This is my mum’s box of tissues. She would keep it on her lap constantly, because her eyes watered and she wanted to be able to wipe them. Always the same brand, with the jolly box, always on her lap. When she died, the box was quite full, and I took it home. I’ve cried a lot of tears into its contents ever since.
I’ve been having bereavement counselling. I was offered 18 free sessions, funded by my local council, and today was Session 10. The counsellor was provided from the organisation that my mum was a bereavement counsellor for 20 or 30 years ago. To say she’d approve would be an understatement!
The sessions have been brilliant. And as a comedian, the joy of having a captive audience to listen to my stream of consciousness every week is nothing short of a gift. In fact, the experience of stand-up helps – that ability to blurt out what’s on your mind, not holding back, not afraid to look a fool for saying something silly.
In comedy, it’s that ability to be child-like, to be the 4 year old who can play, that helps you find the funny. With counselling, it’s being able to find that 4 year old who cries when she’s sad, laughs when she’s happy and who’s not afraid to be accused of ‘just looking for attention’. Well of course I’m looking for attention. I need attention. My heart hurts and I need my mum.
I’ve had a lot of counselling before. I’m ever so good at it (I need an emoji here, but WordPress doesn’t offer them). I once had a first session with a counsellor who arrived home 10 minutes before the start to find me on her doorstep crying. She later said she knew this one was going to be straightforward – no need to draw out what was bothering this client!
And because I’ve worked through a lot of issues in the past, I knew what I needed this time too. I needed to feel less broken (see previous blog) and to deal with another issue that I knew was making this harder. The counselling was never going to fix everything. I’ll still be grieving for a long time to come. I was never going to recover from losing a 54 year relationship in 7 months.
For the first 8 weeks, I’d wake up on Wednesday morning knowing what I needed to talk about. It was all on the surface and I’d open up Zoom at 10 am and launch into it. The sessions were almost themed. And as I talked and cried and reflected, I’d find little lightbulbs of understanding about why different aspects of the experience were so painful, or reflect that it might be healthier to handle some things differently.
Last week was different. I woke up… quite happy actually. It was Biden’s Inauguration Day, the world felt a bit safer, and I didn’t start the day with ‘why does my stomach ache? Oh yes, she’s gone and I’ll never put my head on her chest again’.
I opened up Zoom at 10 and said ‘I don’t know what to say today.’ And we started talking about comedy. And the next 50 minutes were a joyful, celebratory, analytical, glorious, narcissistic conversation about the thing that feeds me more than almost anything else.
I miss it.
Almost as much as I miss my mum.
Today I woke up and again thought ‘I don’t know what to say today’. So I tried to think about what’s upset me in the past week and what I needed help with. And there wasn’t anything. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been upset. I watched It’s A Sin on Channel 4 – of course I’ve been upset!
But this morning, I realised that I don’t need the counselling any more right now. I’m doing ok. I’m still grieving, it still hurts, but I’m not blocked. When it hits me, I crumple and I cry and then I get up and carry on.
So we decided, I decided, that today was the final session. This was an ending that was in my control. I am grateful and I am full of love for this wonderful woman who has journeyed with me for the last couple of months. But for now, I can do it on my own. (If I need to go back at any time, I can)
We said our goodbyes and I left the meeting. And I reached into my mum’s tissue box and pulled out the last one. Had a little cry, blew my nose and put the box in the recycling.
And then took it out again.
I may keep it for just a little while longer.