Learning to love festive occasions after a bereavement can be incredibly hard. Sometimes even more so if the bereavement happened around that time.
Easter was always a fun and loving occasion in my household. Comprising of family time, watching the same films on VHS (if you don’t know what that is, ask someone approaching 30…) and eating a small mountain of chocolate. What’s not to love? Unfortunately however, as the years passed Easter became one of a trio of events I would begin dread in the spring. The other two being Mother’s Day and the day my mum died.
When I sadly lost my mum back in April 2005, it was shortly after Mother’s Day, which was at the start of March and Easter, which was at the end of March. The flowers I had bought her for Mother’s Day were still in a vase on the table, wilting a little, but still colourful. The Easter Egg I had bought her was still sitting on the side, she had been too ill to eat it and said she would enjoy it soon. But of course, she never did.
I remember being lucky that year in that even though I was just 16 however (in my own words) ‘grown up’ I was, my mum had bought me two Easter eggs. Well, one was an egg and the other was a pair of modelled white chocolate shoes. I had eaten the egg on Easter Sunday but the shoes, for some reason, I kept on my shelf. I thought they were too pretty to eat. After mum died I kept those shoes until they disintegrated. It had been one of the last things she had ever bought me and to be honest, it hurt too much to throw it away.
The following year I remember falling apart on Mother’s Day. Even now, years later, Mother’s Day is always a painful occasion for me for obvious reasons. I had grown to accept that a day dedicated to telling your mum how much you love her was going to be painful. But Easter, that was one I didn’t expect to get to me. That year Easter fell right in the middle of the one year anniversary since I lost her. I couldn’t even look at an Easter egg without my eyes filling with tears. I kept remembering the egg she never ate. How long it sat there until I had the courage to throw it away. To me it sounded so silly, it was just chocolate and yet it was affecting me so much.
I had come to realise that March and April were always going to be hard months for me. Mother’s Day, Easter and the anniversary of her death. I always felt that once those were out of the way I could then get on and enjoy the rest of my year. It was like an invisible black mark on my calendar.
When I started baking years later and I started baking for other people, I was asked to make Mother’s Day cupcakes and Easter themed cakes. It was hard at first but then I found a way to channel how I felt into creating tasty bakes for other people. Then, when I stopped making commission cakes, I still continued this by baking Easter themed recipes for my blog. It was a way I found I could enjoy the occasions. That said, even now years later when I work for brands and companies, which is a side of my business I adore, I tend to stay away from anything to do with Mother’s Day. I find I can’t in all good faith write cheerfully about a day which causes me so much pain. Maybe one day I will be able to, but I certainly can’t yet.
It’s been 13 years this year since I last saw my beautiful mum’s face, heard her laugh or was able to ask her advice. I lost her when I was just 16. I have such a big year this year, I’m turning 30 in June, I’m doing a TEDx talk (which has been one of my big ambitions) and I’m marrying the man of my dreams in September. I would give anything for her to come wedding dress shopping with me. My mum and I had such a special relationship, she was a single parent raising me to be the best woman I could be, but she never got to see how her teaching and influence turned out. I think it’s all of these factors which make me realise that I’m still grieving. I’m still feeling the pain of her loss on a daily basis. You may think that 13 years is long enough to ‘get over’ the loss of someone but I assure you it isn’t. I don’t think it’s ever something I’ll ‘get over’. I am, however, working towards being able to think and talk about her in a way which leaves me with a smile on my face, rather than in a tearful mess. Some days are better than others.
What I have learnt over the last 13 years, however, is that I can be happy. I can learn to love special occasions again. I can enjoy Easter with my loved ones.
Spring is such a beautiful time of the year with all of the new growth, the colours emerging and the chance for a new beginning. It may have taken me a while to embrace it again but embrace it I shall. With open arms. That’s what my mum would have wanted.
If you are missing someone, grieving or struggling with a bereavement please talk to someone and please, please be kind to yourself. You are allowed to miss them. You are allowed to think about them. You are allowed to cry. It’s shit, it really is. But I promise, you will be ok.