When my mum's heart finally stopped beating I didn't cry. I didn't break down. I didn't even feel sad. I didn't feel anything.
I'm not proud of this - there should have at least been a few tears. It's not like it was unexpected; my brother and I spent the week before she died curled up in plastic armchairs next to her bed, snatching fleeting moments of sleep and waking up in a panic hoping she still had a pulse.
She took three months to die, so prior to the plastic chairs there'd been hundreds of hospital trips and endless meetings with geriatric consultants, even though at 64 she was hardly geriatric. Dementia seems to have been pigeonholed as an elderly person's disease, and as yet, the people with the power to challenge this assumption seem reluctant to shift that particular pigeon.
Before the hospital trips there'd been four years of dementia insanity, and not just from her; most of the authorities and helpful organisations turned out to be pretty mad too. From being signed off and sent home with a wave and a factsheet after the initial diagnosis to trawling through private care agencies trying to find ones that actually cared: I felt nothing the night she died because all my feelings had already been used up by having to navigate the sheer ineptitude of the entire dementia 'system'.
That was eight months ago, and it's only just starting to dawn on me that I won't be seeing her again. Because of the disease we hadn't had a lucid conversation for a long time, but it turns out that having a demented mum is better than having no mum at all. When she was ill, I wrote about 'waking grief', when the person you're mourning is gone, but not gone. Now she's gone for good, and the real grieving process is only just beginning. In a way it's a relief that it's finally starting to happen - I've never been the most sensitive soul, but even so, I was starting to worry that not mourning my own mother's death was verging on full Patrick Bateman.
There have been countless articles written about grief; I think I've read most of them in a futile attempt to make sense of it. Ever since she was diagnosed I've clung onto the idea that learning about the unknown makes it easier to deal with. It doesn't. I read everything I could find about Lewy Body dementia to try and understand what was happening to her brain. I still don't understand it. When she only had a few hours left I desperately Googled the dying process so that I'd be prepared for what was happening to her. I'm not sure anyone could be prepared for that. Before going to see her in the funeral home I spent a cheerful evening finding out about how undertakers prepare bodies, just to try and make it a bit less daunting. That didn't work either; it was terrifying.
I've probably read more about death by now than your average junior pathologist, but it doesn't make the grieving part any easier. There isn't an article in the world that could do that.Suggest a correction