This is the year I learned more about grief than in any previous year of my life. During the long years of caring for mom I once said I was desperate for the anticipated grief to be over and that I was ready to experience the real thing. It may have seemed a strange statement, but it had been a long journey for me and my mother. She was ready to go.
Since mom died in March I’ve experienced the many firsts–her birthday and Easter, especially. Summer passed and I hunkered down in the garden and got through it. But then right before Thanksgiving I attended a “holiday” grief workshop so that I could better understand some of the emotions that were arising.
I got through Thanksgiving by adjusting plans and being honest with friends and myself about what I needed. As it turned out it was a great Thanksgiving weekend…we experienced joyful fellowship with many people. The month leading up to Christmas was more of a challenge than I anticipated, but then I remembered–Christmas has always been a challenge. What’s new? It was simply a first and adjustments were needed.
Friends reminded me that my feelings were okay and to pay attention to what I needed. My grieving was never selfish, or self-serving, or demanding. I’ve had moments of jarring grief, but for the most part it has been simple and straightforward.
Leading up to Christmas I cried when I saw chocolate covered almonds and when I saw earrings I thought mom would have liked. I cried when son put on Rocky Mountain Christmas, but it was like a tiny storm cloud that passed leaving the air fresh.
But another friend told me that my grieving for my mother was “taking a long time.” What is a long time?” I asked. “It’s not as if I’m blubbering into a drink somewhere, or crying constantly.” How does one judge a long time?
There’s no way to accurately judge another person’s process and whether it is fast or slow or too much or too little. Grief is different for each person for different reasons. Losses vary, but grief is grief and to be honored, made peace with, not ignored, pushed away, or judged. Losing a job, losing a spouse, losing an animal, infertility, loss of health, loss of a parent, loss of a child, loss of a favorite pen. There are innumerable losses with which we must contend.
Another friend told me I had buckets of grief. And I wanted to say, “And?” Ummm, yes, actually I do. Loss of a father, incest, death of friends at a young age, infertility, divorce, etc. But who is it that determines whether or not a person has buckets or a thimbleful and who cares which it is. What is important is empathy and compassion for our individual journeys.
My experience of losing my mother touched me in deep places. Our relationship, while not always easy, was remarkable. She was not on a pedestal, but touched my life in profound ways. We shared a bond that was sometimes codependent, sometimes annoying, and sometimes agonizingly difficult.
But then there was love.
I chafed and complained openly about how hard it was. I was heartbreakingly honest. But I am moved to think about her and her unconditional love and her stubbornness and her telling me that “it will all work out” and her challenging presence in my life.
I miss her deeply. I am sad. I am relieved. I am mixed. I offer no apology.