To Anyone Struggling with Grief:
My Mom died 485 days ago; 1 year, 3 months, and 28 days have passed since the late October day I held her hand and her heart. I saw her out of this life, much the same way she saw me into life 42 years ago.
In case you are new to this survivorship, or newer than me, the first thing I need to tell you is time is relative. You probably already know your life has a definite line of demarcation – before death and after death; with Mom and without Mom. This will always be.
The next thing you need to be aware of is the first few months after are little more than a blur. You will spend these months trying and failing to find a new normal (it takes about 6 months to get anywhere with that). Don’t expect much of yourself during this time. Your world has been rearranged; you must proceed gently. To get out of bed everyday and go to work and to do the things is enough. Go lightly.
Also, you will cry. A lot. Each first holiday is extremely hard. It is a relief to simply get through them. Grief is different for everyone, but let me say this: it’s important to gravitate toward anything that brings a healthy distraction. If you desire to start a project, do it. If you want to attempt something new, now is the time. It is nice to try things that don’t explicitly remind you of Mom; any happiness you can derive during this time makes her extremely proud.
On another note, the first year after her passing (after the initial sharpest pain of her loss subsides) is about finding yourself again. Who are you without your mother? Look at everything still remaining in your life to find the answer. Yes, she is and will always be with you; however, we both know it’s not the same. She is with you but she isn’t. Life is easier when you accept this. You must accept this.
One year is a turning point. It is both monumental and monumentally sad. You have completed the task. You have lived the first year without your mother’s earthly presence. This was the time I knew I was going to make it (I honestly wasn’t sure for awhile). Shortly after, I did a couple of new things: I started this blog and my husband and I began raising pups. I was never really a dog person before; oh, how life changes without your mother’s presence. All that love needs somewhere to go.
Here is the next hurdle: the day you wake up and realize life has moved on without Mom. You have managed this impossibility in spite of yourself. There are no accolades and there is no celebration in this realization. This is a painful place, friend.
These last couple of weeks have been tough for me. It’s that part of February when it feels like winter will never end. In Kentucky, we’ve been inundated with rain. I’m trying to get over the flu. This was the sickest I’ve been since losing Mom. Last night, while my head and my stomach were working fiercely against one another and sleep was impossible, I went back to that hospital room. I thought about the end of Mom’s cancer battle. I thought about how immensely awful she must have felt with all her body systems shutting down and I cried. I cried.
The sun is shining today. This morning I found the energy to straighten the house (my daughter is coming home from college) and I felt that strange juxtaposition where I am now my Mom and my girl is me. I cried again. In the midst of these tears, I noticed my French doors were dirty. Mom could never abide a dirty mirror or window. I stepped out and sprayed the Windex and was wiping down the panes when I heard a noise on the hill close to the forest line. I looked up expecting to see an animal of some sort – instead, I saw this:
A small tumble of fall leaves had been picked up by the wind and they were dancing, gaily dancing. Those long-fallen symbols of an autumn, gone but not forgotten, glinting in the almost-spring sun, swirled and twisted in celebration of the first beautiful day in a while. Hi, Mama. I see you. I love you always, even unto the end of the world.
When you least expect it, God sends a reminder. Hang in there, friend.
A Fellow Survivor