Unlike most people, I don’t associate black as a color with the idea of death. When I think of death, I think of white.
White like the color of my mother’s fingertips the day we were driving back home from the hospital. Although her doctor wanted to talk to me that day, I never went to have that conversation. Because I knew. Both my mother and I knew.
I don’t know how I managed to get lost on the way home, but I ended up on a completely unknown route. It was like the universe was sending us on this new path, allowing us to admire a very beautiful autumn landscape, driving through a forest that, with all its shades of yellow and brown, was getting ready for the burial of winter.
Sometimes I wonder if this memory is even true or if my mind made it up as a metaphor for the first time I was faced with the certainty that it was the final season for my mother. She died just a few months after that . . . right when spring was starting. She signed me over to the blooming trees, leaving me to learn all over, by myself, how to travel through the cycles of nature and cycles of life—motherless.
Motherless should be the word that describes the state of permanent and irreparable impairment after losing your mother. The state of never being whole again and never fully healed.
Grieving is a nonlinear process. It involves dancing back and forth, leaving some days like nothing happened then abruptly finding yourself agonizing over a pain that cannot be put in words.
Often, losing your mother (more than other types of loss) has a strong somatic layer. It is not just the mind and not just the soul that feel the pain. It is also the body. It is like the fibers of your body are damaged, and the body has a loud cry that can be heard in all sorts of symptoms.
A beautiful girl once walked into my practice sent by a cardiologist. Her diagnosis was “Broken Heart Syndrome.” There was nothing wrong with her heart from a medical perspective, but the pain her heart was carrying was so substantial that it was manifesting visibly. And it all started after her mother died. A large majority of people are nowadays being diagnosed with this syndrome after a sudden and acute stress and very often, after losing someone.
Grief can have that impact. It tears you to pieces—some of those pieces just die and some carry on.
But I also discovered in time that the parts of me that survived are in a way stronger and more perceptive. I am now able to see beyond appearances better, perhaps a little less superficial and more in touch with my need for purpose.
Now I am trying to honor my mother as a human being and her passing existence by cherishing all that creates life, recognizing her in everything that blooms and dies.