This week has been a tough one—it’s been two years since my mother died. I can hardly believe it’s been that long already. I still miss her just as much as I did when she first died.
This week I’ve been watching the show After Life, Ricky Gervais so perfectly encapsulates what life after loss and grief is. It’s a raw, real, and at times frankly, a heartbreaking show. I’ve laughed until my sides hurt and cried until my eyes hurt over this show. Watching it without having lost a loved one may give you a slight insight into what it’s like.
I learned after my mother died, that life does indeed go on. Yet never in the same capacity it once did. What I have struggled to articulate to those around me is the difference between coping and moving on. Grief will always be a part of me now, sometimes I feel nothing and other times I feel EVERYTHING. Coping means I get through each day and I smile, I laugh, I enjoy myself, but there will always be a nagging thought in the back of my mind, she isn’t here anymore, and I want to share this moment with her.
Just because I look and act strong, does not mean I don’t have my moments of weakness.
My grief is not your excuse to be insensitive. My grief is not there for you to use in order to feel better about yourself. My grief is not selfish. My grief is losing my mother at 21, my grief is never getting to hug her or hear her laugh again. My grief is having children she will never meet.
My grief is not your grief. Please do not tell me how to grieve. Please do not minimize my grief to make yourself feel better. Please do not tell me to cheer up or that things will get better, cheer up is not an appropriate response to someone who is grieving. Do not put your happiness on me. Do not tell me you’re glad I am doing OK. Do not tell me I am strong—life is still very much a tornado of emotions, you see what you want to see.
For someone who has a lost loved one, grief isn’t just sadness about them being gone. It’s a whole mountain, with each rock on the path being a new experience without them. It’s an ocean, each wave crashing with a new emotion. It’s waking up and putting one foot in front of another each day in order to face the loss head-on.
When you lose a loved one, you grieve for the experiences you have had, but you also grieve for the experiences you are yet to have.
There are days I physically and mentally cannot get out of bed because I don’t have the energy or the willpower because my grief is so painful and overwhelming. Days I am irritated and sad about everything, angry I don’t get my mama in my life anymore.
If I tell you I am struggling, do not shut me down, do not slap me away; instead, ask how you can help or better yet, tell me you are here for me when I am ready to talk. I cannot stress enough how lonely grief feels, but when I’m in the deepest, darkest waters of grief, I can’t always pick my own head up or tell you what I need.
I am thankful for the people in my life who anticipate my needs.
For best friends that show up at my door and help me clean my house when I am sad and have no energy (Kristin, you’re an angel), for friends who listen to me when I am sad and anxious, for family who understand my pain and anguish and know what to say. Without them, I would be pretty lost trying to navigate the oceans of grief.
Be kind, to yourself and others. Most of all, be smart, just because cheering up might help you when you’re sad, doesn’t mean it will help me. My sadness encompasses me sometimes, and the last thing I want to hear is “just try not to think about it” or “it gets better” or “time heals all wounds”. . . maybe it does, but I am not there yet and I won’t be for a long time. Grief isn’t that easy. I’m just here hoping and waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel, that’s all we can do in life, have hope.
This photo is of my last Mother’s Day with her. I will cherish this beach day memory for the rest of my life. And I would give anything to hug her again.
Previously published on the author’s blog