But perhaps the lesson that stung the most, as I traversed through my new landscape of mourning, is how inept most people are at dealing with the grief of others.
There were ‘the avoiders’, who hoped I wouldn’t notice when they ducked out of my way and avoided my eyeline.
The resemblance was so strong I burst into tears: it seemed cruel when I was missing her so much.And how had I never noticed our striking similarities before?But there, as clear as day, were Mum’s big, blue eyes and the same nose and lips. Being so close to my two younger sisters, Sarah, now 28, and Hannah, 25, and my dear dad, not to mention a large network of friends, I’d never imagined I’d feel alone.Part of it is that you don’t want to bring others down by burdening them with your heartache.Then there were ‘the criers’, whose tears were a total surprise. But if I wasn’t, then it put me in the difficult position of feeling I should be comforting them. When people said they were surprised I was carrying on when they’d be ‘so devastated they’d not be able to do anything’, I knew what they meant was ‘you are doing well’.
But it also made me feel as if they’d be sadder if it happened to them and, therefore, I wasn’t sad enough.They’d met when they played mixed doubles at a local tennis club.They were married by Dad’s father, who was a vicar, before moving down from Northumberland to Dorset, where they both became PE teachers (Dad went on to become a headteacher).I was born soon after the move, with Sarah and Hannah following two and three years later.The first I knew something was wrong was when Sarah rang in December 2011 to tell me Mum had suffered an attack of excruciating abdominal pains.My heart dropped and I felt a rush of panic flow through my whole body.