As I continue to move through this process of grieving the loss of my mother now more than ever the arts (journaling, art, decorating, listening to my favorite music) have all been the best therapy of sorts. For honesty sake, I have neglected to return phone calls to others or even answer them. I cannot explain it but sometimes just the mere idea of having to explain myself or discuss how I am feeling on a particular day is too much for me. It came to my mind a few weeks ago to create a blog post on what I’ve recognized from duo perspectives on grief. This post has taken almost two months to complete in between feeling too weak and having some strength to discuss it.
I have in almost every situation been the person coming to the aid of someone else grieving never on the receiving end of the grief. When I was on the receiving end it was either someone I had no deep connection to, was out of communication with for too long a period of time, or too young to know or remember. What I can tell you is obviously being on the receiving end of grief sucks, but there are some things I’ve realized that may be helpful for others either on the receiving end or attempting to help someone through grief.
When I was going through the tale-end of my mother’s illness that ultimately lead to her passing I had a world of tangible support. Some of the time others invested in making phone calls, making visits, meeting me at the hospital and letting me know they were praying was simply unbelievable. The day of and two weeks to follow her passing I had that same consistent support coupled with random others giving their time, money, sympathies, and shared experiences hoping to hopefully assist and prepare me for the unpreparable GRIEF to follow.
I find that grieving my mother has been relatable to a horrible breakup on steroids coupled with cramps and a constant empty feeling and pain in my own heart. Nothing has been able to subdue this pain but time and emotional purging. My journaling and blogging have also been quite cathartic as well. Colors weren’t as bright, things I found once enjoyable were boring, my food wasn’t as tasty, shopping bored me (which I thought never could happen), attitudes and the inconsistencies of others were magnified, and it appeared everyone’s joy was multiplied in my face. On top of all that, I lost fifteen pounds and gained back twenty. I took my time and essentially floated through these last four months of my life. I’ve been late to meetings, forgetful, I moved at my own pace, I answered every question with the same “ok” in a monotone voice.
I was told that my husband would be my source of strength and comfort and to allow him to do so. Man, was Jesus right, I should listen to Him more often, right? (laughs) Seriously speaking I heard a lot of things and wasn’t able to hold fast to any of them. My husband has provided many late night hugs when I thought I’d simply die of the gut-wrenching pain of losing my mother. Many times I attempted to call friends or family but I couldn’t bare to share my grief and inundate them with my tears, snot-nosed cries in-between my shrieks of anger and unanswerable questions. Oddly enough one of my dearest friends lost her mother about 3 years ago and I attempted to be there for her until I could no longer offer the same amount of support as I too grieved her mother’s passing in such a real way. I think back to that now as I too realize what it must have been like for her and trying to determine when it became clear to me that my level of availability unfortunately changed. I often compare and contrast the similarities and differences looking for some connection and solace.
I then began to realize that no matter what others said or thought my grieving is exactly that, MINE. You don’t schedule grief, you don’t pencil in your availability to the waves of emotion that all of the sudden overtake you with no notice. It just happens. I recall saying to my aunt, “I’ve had 5 good days.” Later my five good days would turn into nine good days and I thought I was flying high until day ten ripped me apart and made me feel like my progress down grief’s road was circular. A few weeks ago I was visiting a church and some unrelated pictures of children flashed on a screen, something I saw made me emotional and somehow connected to a memory of my mother that I couldn’t identify now if I tried. I went to the bathroom rushing to not feel embarrassed as tears streamed my face. I sat in the congregation alone listening to the praise team sing where my husband was also located. After returning from what I thought was a successful secret meltdown, the tears would soon begin again and I had to have my husband rush me home. Talk about embarrassing!
Every Sunday I attend church two pews away from where her pictures rested upon a table during her memorial and each time I think I will break down just at the memory of seeing them there and don’t somehow. I scroll through my pictures on my cell looking for images for various social media updates and see my mom’s face in a collage I’ve created and it makes me smile. However, at night I recall the last days I spent with her in the hospital and the images are more vivid than HD television screens. I see everything she endured, I think about her life and how seemingly she suffered through more than she should have even before I was a consideration or a cell in her stomach and my heart aches for the things which she experienced without a choice. I think about my daughter who has begun to show that she misses her dear Bubie (Jewish for grandma) and how she holds this tiny bear so tightly every night after she smells it for my mother’s scent that’s long faded and I continue to secretly spray it with my mom’s old bottle of perfume.
What has helped me?
- Prayer from others
- A midnight crying session with my aunt
- A boat ride with my Dad, sister, munchkin, and husband
- Reading simple I love you text messages from family and friends or others I would have never thought I’d receive
- A weekly Sunday “keep your head up” text from my mother’s best friend.
- Advice on dealing with my mother’s things and ashes from my aunt and her other dear friend who too has experienced grief.
- My aunt taking my munchkin for the weekend a few weekends in a row.
- Worrying about my brother so I didn’t have to worry about myself.
- Crying whenever and wherever I needed to.
- A humungous bowl of fruit salad that a coworker gave my family so we could snack and not have to cook.
- Sad or melancholy playlists on YouTube.
- Not having to repeat what I’ve said when talking to others.
- Feeling understood
- Immersing myself in my writings or other creative endeavors.
- Eating whatever I wanted including chocolate for breakfast and chips for dinner.
- Going to my mother’s apartment.
What did I want from others?
- Text messages and no phone calls
- Impromptu visits
- No one making me feel guilty for anything.
- For others to keep their word on meeting me or coming to visit.
- To be seen.
- Long hugs when I initiated them.
- Condolences from anyone I’ve ever known in any capacity as losing a parent is no joke and I think deserves acknowledgment.
- To only do things I enjoy and if they become unenjoyable at any given time discontinue doing them.
Is this too much to want? I’m not sure but if I’m honest with myself I’d say since I’m the one grieving I shouldn’t have to worry about that.
What I didn’t want from others?
- Smothering hugs when I was having a good day.
- Phone calls when I texted or reply texts when I called.
- To be forgotten about
- People to be afraid to talk about their problems with me because I was grieving.
- To listen to complaining
- To see people mistreat their parents.
- To have to do too much of anything.
- To feel others distancing themselves.
- To explain myself
What I’ve learned?
- You cannot expect others to do what you would or think they should, even when you would think they know to do so.
- You cannot hold others to your own expectations of sympathy they may just shock you. I’ve experienced so many random acts of kindness from people I don’t have an established relationships with.
- Don’t feel guilty for how you express or don’t express your grief.
- Take your time and don’t feel guilty to moving as slowly as you need to.
- Just when you think you’ve got a handle on grief it is then you probably will find out otherwise.
- If people allow you to do the ugly, snot-nose, random cry they earn 1000 lifetime cool points. 2000 if they actually touch you.
- Daily Oreo shakes from Potbelly’s are delicious.
- Cherish others and tell them how you feel when the moment hits you, even if that means saying thank you a million and one times.
- Be reminded you will have the opportunity to offer help to someone else grieving don’t forget what it was like for you.
- If you cherish your family and forgive them it will make spending their last days with them easier due to having some beautiful memories among all the sad ones.
- Be honest even if that means being blunt, you can always apologize when you are grieving but when your just a blunt individual all the time there’s another term for you.
- Find something that is cathartic for you to focus your attention to it will bring peace during the length of your grieving season.
- There will be days you are just plain angry. Sorry.
Hopefully this helps someone, it was definitely freeing for me to express it.