A very special piece by my incredible brother Will Rowland, who shares his experiences of losing our mum.
When my amazing sister came to me with the idea for this website, I vowed that I would write a post, despite not being the most eloquent of the siblings. However, I wanted to write when it felt right to me, not just because I said I would. So here I am, sat writing, while I should be doing my homework… sorry Mum, but some things never change!
Struggling to find the words
I was born on the 2nd January 1999, and my mum never hid the fact that I was the loudest baby she’d had. My two older sisters had been a breeze, and my Y chromosome clearly brought with it a big mouth. This mouth has not been particularly active when it comes to speaking about the loss of my mum, over a year and a half ago. I had an extremely close relationship with my mum, and it has been hard for me to be able to talk about losing her.
“It can be so confusing and scary, and having a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on can make the journey so much easier”
I am blessed to have amazing people surrounding me that I can talk to and share all my feelings with, and these outlets are so important when it comes to loss. Music has always been a big coping mechanism for me. Most nights I will listen to some of my mum’s favourite songs, and reminisce about some of the amazing memories we shared as a family. My ‘people’ have all been so helpful to me, and as this website is dedicated to, talking about loss is the best way to cope with it. It can be so confusing and scary, and having a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on through it can make the journey so much easier.
Bottling it up like a man
As I write this, I realise I am the first male to post on this website, and I hope that in reading this, more men, young or old, will talk about their loss. It is very easy for men to feel the need to bottle up their feelings, and I found this the worst possible thing to do. With both of my sisters away at university or beyond, my dad and I live a much quieter life than we used to, and we had rarely spoken about our feelings until one day we both sat with our family photo albums and discussed exactly how we felt.
““Being a man” or being “strong” does not, and should never mean that you need to hide your feelings or feel weak by showing them”
It felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders, and we both have benefitted since by talking more often about our feelings. “Being a man” or being “strong” does not, and should never mean that you need to hide your feelings or feel weak by showing them. Grief affects everyone, in many ways, and by showing your true feelings, it shows real strength, not the opposite.
For a few seconds she was her old self
I have many amazing memories of my mum, but there is one that I have often thought back to and will keep with me forever. In her final few days, mum was struggling to speak, so lay quietly in her bed as we circulated around her, trying to keep busy. I had never been good at masking my emotions when it came to my mum, and I would often leave the room to have a good cry, so that I didn’t appear too upset around her. I came back from the toilet one time, and she had not spoken or moved much for 3 days, but for a few seconds she was her old self. She leant up out of her bed, held my head in her hands, and whispered to me, “You’ve been crying”. As a young boy, and through my mum’s illness, I had always tried to hide any tears I had shed, for fear of upsetting my mum. However, as all mums do, she knew every time, and for a split-second I saw the mum we knew, and of course I broke down, hugging her and crying into her shoulder. That shoulder is the thing I miss the most about my mum. Some situations just need a mum’s input, and one of her hugs feels like it could solve all my problems.
Taking baby steps forward
Since the loss of my mum, my life has been a series of baby steps. Getting used to life after her passing has been a long hard journey, and one that has not yet ended, and may never end. School parent’s evenings, Christmas, my 18th birthday – all of them had a totally different feel without her, a feeling I have always feared. This feeling is like a hole in the heart, a hole that will never heal, but I wouldn’t want to heal. Because the hole reminds me of the person I have lost: the most amazing woman in my life. It’s my constant reminder of her endless love, and how she shaped me to become the man I am today.
Will is right: we need more men to talk about their feelings, especially when it is regarding a subject that is already taboo like death. Do you have a story to share? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.