My mother died alone

Read this first

What is published cannot be undone and I’m acutely aware of this.

First I want to say that I do not want to offend. This poem is not appropriate for anyone who is grieving for the loss of someone they loved and cared for in the deepest sense.

My poem represents one early step towards making sense of the loss of my mother, with whom I had a complex relationship. So it is firmly intended for other Survivors who have been in a similar situation.

How do you grieve for a mother who fell short of the mark?

It is roughly 2 months since she died. When she died she was asking for me but she was alone with just a friend and a carer.

Here’s the poem I wrote today as part of the process of grieving for the woman who I had to care for up to the end,  but who failed to protect me and who swept my abuse under her carpets.

You can listen to me read it here and there’s a transcript beneath as well.



My mother died alone

“They can’t get me up” you told me on the phone.

I called for the carer,

Then I called you again:

“No-one’s been.” You said.


I called again.


You must have been so scared you called your friend.

You must have been so scared,

You asked her to call the ambulance.

They’re all around you now:

Your friend

A carer

Her manager

The paramedics.


She phoned to say you’re in the ambulance with

Your handbag and

Some rings.



Then the  consultant phones because

He wants me to tell him

What I know about your illness.

I tell him what I can

About not eating and being sick

And not wanting to be there. In hospital.


(Oh if  he had asked about

Your handbag and

Your rings…)


The consultant says there’s gangrene on your foot.

Just a small spot.

Your leg is cold to touch but you’d die during amputation.

You’re sleepy and when you wake you ask for something for the pain.

He said the other leg was going the same way.


I have to say I didn’t really understand

How can you live when your legs are dead?


There’s fluid on your lungs he said

They’ll make sure that you’re comfortable.

I ask how long  until you die.

“Days probably,” he replied.


I’m going to drive the 70, 80 miles to be there.

Then I decided not.

I couldn’t face the drive.

I was sick; and I was tired.

Your leg was cold my eyes were sore

Your lungs were full of fluid.

My heart was raw.


I wanted it to end.


In truth I can no longer face

Your handbag and

Your rings


A text arrives,  it’s from your friend. She says

“I expect you know your mum is very poorly

She is asking for you …”


I know I have to drive.


A nurse with a heavy accent telephones

“Your mother’s very ill”

“How long?”

“I cannot say”


“I cannot say”

The nurse sounds cross because

I’ve disengaged.

I feel it’s over.


I text her friend:

“I’m stuck” I say “I couldn’t really hear the nurse. Please give her my love won’t you. Really stuck…”


In half an hour another phone call from the nurse

“Your mother’s passed”.

“Thank you” I reply.


And now I’m stuck with

A handbag and

Her rings.