Mom’s been gone for a month and a half now. The world is still spinning, although it seems as if it’s spinning through a fog, at least a lot of the time. Our family is still trying to find “normal”, and I imagine it will be a while before we get there. Actually, I don’t really believe we ever really will. Our world has changed forever, and we have all been forever changed, both by her life and her death. We are all different now, and there’s no going back. I firmly believe that’s as it should be.
I’ve been thinking about how I can share what this all feels like, and I am reminded of my friend, Kevin, who became a father last year. He has occasionally posted the lessons he’s learned from parenthood on his Facebook page, and I think he’s discovered a brilliant way to share, in a concise manner, what he’s feeling and learning on his journey. So, I’m stealing his idea, and am going to follow suite here. In no particular order:
Lessons I’ve Learned From Grief
- I have an amazing capacity to cry. A lot. At any given moment, and at the drop of a hat. I’m not afraid of, or ashamed to cry. I just had no idea it was possible to cry this much!
- Apparently, no matter how much, or how long you cry, your eyes will not start bleeding or fall out. And yes, I really have thought those might be options on more than one occasion.
- One can actually get sick of crying.
- No matter how much you cry, people will tell you should cry more. And they seem to assume that you’re not crying enough. I am a private person when it comes to showing grief. I don’t mind writing a little about it here on my blog, but I am not likely to start crying in front of people who are not very closely related to me by blood.
- If your mother has just died, nobody will judge you for anything you say, or think, or do. You’re expected to be crazy, and it’s completely acceptable. I don’t think this is license for inappropriate behavior, but it is an observation I’ve made.
- Dillard’s is a very difficult place for me to shop now. It was Mom’s favorite store, and I have many happy memories of shopping there with her. This will take time. I love Dillard’s, too, but I think I need to wait a while before I go back there. (See #4)
- Everyone has a different idea of where I should be in this process, but they all basically fall into two camps. The first camp wants me to try to get on with my life, because they believe this activity will help me heal. The second camp believes I should curl up in bed or on the couch, and just feel what I’m feeling, and not worry about anything else. I’ve found that my reality falls pretty much between those two places. I simply cannot just lay around; there are things that actually have to be done. Like paying the bills, going to the grocery store, going to Mass. And, I would lose my mind if I just laid around. On the other hand, some days I can’t seem to wrap my mind around any sort of concrete plan, and while I usually manage to shower and dress (my family appreciates this) I accomplish nothing else. But I’m making progress, and Gaylon is displaying unprecedented patience and understanding! He keeps telling me I’m doing better, and that it’ll take time. And he holds me. I have an amazing husband.
- People don’t know what to say to me, especially if they’ve never experienced the death of someone close to them. That’s okay. I’ve lost many loved ones, starting with my Dad’s mom, when I was three years old. I’m used to death, and I’m actually grateful for that. It is, after all, the natural conclusion to life. There is nothing anyone can really say that will “fix” me. And I don’t want them to. I just appreciate folks letting me know they care, that they are thinking of me or praying for me.
- The coffee does not automatically make itself. The blinds do not magically open each morning and close each evening, and the plants do not water themselves. Litter boxes just keep filling up, and if we don’t gather the trash on Tuesday evenings and take it to the curb, it just keeps filling up, as well. The refrigerator does not mysteriously restock itself with creamer and eggs. Abby discovered, quite to her surprise, that the lint tray in the dryer actually has to be emptied. Every time we use the dryer. The dishwasher doesn’t empty itself every morning, either. The ‘outgoing’ mail on the piano just sits there, and doesn’t automatically deliver itself to the mailbox. And nobody cares anymore what’s for dinner. We never asked Mom to do all those things. She just did them. And more. Quietly. Invisibly. Daily.
- And because nobody in the world could say it better than C.S. Lewis, I’m just going to quote him: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me”, and, “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” (From “A Grief Observed”)
- I have found that I don’t really care for the modern concept of “Celebrating” someone’s life. At least not so soon. I actually did celebrate my mother’s life while she was still alive. Right now, I’m grieving her loss, and I don’t feel like celebrating at all. I still find funny things funny, and still laugh at good jokes and funny movies. But I do not feel at all celebratory about my mother’s death, which I am unable to separate from her life at this point. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate those who are already able to ‘celebrate’ her life, and I certainly am not offended by people who embrace the concept. I’ve just realized that I don’t yet share that sentiment.
- Death involves a ridiculous amount of paperwork. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
- Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s “Five Stages of Grief” were inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. They do not necessarily apply to their family and friends. So, I am relieved of the burden of trying to figure out which stage I’m in, and if I’m experiencing it properly. It doesn’t matter, really. I simply am where I am, and labeling it is unnecessary.
- And finally, this is probably the most amazing and wonderful thing I’ve learned since Mom died. The Creator of the Universe cares deeply and personally about ME. There have been quite a few times when I’ve been really depressed, or felt like I couldn’t keep going, when I would receive texts, Facebook messages, or phone calls from friends, all over the country, telling me that the Lord had put me on their heart, at that very moment, and they were praying for me. For me!! Right when I desperately needed it! One particularly difficult night, I got two texts at the exact same moment, from two different friends! I’ve always pretty much believed that God loved me, but He has been so very close to me throughout all of this, and has made sure that I know it. I have found this scripture to be so true: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” ~Psalm 34:18~
So these are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. I know there are many more lessons to learn, and that I will never fully ‘get over’ my Mother’s death. It’s a process, a journey. I really do understand and accept that. I just don’t have to enjoy it.