Pain and pleasure

We’ve just returned from our family week in Ballyvaughan in the Burren on the West Coast of Ireland. The family week we have every year with my mum and dad, my brother and his family, and me and mine. The family week mum and dad organised last summer before my mum’s stroke. The family week that no longer involves my family. Not as it was anyway.

This time last year I was there with my mum. We pottered on wild west beaches, collecting shells with the girls, enjoying choccy buns with our tea, sitting side by side with our faces to the sun. This year, her absence was present everywhere. I never knew it was possible to feel so much pain without bleeding. The pain continues, as the realisation dawns that the trauma will not end. The trauma is constant. As my three girls delighted in the company of their cousins, the house was filled with their laughter, the laugher that made my mum’s life happy. But she wasn’t there to hear it. And amidst the noise of childish chatter I would be suddenly struck down, paralysed on the spot, cup in hand, children scampering around me, lost in my loss. While the world went on around me, I was still. And in my stillness I could see her. Her blue fleece walking along the beach, her white T-shirt soothing Ruby’s screaming teeth, her sun hat tilted back as the sun scorched our skin as the view scorched our eyes with its beauty. A bloodless coup has taken place, not a mark on my body but my head and my heart beaten and bruised.

It was possibly the hardest week of my life after the two following her stroke, made more intense by the beauty of the landscape and the glorious weather, both of which my mum appreciated more than anything. People often use the phrase ‘breathtaking’ to describe a stunning view, but the beauty of the Burren is breath-giving. The expanse inflates your lungs, the beauty makes you breath deeper, sucking it in, absorbing the glory of the landscape into your bones, as if your eyes are not enough to capture it all. It gave me the strength to carry on, to enjoy the moments of pleasure as we all pottered on wild west beaches, collected shells with my girls, ate choccy buns with our tea, and sat with our faces to the sun. And feeling her with me still.

About Grin & Tonic by Alana Kirk

Bouncing into middle age armed with courage, ambition and a pair of tweezers (chin hairs for anyone over the age of 45 reading this) I am a writer with a mission: to redefine this midway point in my life when the last thing I want to do is hang up my high heels and become invisible. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. A single mum to 3 fabulous girls, an author, and a fundraising consultant, both ends of my candle are on fire. As I enter this new stage of my life, I want to explore what it means for 'mid-aged' women today, who were promised they could have it all, ended up doing it all, and just do not identify with the traditional image of middle age.
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5 Responses to Pain and pleasure

  1. One of the most heart wrenching posts I've ever read. It brought tears to my eyes, at how beautiful and tragic the words written here are. It sounds like you were very brave to make it through your time away. You must be a strong soul, although I'm sure it doesn't feel that way. Warmest thoughts are with you from across the globe and may you find peace and strength in even the smallest things :o)


  2. So tough to go back somewhere you previously shared with your mum and clearly very traumatic for you. So wonderful to hear of the girls laughing and enjoying themselves but sounds like you will need time to recover from it all. Clearly you are still feeling very raw about your mum's poor health. I'm recommending a spa in the country, somewhere you've never been before where you can make some new memories. I'm no expert but at some point all of this has to get easier. Hugs xx


  3. It must be so hard to make a new normal after such a huge change in your life. You write about it with such beautiful feeling. I'm sure your mum appreciates that you're carrying on the traditions – even thou she can't be there. You make Ballyvaughan sounds simply stunning – shame I'm so far away.


  4. Alana, it is still so so difficult for you especially returning somewhere with so many wonderful happy memories. Your grief and loss of your mum as she was are devastating.
    Thinking of you xx


  5. cath c says:

    your feelings of your mom are very touching. i am certain she feels them, too. you write about the process of grieving who she was and your relationship so well. you can only do what you can do, and being present for the emotions an\s they bubble up is the best you can do. you do this very well.


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