple 'I'm sorry' at the worst of times, well I don't really call that friendship in the true sense of the word. 

I've been told this type of friendship appraisal is a common occurrence when a death or tragedy happens. Sometimes the people that you thought were *there* for you in the most true sense of the word, aren't while others on the fringe of friendship cannot do enough for you. It's funny how loss can make you see situations and the people around you much more clearly. I'm still hoping that the folk that disappeared into the abyss will show up sooner rather than later but as the days fly by, I'm starting to wonder...

(photo by: Sang Rose Revoir)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coping: Cookie Monster

So much for my return to eating somewhat normally back in June

The past week...okay, it's been a bit longer than that, I've been an eating machine. Worse still, I'm turning to products that I haven't eaten in years. I'm talking Pop-Tarts...yes, the sweet strawberry filled pastries doused in opaque white icing and colourful sprinkles. I also have another kid-friendly stand-by, ice cream sandwiches lurking in my freezer. Back in my cupboard, there's Wagon Wheels hanging out along with the requisite Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies, devilish Kit Kat bites and bite-size Oreos. 

It's a problem.  I *know* that part of my issue here is that I'm trying to placate myself, or give myself a boost by devouring comfy foods that I love and enjoy. I could eat a whole package of Chips Ahoy in one go, I know that I could but it doesn't mean that I should. I haven't gotten that far yet and I hope that don't, but this automatic response of eating treats in order to feel better just isn't working for me. My stomach may be full but I still feel empty.

It's almost like I'm trying to return back to my childhood hoping that all the other aspects of that happy time will be there too - especially my Mum. 

I'm trying my hardest to get my eating habits in line but it's so difficult right now. What's most frustrating is how they can be semi-ideal for a spell and then totally dissolve into a bingefest that leaves no box of Cadbury Fingers untouched. I just wish in these sad times there was a way to feel better without such crazy actions. At least things could be worse I suppose... at least I'm not a drinker, smoker or a fan of prescription drugs. There could be worse scenarios than numbing the pain with sugar, right?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Coping: Easy Living ~ Coping With Grief

One of my favourite magazines, Easy Living -- a British publication -- features a wonderfully moving essay in its September issue.

Written by Bella Pollen, 'Coping With Grief' focuses on the different ways bereavement is dealt with in our society. She writes that in the early 1900s, deaths of loved ones were part of everyday life. It was normal for people to die at home, and those left behind to sport black clothing for a period of time. People discussed death. People didn't avoid friends in the throes of grief - they mourned together. Death wasn't feared. Unfortunately, the situation clearly changed only a few decades later. In the 1960s, sex, the previous taboo subject, was replaced by death and in many respects, passing away still remains an off-limits topic even today.

Pollen recalls how her own mother back in the early '70s was not allowed to fully grieve the death of her sister -- and by not dealing with her mourning, her mother in essence shut down. Certain emotions became absent, and the pain she carried lasted a lifetime. If only people were free to grieve without perimeters, without someone uttering a common phrase, 'it's time to get on with your life', we'd all be better for it.

Anyone who would spout something so cruel, so heartless has clearly never lost someone so precious and dear. Grief is not something easily to "get over" or "move on" from. Grief sticks. 

I cannot read Bella Pollen's article without tears being summoned - even after multiple reads - but it's a beautifully written piece, that deserves to be read. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Milestone: Arrival of Good News

The other week, I received some exciting news on the job front. 

Since my late teens, I've worked in the media -- in broadcasting, specifically. I lived and breathed this wonderfully creative industry! I was fortunate to work for two incredibly innovative companies -- two of the very best in Canada -- and I was always so proud to be associated with both of them. 

Unfortunately, a short time ago, the broadcast landscape changed. Buy-outs and mergers were the name of the game. After years in the biz, I was laid off. My beloved TV company (my 2nd) was gobbled up by another, and while the successor celebrated its latest triumph, many of us were caught in the first wave of redundancies and kicked to the curb. Well, it wasn't actually that violent, but it sure felt like it at the time. 

It does sound like a cliche, but in many ways the loss of my job, one that I loved so much, turned out in retrospect to be a good thing for me. The company culture changed, many other people were later let go in the layoff undertow that followed and the place was suddenly different. 

Companies change. People move on. Life goes on. Re-invention while tricky at the best of times, is always a positive step. 

I decided to follow my other passion and become a freelance writer.

The new career path started hesitantly. My Mum's illness was one of the reasons why my new gig began with a whisper and not a shout. I wanted to be there for her hospital stay, her subsequent healing at home, and doctors' appointments. At least dabbling in freelance, I could be there for her on my own terms. I didn't have to ask anyone for permission. I didn't have to feel guilty that I was often absent. Being cut free from a 40+ hour a week office job was a very good thing at a time when family must come first. 

My Mum was the first person that I would call when exciting news came my way. She was always my #1 fan. She never had an agenda, or felt obligated to be happy for me. Her joy for my little victories was genuine every single time. Since my Mum passed four months ago, I have had countless instances *daily* when I really wanted to call her up and tell her my news. Most often it would be just minor stuff but still... the stories of everyday life where you share tidbits back and forth. I shared so much with my Mum on a daily basis. Life has felt somewhat hollow without her at the other end of the telephone, or dining room table.

The other week, I received news that one of my pitches to a new potential writing client had been accepted. This news was a huge deal for me - a first step to working for new people, getting more exposure, getting truly in gear for this new career that I am really enjoying. Yet, the one person that I wanted to share it with more than anyone else was not here. Even now when my dialogues with her seem somewhat one sided, I still want to make her proud. Hopefully somewhere, she is. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rona Maynard's When Your Mother Dies

I find great comfort in reading the accounts of other women who have lost their Mothers. Often these real life stories are heartbreaking and at times difficult to read, but when you have been stumbling down a motherless path yourself, there's always something tangible in such prose that makes you feel not so alone.

Rona Maynard, who many Canadians know and love as the former editor of Chatelaine magazine, published an incredibly affecting piece a few years ago. It's a credit to Rona's writing that this beautiful article stands the test of time. It's as poignant now as it was in 1996 when it first captured the attentions of millions of readers. Revisiting Rona's article, I cannot quell the urgent tears that so desperately want to trickle down my face. A more moving editorial you will not find. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

I hope many of you find When Your Mother Dies as wonderful as I do. 

Want to read more from Rona? Please visit her website for a collection of her published works. Once at her site, you can also find out more information about her book, 'My Mother's Daughter' now available in paperback. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, actress Farrah Fawcett lost her valiant fight against cancer. 

I remember hearing the news last summer so very clearly. My Mum was in hospital weeks after her own diagnosis. My new normal at that time involved spending all my waking hours in the stuffy, air conditioned hospital room keeping Mum company, dealing with the seemingly endless parade of doctors, nurses & experts, and struggling with every last fibre of my inner strength to keep my emotions in check. Like many people with an ill loved one, I could not let my Mum see me the least bit upset or stressed. Our endeavours were all about healing, getting better, going home.

Remaining positive despite everything. 

Last year when Farrah died, it was such a surreal experience. When actors, athletes, politicians - the famous - pass away, it feels like we are mourning someone we know. Strangely. Absurdly. Farrah's story was on the news continually that day at least until Michael Jackson died unexpectedly the next. But it was Farrah that touched me in a way that Michael didn't. Farrah had cancer. My Mum had cancer. Farrah was not defined by her diagnosis - neither was my Mum. Both beautiful, both fighters. Both with cancer now in the family. 

Is this why... whenever you hear of someone with cancer, it feels like you *know* them - even when you don't? You can understand the pain, fears & hopes that their family is enduring. The dignity & respect of those stricken, and how they just keep on fighting for themselves.... for us. What is it about cancer that makes us feel this way? 

I couldn't help but feel for Farrah's family today - I know how it feels when you're left behind. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Coping: Birds of a Feather

For the first couple months of missing Mum, I've unabashedly sought solace with friends in a similar situation. I didn't mean any slight to those I know who are fortunate to have two living parents - no, that wasn't my aim at all -  for a spell I just felt more comfortable and understood in the company of people who had walked this melancholy path previously to me. 

The bonds of common experience are wonderful gifts of healing. To discover that someone understands you fully even without uttering a single word or sentence is one of the most meaningful moments between friends. In so many circumstances, such shorthand just does not exist in life. When the worst happens, it can be difficult to properly explain how you're feeling, where you're coming from. 

I've been so fortunate to have three amazing women in my life who instinctively knew where I was coming from. I wish the situation were different for all of us - that we didn't have this sad milestone in common, created with the loss of our beautiful mothers. I wish. Oh, how I wish.

It's been three months and a few days since my Mum died, and I'm entering a new phase...the fourth month, almost a quarter of my first year gone. I can hardly believe it and find myself revisiting my filofax to confirm the true date. I'm starting to socially visit friends from outside this precious circle. I'm feeling like it's time. I'm ready. In my heart I know that I wouldn't have been even remotely ready for this next step if it hadn't been for the three truly amazing women who held my hand, comforted my tears and listened to me over and over again. My gratitude to you knows no bounds. You know who you are, my dear friends, and I'll never, ever forget your kindness, love & friendship.   xoxo

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coping: The Pendulum Swings...

A few weeks ago it seemed all that I wanted to do was eat. It was almost like I was carb loading for some athletic pursuit. I couldn't get enough of all that comfy nosh -- sandwiches, fries, cookies....battered of the list.

Now, I've swung the other way... to not really wanting to eat all that much of anything. Sure, I have my moments but generally, I'm by-passing the cookies, the other half of the sandwich, anything previously held in high greasy-esteem.

A few weeks ago, I seemed to be attempting to fill an emptiness that I couldn't shake. Thing is, the emptiness is still here, at times it feels even more vast than it did a few weeks ago but eating non-stop doesn't seem to be the solution, it's no longer comforting. It doesn't solve anything, doesn't bring my Mum back. If anything, in the long run it just made me feel worse. It was just something to do for awhile I guess when everything seems so overwhelming and you'll seek solace in just about anything. 

No doubt the semi-starvation routine will up sticks and I'll return to my cozy comfort eating hideout at some point. The two bags of Chips Ahoy cookies in my cupboard have been starved for my attentions...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mum Loved: Sex and the City

One of the many joys I had with my Mum was sharing our favourite television programs and movies. The one problem, however, is that Mum was always busy doing *something* -- toiling away in her garden, tending to her beloved dogs, baking -- and was hard to pin down. Getting her to sit and relax was a hard sell. 

But when we did hit upon a gem of an entertainment nugget where she would stop and chill in front of the TV, it was simply brilliant. One such experience revolved around every gal's favourite quartet of girlfriends in 'Sex and the City.' 

Mum didn't watch the series during its first TV run but we managed to get her all caught up via DVDs and its upteenth airing of repeats. Mum loved it! She adored the girly chat, the crazy situations they managed to find themselves entangled in, and of course, Mr. Big. She thought he was mighty fine and was so thrilled when Carrie eventually ended up happily ever after (at least at the conclusion of the first SATC flick) with her Manhattan prince. 

At times I thought that the more risque language and adventures (looking at you, Samantha Jones!) might have been a bit much for Mum - she was such a polite, private  woman - but it was silly to worry. Mum would laugh hysterically at their hi-jinx, never ever having an issue with any part of the show. And that's just like Mum. Just when I thought that I knew her fully, she would manage to surprise me. 

The much anticipated second 'Sex and the City' movie opens this week. I will be going, and thinking of how much Mum would have loved it. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Coping: Dido's Safe Trip Home

When you've suffered a life changing loss, it seems at times that you are all alone in your pain, that the rest of the world is spinning along oblivious. Everyone seems on track, happy...and it's hard to watch when you feel like the bottom has fallen out of your universe.

Sometimes it feels good to delve into a medium where your emotions are mirrored and I think that I've found some solace from Dido's most recent album, 'Safe Trip Home.' I originally purchased it back when it first came out - fall of 2008 - since I own her previous release and would call myself somewhat of a fan albeit a lapse one. The tone of 'Safe Trip Home' is somewhat sombre with lyrics that tell of a deep loss and the struggle to continue on despite it. At the time I had read that Dido wrote the album following the death of her beloved father and for no reason that I can explain at the time, I really didn't play it much. Maybe it was too raw for me as in late 2008 I wasn't in a similar situation... everyone was healthy, Christmas was coming, my thoughts were on a more upbeat plane, perhaps.

Now a year and a half later, I was playing my iPod before nodding off to sleep the other night, and scrolled through my 5,000+ songs and found 'Safe Trip Home' once again. It was a struck a powerful cord prompting tears & a more profound sadness, but for a spell I didn't feel like I was all alone in my grief. Someone knew exactly what I was feeling. I just wish that I could tell Dido 'thank you' for 'Summer', 'The Day Before the Day', 'Quiet Times' and the rest. Gorgeous.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book: My Mother's Clothes

Recently while I was procrastinating about work & taking refuge in Facebook, a friend happened to mention a new book that she found fascinating & incredibly moving...and I did too.

'My Mother's Clothes: An Album of Memories' lovingly written & compiled by Jeannette Montgomery Barron (published by Welcome Books) is a treasure trove of prized clothing, shoes and accessories -- the wardrobe of a lifetime, all belonging to Montgomery Barron's dear Mother, Eleanor. 

The project began as a way for Montgomery Barron to share her Mother's memories, recollections that were fading as her Mom's ability to remember began to fail. Each piece of clothing sparked a story, a feeling, a timeless account -- and as her photographs captured for posterity her Mother's fashions, Montgomery Barron discovered more & more intriguing anecdotes about her Mother's life. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Milestone: Mother's Day

Sunday, May 9 is Mother's Day in Canada, the US and Australia. 

For several weeks, I've been avoiding the abundance of Mother's Day shop displays at all costs. For a daughter who year after year loved & participated in this annual tribute to our Mums, it's a strange reaction to have. 

It feels foreign. It feels wrong. I feel like an orphan while everyone else celebrates this meaningful occasion. 

I'm on the cusp of the two month mark. The approach of Mother's Day is making my sadness & loneliness feel even more raw - if that's at all possible. I feel like an outsider looking in on a beloved milestone that was always a highlight on my calendar. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Inspiration: Joannie Rochette

One of the most emotional stories to come out of this year's Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, involved Canadian figure skater, Joannie Rochette. 

The six-time Canadian women's champion, Joannie is known for her engaging manner, and her graceful yet athletic skating style. With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in her home country, Joannie was in the fortunate position to compete for an Olympic medal with her family, friends & fellow Canadians all in her 'backyard' cheering her on in full force. 

But two days before her first skate in the women's short program, Joannie suffered an insurmountable personal tragedy. Joannie's constant companion and best friend, her mom Therese died from a sudden heart attack. 

Joannie's life was changed forever.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mum Loved: Tom Jones

To say that I'm a major music geek is a bit of an understatement. I've been to concerts both at home and abroad in the triple digits, own hundreds of CDs and have an iPod stuffed to the gills with songs & music videos. I've come by my love of music honestly. You could say that a passion for music was in my genes ~ my Mum always had her favourites too. 

As a wee kid in the '70s, I remember my parents and their friends traveling downtown to catch a certain famous Welshman, Mr. Tom Jones in concert.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Coping: Comfort Eating

You often hear stories of people in the midst of great stress, be it a job-loss, marriage breakdown or death of a loved one, unable to eat. No appetite, no will to nosh...and as the upset over their loss continues, they get skinnier and skinnier...

I am not that person.
I'm the opposite. I cannot stop eating.

It wouldn't be such a bad thing if I was filling the void that I feel with vibrant green leafy things.

Nope. Not even close. Healthy nourishment is not on the menu right now. Grease, sugar and carbs are my best friends offering comfort like nothing else. During the first week without Mum, there was this amazing salad prepared, a symphony of different lettuces mixed with a rainbow of bell peppers, crunchy walnuts, mellow cheese, tart Granny Smith apple slices... it was GORGEOUS.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Milestone: First Birthday

Friends and family much wiser and more experienced than me have hesitantly (and yet, very kindly) told me that the first year after losing your Mum is the most difficult. True to their words I am finding that daily living is proving to be wearisome, fraught with anxiety and melancholy emotions. The reality of not having my Mum a telephone call away pops into my mind repeatedly again and again...and again. Just getting through the day is a job in itself -- a job that I never, ever wanted to occupy, but yet here I am....

The arrival of holidays, anniversaries and annual special events are usually to be looked forward to, the highlights of the year, right? Unfortunately, I am now part of the club that realizes that they bring with them a unique disquiet and pain that the daily grind doesn't recognize. Many of us spend these earmarks in the company of loved ones, and the concept of such occasions without them is just too much to even consider.

My first major event without Mum... my birthday, snuck up on me this past week. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Heart Does Break

After my Mum passed away this March, I didn't have it in me to do much of anything... I was too numb or in a flurry of tears. My long running blog, Lose That Girl, was the least of my worries but fears of my readers mistakenly thinking that my pop culture playroom had become abandoned got the best of me. Here's my first baby steps at writing again as originally posted on Lose That Girl two weeks ago...

Hello... faithful readers & occasional visitors.

I'm so sorry to have disappeared quite suddenly a few weeks back (I must thank Blogger's automatic posting feature for making it appear somewhat that I was *here*). It's not in my nature to just *vanish* -- since I typically hang out here each & every day for a spell, and I feel my absence should be addressed ever so briefly.

I tend to keep my most personal moments private & refrain from writing about them on my site but life as I have known it -- forever -- has changed drastically for me. My beloved Mum died almost three weeks ago after a year long battle with lung cancer. My family & I are devastated and the painful process of resurfacing to our "normal" lives is proving difficult. "Normal" will now be forever changed and I think it might take awhile for us to all find our way. I haven't had the heart to write since, but I'm hoping that this first post back on the other side of normal might help me find the path that I had started...

The most routine tasks are tough right now, and I'm not shy in saying that I'm looking for solace...somewhere, anywhere. I have been trying to read a new book called 'The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning' compiled by Jean Baird and George Bowering (published by Random House). It's a collection of personal recollections of renowned authors on the loss of a loved one. It's painful to read and I can see my own situation mirrored in the prose, especially within the moving "Her Great Art" by Jill Frayne about her wonderful mother, June Callwood. Frayne writes, "we're different without her...June was the centre and every distance out from her has shifted, every axis on a new tilt...I'm a different woman with my mother gone. Less brave, more ordinary. If this is grief, it feels like vertigo, a kind of motion sickness. I'm making myself over, without my mother. Now that she doesn't call me, or put flowers in my room, or settle an appraising eye on me, I'm not who I was...".

It's too early to say whether this book will help me deal, but at least it makes me feel like I'm not alone in feeling so lost right now.

I'm hoping to find it in me to post more regularly soon - at least Blogger's automatic posting function will make it seem so. :)

** originally published on my pop culture blog, Lose That Girl **


We may hail from different countries, practice differing cultures & religions, but unfortunately we are all bound together by the devastation that descends upon us when a cherished loved one dies.

The passing of my mother has been by far the most crushing loss that I've ever experienced. I'm hoping that this blog may help me cope, and come to terms with the rollercoaster ride of emotions that I'm feeling day in, day out.

Experts, friends...everyone says that the first year is the most difficult. For once I'm embarking on a journey that I'm not fully prepared for. Even as an adult, my Mum was the person that I'd turn to when uncertainty reigned. Now that she's gone, I'm feeling adrift - it's the most unsettling feeling.