What it was Like to Lose my Mum at 16-Years-Old

I felt like my entire life was over and there were very few people who I could empathise with.

Almost two years ago now I lost my mum to a heart condition. Having just turned 16 and started sixth form just weeks before, I felt like my entire life was over and there were very few people who I could empathise with. Although I had family all around me who were also suffering the same loss, my younger sister, my grandmother, my uncle, my aunts, cousins and many other family members who I hadn’t spoken to in years and even some I had never met, I had never felt more alone in my life.

I think experiencing loss, especially that of someone who you are so close to and even in my case someone who you are still dependant on, is something which is different for each person. My loss on that day, even though we had lost the same person, was not the same as my sister’s, we each had our own relationship with our mother which meant that the loss was different. This is what made it so difficult for me.

I’m a very social person, someone who enjoys talking at all times, even about the negative things in my life, but for the first time ever it felt like I had nothing to say at all. I didn’t know what to say to anyone, if anything I said would even help them understand what I was going through and what help I actually needed. No one was able to understand the exact loss I was experiencing, not even those closest to me. I tried to talk to people, to help them understand me so maybe they could guide me, but the lack of understanding from people, to no fault of their own, led me to feel frustrated and alone.

I cut myself off from everyone, but no one could see that, I still hung around with my friends, I was in sixth form after all. We spent our lunch breaks together and would stick around after school, but at the end of the day I was so emotionally cut off that it never felt like I was friends with any of them. I didn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling and honestly I didn’t want to in the slightest.

My sixth form put me in weekly counselling and aside from the first session, it didn’t help, all I did was avoid talking about the obvious and would instead divert the topic of conversation to things about school or the lingering doom of university. Counsellors are typically trained to listen to you, but I didn’t just want listen, I wanted empathy. I went through therapy and yet again I was faced with the same thing. Nothing was improving, I still felt so terribly alone.

After the passing of my mum, me and my sister moved in with our closest family, our maternal uncle and grandma and some other family members, we had to share a bedroom, something which we didn’t do before. Me and my sister were practically always together whenever I was home, and we got along very well but still, I couldn’t speak to her about it, I felt guilty being emotionally dependant on someone younger than me who also looked up to me. I went from a house of three to sharing a home with six other family members, I was surrounded with people who also experienced loss, but for some reason this feeling of lingering loneliness and being misunderstood didn’t go away.

Something many people were shocked by was that I didn’t indulge in anything, I didn’t start to stress eat and I didn’t wallow away in bed all day, I carried on with my day to day life. My mother passed away at the beginning of a one week break from school and I returned to school as normal at the end of it. That didn’t mean I wasn’t affected, I still felt the emotional and even physical consequences, I was always exhausted, my mental health was disgusting.

One of the worst things was that I wasn’t able to focus in school and it reflected in my grades and my workload, having to drop from four A-levels to three. School was always my getaway, what I used to distract myself from my problems, because I was good at it and I enjoyed it, learning was fun. Suddenly it felt like that was taken away from me, I couldn’t distract myself at all, I stopped finding enjoyment in school and my attendance dropped.

It also felt as if I suddenly adopted a 13-year-old. Not to say I was entirely independent and that my family didn’t do everything they could, because I wasn’t, and they did. My sister was just not as independent as me and although entirely able to understand the situation, she was always very dependent on my mother, for everything, and when my mum had first fallen sick she found that same sense of security in me. But now that my mum was gone, it was a permeant idea. I love my sister and lot of the time, she is what keeps me going, but I didn’t want to take responsibility for someone when I myself was still so young.

Although all of these issues occurred when my mum first passed away, some of them are problems I am still facing years on. For one, my focus in school has improved immensely and I’m happy to say that I enjoy it more than ever and am on track to be going to one of the best universities in the country this September.

However, every so often I will go into an emotional slump where I isolate myself from everyone because I feel like no one understands, but I’m learning to deal with it. My sister is still someone who I have to take responsibility for, but I no longer view this as a problem but instead as a blessing, being someone’s role model is responsibility that I am happy to take on.

Sometimes I still think I haven’t dealt with the issues of losing my mum and I don’t think recovery is an option. Losing a person leads to change in someone’s character which can’t be reverted but whether you grow and take advantages of these changes are down to you.

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