I’m not sure when it happens, I guess for everyone, it’s different. What day was it when I stopped remembering what my mother’s voice sounded like? I knew I could call her old cell phone for a while, and her voicemail would pick up…but then the service shut off, and it was gone.
There are many things about life and grief that don’t seem meaningful at the time, but when you look back on them, it seems like they should have been more significant. Like how many days after her death did I decide it was time to go back to my “normal” life? Although I can’t really remember my decision-making process in the days following her death, I feel sure it wasn’t altogether rational. All I know is, I only took a week. One week. After that, it was back to life, back to a new job, back to a new marriage, back to my first pregnancy. This was my life, and life had to move forward. “Time stops for no one,” isn’t that what they say?
Time certainly doesn’t stop for grief, but grief is more than willing to come along for the ride. Grief was my closest companion during the first few years after my mom died. It was there when my first daughter was born; every time my husband and I argued; every time I saw a girl in her 20’s with her mother on the street; every time I heard the word ‘Cancer.’ Grief was there so often it became a full time cast member in my life.
“Time heals all wounds,” isn’t that what they say?
Well, we all know that isn’t true. How many of us walk around thinking that by putting time between us and death, we are dealing with grief? We figure we can put it away in a dark corner of our closet and only bring it out when we’re ready for a good cry. Eventually, we will open the closet, and it will be gone…right?
In truth, things did get easier over time, but I was no less ‘over it.’ At any moment, I could be completely thrown off by the single thought of my mother’s death. Walking down the street, I’d be knocked over by intense anger. It would come out of nowhere and then slowly drain out of me until I felt just a little sadder than I did just a few minutes prior.
I needed to deal with my grief. But where to begin?
Thanks to the nature of my work, I spent a lot of time surrounded by people who were incredibly supportive of grief, no matter how it manifests. They reminded me that grief is not a problem to be solved; it is a weight to be carried. I also had exposure to the resources out there for those who have experienced a loss. Of course, there are common suggestions – support groups, books, grief counselors. If you’re open to talk or group therapy, these can be invaluable and irreplaceable tools. But the methods that appealed to me were different than what I found in most brochures, journals, and books.
I needed more practical and specific suggestions, education that reached beyond generalizations, outlets for expressing myself, and opportunities for exploration. These were outlets that I wasn’t aware of back when I should have started dealing with the loss of my mother. Around when I decided to get back to my “normal” life and fumble through the darkness alone and blind. Why do so many of us do this? Sometimes it seems out of necessity. Grief is sad, scary, and way too often thought of as an awkward topic.
The last happy memory of my mother happened about a month before we found out she had cancer, one year before her death. She and some of my family drove from New York to Baltimore for my bridal shower. Ohh’s and Ahh’s over new pans and Pyrex were the order of the day. My sister-in-law passed around a little notepad for all the married women to write down their best’ marital advice’.
This is the type of party detail she always remembers, and I always forget. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that she was on the party planning committee because that little notebook is now my most treasured possession. Inside my mom wrote, on our last happy day together, “You can never go back, only forward. Go forward together…Keep singing. Be happy! You make me proud.”
Well, today, that what I’m trying to do, go forward any way I can. We can do it together, all of us. That’s what this blog is about. We’ll be here when you’re ready.
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