How my mum dying at seventeen has made me a happier person

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In another incredible blog for Let’s Talk About Loss, Louise has written the following blog with a title we just love: “How my mum dying at seventeen has made me a happier person – no you didn’t read that wrong”. Here, she explains what she means.

Now I know what you’re thinking… *heartless*, but let me explain…

Losing any loved one is rough. Losing a parent whilst you are still a child is double rough. I can’t summarise the time surrounding and just after my mum’s passing, other than to describe it as a blur. I’m 23 now and whilst it may be nearly 6 years later, in a way it feels like a different lifetime of mine, whilst also feeling like yesterday.

Teenage angst

I was a typical teenager, and probably a brat a lot of the time. I have a lot of guilt when I think back to the misery that I could be in my teenage years compared to who I am today… but hey that’s puberty right? I used to get so down and depressed, usually because of some sort of idiot boy I liked at the time; I thought I was so hard done by.

My mum first had breast cancer around years 2005-2006. I was only young maybe eight or nine, and my only real memories are of her wearing a bandana. Fast forward 10 years (yes 10 years into remission – she was so unlucky) and the cancer struck back. My mum found out at the time it was secondary and effectively terminal, yet she chose not to tell anyone this until the very end. She went on to live for 2 more years knowing that she had a terminal illness and kept it from her whole family. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this.

You’ll be fine!

I remember telling her oh of course you’ll be fine. I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that she wouldn’t be. She’d beaten it before, plus there was no way this was going to happen to our family, you only ever read of this kind of thing happening to others. Part of me is not surprised that my mum didn’t tell us it was terminal, she was extremely stubborn and refused to be defeated, she was unbelievably strong willed. Whilst I thought she could be so hard on my sister and I sometimes, deep down I admired this so much about her.

When I try to remember those two years of not knowing, I do carry a lot of guilt. All of our fights and arguments, all of the times she probably thought I was being ungrateful; this guilt will always stay with me. On the flipside part of me is glad I didn’t know. How depressing, waiting for death.

I am grateful for the person I have become

I feel guilty to admit that since my mum passed, I am a much happier person. Part of this is probably because I’ve grown up, (I didn’t really have a choice), but also because I have such a different mindset and outlook on life now. I really just have learnt not to sweat the small stuff, and that has made me a much happier person.

The past six years have been a rollercoaster of emotions for me, but I can’t believe how I have turned out to be honest! Sometimes I have to remind myself what I went through, and am still going through. When I hear of someone my age losing a parent, I feel shattered for them and think wow, what an awful thing they have to go through. But also, I know from my own experience that there can be better days and a positive future.

So yes, if I can take ONE positive (and really just one), from this awful experience, it is that this has shaped my life in a way that would not have happened otherwise, and I am grateful for the person I have become. I am a strong willed, just like my mum, and we really would be the best of friends.

Louise Lawrence