Posts tagged ‘Grief’
When you’ve lost your first love, your biggest fan, your highest image of womanhood, Mother’s Day is never the same again. A day set aside to express gratitude to her becomes a day of grief.
I really hated Mother’s Day the first few years. I faced Mother’s Day’s Most Difficult Moment if I did not skip church, where the pastor asked mothers to stand to be honored. It was salt in the wound as those who did not know me in our large congregation assumed I was a mother. So sometimes I skipped the whole ordeal and slept in.
Having avoided that grief trigger one year, I drove for an afternoon treat only to be confronted with the ice cream store manager suggesting I put “Mom” on the personal-sized cake I selected. I wanted to put a pie in his face.
Letting go. The term and its derivatives come up frequently in grief circles. I detest them. I cringe when I hear them used.
It’s typically thrust at us, as in, “You need to let go” or if you do this or that “then you will let go.” Or we ourselves decide our healing is in “letting go,” thus we strive to stop crying, or obsessing, or feeling. Or we strive to release a loved one’s clothing. Or their car. Or their home.
It seems so long ago that I sold the house where I grew up, the place where my parents died. I suppose that means my life has been filled with other pursuits for a year, but do not assume I did not miss the place. In fact, I’ve grieved letting it go. You can learn more about surviving this process in Letting Go of Where You Grew Up
How should we respond when well-meaning people say things that injury us? Has anyone ever delivered any of these platitudes, clichés or other expressions meant to comfort you as a griever?
“I know how you feel.”
“Time heals all wounds.”
“God must have needed her more.”
“You can have more children.”
“She’s in a better place.”
What is the impact of prolonged illness on grief? Does it give us time to get used to the idea of death? Does the anticipation in some way lessen the sting of loss?
I think on these questions as we mark Parkinson’s Awareness Week and World Parkinson’s Day, April 10th on the 2019 calendar. My dad had Parkinson’s. His symptoms began in the late 1990s, but doctors initially believed mini-strokes caused his shuffled gait.
I remember the phone call. My mother was on the other end. A neurologist diagnosed Dad with Parkinson’s disease. The year was 2000. She sounded relieved. Almost happy. I understood why.
Grief isn’t simply a loss of what was. It also is a loss for what might have been if mother, father, husband, sister, brother, grandparent or friend had lived.
Because of this, life gives us endless opportunities to reflect on our loss. And yet, as I celebrated 10 years of marriage to my husband last week, I instead embraced a celebratory attitude.
In other words, I didn’t let what was not let ruin what was. I can’t say I’m always capable of doing that, but this time I really let my hair down, sort of speak. March 28th was a grand day.
Nonetheless, it was not without pause. Why? I mean, what does my wedding anniversary have to do with the loss of my parents? There again, grief’s complex nature lies in wait.
Why do we love sad movies? I’m no psychologist, but may I suggest that art helps us grieve. It helps us cope by showing us others grieve, maybe in a similar way as we have.
And they lived to write a screenplay about it. Or a book. Or paint on canvass. How? We see if portrayed on film and believe yes, we will survive, too.
While the connection between loss and art is not an original observation, I believe it’s worthy to remind ourselves that we sometimes leave a doorway to our emotions untapped.
What changes the course of our grief? What puts us on the path of healing? What quiets the raging questions, self-accusatory thoughts and pit-sinking sorrow?
May I suggest an “aha” moment – an epiphany. A sudden, transformative thought or realization that changes perspective and gives us release or relief – a piece of healing.
I call these events “revelations.” I journaled more than a half dozen of them related to the loss of my father and mother. Jane Williams, a clinical psychologist, calls them “aha!” moments.
Dr. Williams developed the Medical Crisis and Loss Clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, a couple of hours drive from my hometown, Memphis. She also is the author of Mysterious Moments: Thoughts that Transform Grief,” published in 2017. I read it earlier this year. I think so much of the book and its premise that I’ve put it in my “Recommended” page on my blog.
If there was a time I was stuck in my grief, it was the fall of 2013. In my frustration over lack of progress in multiple areas of my life, I berated myself with unkind thoughts.
I toiled with several simultaneous issues – career, illness, relationships, professional envy. If my self-esteem had been a liquid, it could have been measured in a test tube.
The project to clean out my parents’ home slowed even further as a deafening voice in my head reminded me how long Dad and Mom had been dead. Seven years. Four years.
I wrote in my journal, “Is the house holding me back?”
Have you ever looked at your grief, gauged the progression and come up short?