This is a tough week. And being no stranger to grief, loss and trauma, I’d like to offer a few words about what I’ve learned 2 years out after my ma’s untimely passing to cancer.
Every body moves through grief differently. And by body, I mean you will feel it to your core. You may be just a body for awhile. Learning to eat and sleep and walk and be again. Eventually there comes a time where you begin to feel better and this whole new process of grief begins, something I’ve been calling full circle grief. You wonder if your feeling better means you are forgetting her, if you are losing the lessons you learned from them. As grief for the person subsides, a space surprisingly emerges to grieve for yourself, the part of you that existed in relationship to them. There are still lessons to learn and now you teach them to yourself. You start taking in other people and their emotions again. Slowly filling up your life with the people still here and at peace with the fact that future memories to be had with that person are only to be imagined. When I catch her in the mirror looking back at me now, it’s not in pain or fear of our shared genes, but a sense of joy that she is still, in some ways, coming along for the ride.
I’ve always been one to be busy and at times, I’ve recognized, that its sole purpose was designed to distract me from how I was actually feeling. “Give me a project so I don’t have to contend with myself.” The anger you build up as a response to the things that feel unfair is just a secondary emotion to the pain you are actually feeling. If you don’t take the time to process what’s underneath the surface, let it go, you lose yourself and have to bargain it back.
My Ma’s death was unfair for sure. And gruesome, also for sure. But by being a witness, it beautifully pushed for a change in me to finally deal with a lot of crap I’d been covering up for a long time. I was never really a morning person but now I wake up early, in a terrific mood just because I can. And for that gift I am very grateful.
Thanks, Dawn. Remembering you this week is bittersweet.
Photo: the sky outside hospice that greeted me after it took her body at 7:10 AM on August 6th, 2016