It’s been just shy of a month since my mom’s passing. And I’m doing…well okay…at least I’d like to think so. I do what everyone else does. I go to work (often late, but I still go). I sleep and eat. And, I’ve even been able to make it to the gym a couple of times, catch a movie (BTW, Moonlight was pure awesomeness), and have a couple of dinner outings. I mean, life goes on right? That’s what happens in the movies? How I wish it were that easy.
When I first announced my mom’s transition (yes, on Facebook…because that’s the most comprehensive way to communicate both good and bad news), a friend of mine responded with following words of comfort: “you’ve just given birth to grief”. I wasn’t sure how to process that statement. I mean, I’ve experienced “loss” before. You can’t live 43 years in this life without losing something. Over the years, I’ve lost distant loved ones. I’ve lost a couple of pets before. And like most people in my age group, I’ve even lost a job, marriage, and home before. But none of those losses ever compared to this. Pets have a short life expectancy. I knew my parakeet and goldfish wouldn’t be with me throughout my golden years. My distant loved ones? They were elderly and it was the appropriate time for their departure. The job, marriage, and home? Like most people, I can recoup those losses again. Money comes and goes; it’s the circle of life. I can always get remarried again. I mean Liz Taylor was married 9 times. But I will never have my mother again. I will never talk to her again. I will never get to listen to her vent or share celebrity gossip with me again. I will never get to take that mother/daughter trip with her that I had been planning. So many nevers…it’s all final. She’s gone.
As my friend referenced on the most horrible day of my life, birth is defined as “the emergence of new individual from the body of its parent”. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can certainly attest that grief has changed me. I’m not the same person I was before November 10th, 2016. You see, the old me was kind of happy go lucky…in a dark comedic kind of way (if that makes sense). I always saw the positive in everything. I always encouraged other people. My bounce back game was strong. And I had a resilience that defied statistics. But the new me? My daily positive talk and words of affirmation have been replaced with talk about my loss. I bring up my mother every chance I get. I mean, just look at me writing another blog about it right now?
One thing I’ve come to learn about grief is that in addition to transforming you, it also reveals things about other people. During this birthing process, I’ve learned that people will use your grief as an opportunity to gain something from you. There will be opportunists. That ex you haven’t seen in over 10 years will catch wind of your loss and will invite to fly you in because they want to “help” and be your source of “comfort”. I’ve learned that my faith will be tested. I now have a love/hate relationship with God. I love Him because I’m supposed to love Him, but hate Him for taking away my Mom. I find no resolve in cliches like, “God knows best…she’s in a better place…and God will bring you through it.” Why couldn’t He just save her? I’ve learned that even the most well-intention people will try to interfere and take over the home going services you’ve planned for your loved one to appease “their” wishes instead of those of the departed. I’ve learned that people want you to grieve, but not too much and for not too long. People will ask you how you’re doing, but sometimes, they really don’t want to know the truth. They want responses like, “I’m doing okay, I’m hanging in there” because your truth and painful reality is a damper on the parade that’s going on in their own life. Keep those negative vibes over there to yourself. Grieve, but remember…no one likes a Negative Nelly or Debbie Downer. No one wants to be that person. Things happen in life and you should eventually suck it up and get over it. I’ve learned that people will knowingly and unknowingly minimize your loss. You lost a parent? So what, their car got repossessed last winter. You lost your active parent at 61? So what, they lost their 99 year old great-grandmother when she passed peacefully in her sleep. Life isn’t fair, so deal with it. But on the flip side, I’ve also learned that people will show up and show out in ways you could never imagine during this unpredictable birthing process. And sometimes, it will be the people you least expect. The person you least expect will send you a card, offer you words of encouragement, and accept your grief and how you choose to cope no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient it may present to them, usually because they’ve been where you are. This is a club that no one ever wants to join. But if you live long enough, you will inevitably gain membership. The tables will turn and you will birth a grief baby of your own. I’ve learned that people that understand this won’t be so bothered by your process, because they understand they will too experience it someday.
But in spite of the above, the most important thing I’ve learned is this: grief is a very convoluted and unique process. Just like childbirth, no two experiences are the same. It’s your process and journey. Each day will be different. Some days, you will be the ocean easily riding the waves. And other days, you will drown in it. There is no way to get around grief. You can’t go over it, underneath it, or around it. You have to go/GROW through it. There is no easy button or pill to make it go away. It’s your experience and your timetable. It’s your TRUTH. And, the people around you can simply take it or leave it.
As I complete this very painful birthing process, I hope to be able to “positive think” my way back to my former self. I hope to get back to posting about positive, warm and fuzzy stuff on my social media networks. I hope to get back to blogging about all tings concerning traveling, because grieving is for the birds and I’d rather be blogging about my hike to Patagonia. I hope to be able to think of my mom and my first Christmas without her without bursting into tears. I hope to be able to live my truth and deal with my grief authentically without making others feel uncomfortable about it. I hope to get to a point to where grief is something that just kind of lives here, but doesn’t consume me…it just has a few things over here and visits every me once and awhile, like that old boyfriend that will always have your heart.
3 thoughts on “My take on grief: I didn’t ask for this, who do I return it to?”
Very powerful essay. Grief is something which profoundly changes people, though few will acknowledge it. Thank you for sharing.
Trust the process. In due time you’ll adjust to your new normal. You lived 43 years with your mother. Don’t think you’ll be able to stop grieving in a short time.
You hit the nail on the head with this article! Awesome!