Reality Revisited: Under Pressure

First posted in May 2019. We have grown so much more than we ever thought we would, and we want to share our earlier posts. We aim to reflect on the early struggles of our grief, and what we went through without our mum. We are proud of where we have come from, and of where we are going. We hope you are as well.

If you are struggling with your grief, that is okay. You are not alone.


During the final year of my undergraduate, I remember tackling a really difficult assignment about the origins of simultaneous interpreting. I was home for Christmas and frustrated that I still had assignments to do, tired from the first term. Removing my headphones and peering from behind my laptop screen I declared to my mum and uncle who were watching TV beside me, “If I were to only live for one more year, would I want to spend it doing this? No. So I’m not going to apply for the Masters.” They didn’t mind. They never put pressure on me.

Summer came around, I got a scholarship and I did the Master’s anyway. I put pressure on myself – I always have – with my need to prove myself and push myself. My need to do better, to be better. I think of that little one-sided conversation I had the previous year a lot because it wasn’t the last year of my life, it was my mum’s. 

In a few days time I’m going to submit my final assignment. The Master’s has been one of the most difficult things I’ve had to contend with, both academically speaking and because of the amount of pressure I was under while doing it. I used to be envious of the other students. Sometimes their biggest worry was this Master’s and it was the least of mine.  I couldn’t quit though. I haven’t quit anything my whole life. Only ballet at the age of about 10 after pretending that I enjoyed it for about 5 years. I couldn’t bear the crushing weight of guilt as my dad said: “Do you know how much money we spent on that?”.

I didn’t want to make any friends on this course because I didn’t have the time. Being the introvert that I am, and being under so much stress I didn’t think I had room for friends. I used to just to do my work Monday to Friday, and go home on the weekends.

I did make one friend though. Rather, she befriended me. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. We got really close, and she has been a real lifeline. I used to send her messages on a weekly basis: “this is it, I give up” with a follow up message 2 hours later to let her know that, in fact, I was still in the library and I hadn’t quit yet, “but I mean it, I am so close.” It became a running joke between us.

There’s been so much anger surrounding my decision to carry on at university. Had I not applied, I would have had so much extra time with my mum – this is a regular thought that plagues my mind. Though, my boyfriend rightly points out that if it wasn’t the Master’s it would have been something else, a job or perhaps a course of a different kind that I wouldn’t have been able to simply defer for 9 months. Of course, I know that’s true, because I know me. I know my mum too and she sure as hell wasn’t going to have me living at home at the age of 23 doing nothing but look after her.

A week before I was due to leave for my year abroad when I was 20 (about 3 years ago), we found out that the cancer had spread but we didn’t know where yet. I just wanted to cling to her and never let go, I certainly wasn’t going to go away to another country. I was ready to quit university and be with my mum. The following week she drove me to the airport anyway, adamant that I was not going to miss out on this opportunity. She told me,“if you aren’t going, you need to find a job and somewhere else to live because you’re not staying here.” Her stubbornness always infuriated me, but it’s what drives me now.

Trying to reach the finish line while grieving has been unbearable, and all I have wanted to do is crawl into her bed and tell her so, like I used to do when I couldn’t handle life’s pressures. That’s one of the most difficult things about losing my mum, I just want to tell her how difficult my life is now without her in it. She was always the person I went to when I was struggling. Now I am left imagining what she would say, or remembering what she used to say – “just do your best, Kates, you only need a pass” – she didn’t care what grade I got. She was so proud of what I had already achieved despite all of our troubles. Last summer I promised her that I would finish the Master’s, though I didn’t believe it myself.

I’m currently in my mum’s bed at 01.46 am, having worked on my final assignment all day. It’s the first one that she hasn’t read and given advice on. For the first time, I don’t mind what grade I receive either. I promised her I would finish this course and I’m still here. That’s enough. I didn’t quit.


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25 thoughts on “Reality Revisited: Under Pressure

  1. You didn’t quit and so be proud whatever the result. I see why your mum pushed you, she wanted you to do your best and not stop your life. With what you have expressed here in this post, it feels like you have grown with lessons learnt from sticking with it and of course, your mum.

  2. A diamond is a lump of coal that has been put under enormous pressure!

    There is a lot more coal in this world than diamonds – that is why people consider them to have great value.

  3. I loved this post! It was very touching, I too have been going through some struggles with the loss of my Father and StepFather within months of each other.

  4. I like how you’re taking care of yourself, comforting yourself in your mother’s space and with her words. Congratulations on your achievements. -Rebecca

  5. Your mother is not that far away… she is still in the Universe… when you walk around a corner, it doesn’t mean what you left no longer exist… it is still in the Universe… your Mother just went around a different kind of corner… she is still in the Universe…

  6. I absolutely love how personal your blog is and how you’ve turned it into a safe place for anyone to share their stories and accept the grieving process while you also experience the events and the process yourself. You’re so strong, I hope you know that. ❤️

  7. Thank you for sharing!!.. the heart will go on and so shall you… no doubt your Mom is watching with pride as to how courageous and wonderful her family has become and still are!!… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    (Irish Saying)

  8. This story is an inspiration and encouragement. Congratulations Katie, on finishing your Master’s. As you and your sister publicly share your processing of grief your lives and stories offer hope. Blessings!

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