Today’s columnist, Lucy Ashton: Dealing with the pain of living life after death

Maggie and Joe Ashton with Lucy as a baby.
Maggie and Joe Ashton with Lucy as a baby.

Last month my wonderful, beautiful, witty, intelligent mum Maggie suddenly died.

She’d just had a diagnosis of leukaemia and had been told she had a year – she passed away without warning just six weeks later.

Writing about her is so difficult as all my adjectives sound like a Hallmark card. She was married for 57 years, was a much loved auntie and sister and had so many good friends yet to me she was just my mum – my cheerleader, coach and manager. My confidante and best friend. The one person always there at any time of day or night.

And the thing I’m really struggling with is this bewildering emotion called grief. I should be laid in bed, unable to face the world and sobbing for hours on end. Instead, I’m doing the school run, I’m back at work and I’m even going on a holiday (booked months ago). In the midst of death there is life and school uniforms to wash.

It doesn’t feel normal or natural. It’s like my brain has flicked a grieving autopilot switch. Occasionally my mind allows some thoughts to penetrate and I’ll weep for a while, but in the main I’m completely numb.

My good friends and family assure me that grief hits us all differently and it takes as long as it takes but I worry that I’m somehow delaying my emotions and that in six months time, the real grief will suddenly hit and floor me.

Along with this numbness, I seem to have turned into some table-rattling, eyelid-flickering medium.

After years of being a cynical journalist, I’m now looking for ‘signs’ everywhere.

The solar lights flicker and I wonder if it’s a sign. The bulb in the lamp pops and I Google ‘messages from the spirit world’.

My mum was the least superstitious person ever so if she’s trying to tell me anything, it’s probably that we need a new fuse box.

I also have a one-track mind. Give me a job and I can do it. Expect me to multi-task and you’ve no chance. I’m half listening to conversations, giving the wrong answer to questions and missing chunks of TV programmes as my mind wanders but doesn’t seem to settle on any particular subject.

Everything feels confusing and strange but maybe that is grief. My mum was my guiding light for my whole life so maybe I am adrift without her. I miss her so much. I want her back or at least to say proper goodbye. The only comfort I take is what one friend said – she hasn’t gone, she’s just ahead of me on the journey.

* Lucy Ashton, PR manager, daughter and mum