More thoughts about the grief journey

Support is invaluable, but walking this road is still a solitary journey

It’s been four weeks ago today that my mom passed away.

In some ways, it seems like much longer but in other ways, it feels like it was just days ago. It feels unreal at times – like I should be able to pick up the phone and give her a call to see how she is doing.

But that’s all gone now, and these days, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other and trying to move forward and imagine my life without someone who was so very central to it.

It’s also about redefining, in a sense, my days.

My mom was, particularly in the last several years of her life, almost always central to my thoughts, to my concerns, to my worries. I miss her terribly and am finding the grief journey to not only be of course painful but also to be strewn with all kinds of misconceptions.

But the biggest thing I’ve noticed is society’s – albeit unsaid – impatience with grief.

I get the impression it would be good to pack up the experience and move on. Interestingly, I think I’m the biggest culprit of all behind this flawed thinking.

It’s strange how I seem to be continually surprised at the intensity of my grief.

I’ll say or think things like, ‘I can’t believe what a hard day today was’ or, ‘Gosh, what a difficult morning’ or other things like that.

It’s as though we imagine our normal ‘default setting’ to be at ‘happy’ and any other type of feeling – even normal ones like those that come with grief – to be foreign and that they should be seen as such and swept aside as soon as possible.

I’m learning that grief is a part of our experience – there is no rushing it. There is no side-stepping it. You have to walk through it. If you need to cry, then cry. If you feel sorrow, then feel sorrow. It won’t be hurried as much as we may try to ‘hurry’ it along.

I also think we tend to downplay our feelings. I hear myself say to people, ‘Well, she was 86 – I guess I should be grateful I had her so long. Think of being 15 and losing your mom. Wouldn’t that be dreadful?’

Well, I’m sure it would be dreadful.

But why look at it that way? When we make comments like that about our own experience, we are minimizing our own pain. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent at 15 because that didn’t happen to me. I lost my dad at 27 and my mom when I was 50. I’m not sure age has a whole lot to do with how a person feels in the wake of loss – period.

As the actor playing C.S. Lewis said in the film Shadowlands following the death of his wife, when his friends were tossing various ‘comforting’ platitudes his way, “It’s simply a bloody awful mess and that’s all there is to it.”

As much as we try to minimize the brutality of death and grieving, it’s still a part of our lives. It happens to all of us sooner or later.

People can try to comfort us with statements like, ‘Well, at least she’s not suffering anymore. She’s in heaven. She’s happy’.

When I hear things like this, they doesn’t really help me even though I do personally believe them.

Right now, I have to mourn my loss – and it’s a huge, almost unimaginable loss.

I would also say that the most comforting things to me these days are my own Christian faith, my friends who’ve been nothing but amazing and my wonderful family of course.

But at the end of the day, grief is a solitary road.

No one experienced the same relationship you did with your loved one. No one will grieve the way you do.

I’ve talked to a lot of people over the past month and realized how individualized the grieving experience really is. Some people weren’t close to their late parents. All of these very personal experiences ‘seep’ into how we react when someone dies.

For me, my mom was beyond special.

I can’t really put into words how much she meant to me.

Mom’s whole life was built around her Christian faith, and I have found that I want to grow stronger in my own faith as well. I want to honour her in that way.

She was also a great friend, and I have found a renewed desire to reach out more.

Mom left me a legacy of love. I have never known such care. And I want to walk for the rest of my days with that legacy firmly in view as inspiration for the days ahead.

Another thing that comforts me these days is when someone else’s need is presented to me and I can help them in some way, maybe through conversation of even through prayer. Those simple acts of service would have made mom happy.

Ultimately, life is a tapestry of love, pain, joy, peace, unrest, feelings of hopelessness and then one day, feeling hopeful again.

What we need to do is to accept it all with a firm grip on the things that really matter.

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