Grief. Just when you think you understand it, can recognize it, cope with it. It changes.
As I write this, it’s been roughly 10 months since I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer.
She was young, she was beautiful, she was vibrant, she was extremely talented, completely hilarious, wonderfully ridiculous, fully alive.
Then quite suddenly she was gone.
6 months after she began to feel ill. 6 weeks after diagnosis.
Needless to say this left me reeling. Since losing her I have been on a spiritual and emotional journey.
These are the stages of my grief:
This for me, in many ways, is the worst part. I close my eyes at night trying to fall asleep, or I let my mind wander during the day for a moment and what do I see? Images of my mother in her last days. I’m bombarded with memories of what this brutal cancer did to her body. Watching her struggle with the pain, watching her deteriorate.
This is different for those who lose someone suddenly, but still there is that trauma you experience when you see the lifeless body of someone who meant more to you than you can ever express. This experience leaves it’s mark in your heart and your mind.
Almost as bad as the haunting. I would say to myself: “Okay your mother is no longer living” and wait for my brain to tell me what that really means, for my heart to tell me how I should feel about this. I’d try again, “Michelle! YOUR MOTHER HAS DIED!” Okay….but,what does this MEAN?
What happened is too large for my brain to process. I just can’t seem to fully comprehend the meaning of it. And it leaves me feeling…numb.
*The Pity Party*
Why? Why do other people get to keep their mothers? My mother was so young, we should have had so much time left to enjoy together. We were just entering a different phase of our relationship. One that an adult who is now a mother has with her mother. She adored her grandchildren so much and gave them such joy with her silly songs, hilarious stories…her essence. They miss her so. Why! Why can’t they have her?! Why her?
It’s just unfair!!!! -Said everyone who lost anyone, ever.
True heartache. How can you miss someone in so many different ways? I wouldn’t ever be able to understand it until I lived it. I miss everything about her. I miss the voice mails she would leave me. I miss the way she would worry about me. I miss how much she loved me, and I how I lived with that love every single day without even thinking about it. There is just something about the love of a mother that can’t be described, but somehow carries you day to day.
I miss how she used to share all of the pics that I posted on Facebook, gushing over her grand kids. I miss the things she did that drove me nuts. I miss just knowing she was there…around, singing, laughing, living her life.
I miss her laughter which was so ridiculously addictive and hilarious, you didn’t need to know what the joke was. You just needed to hear her laugh and without a doubt, you’d be laughing too. I miss her quirky sayings, her insane sense of humor.
I miss the way she was so good at tolerating me and my many attitudes and moods. She knew me. She loved me. She loves me. She’s my mother.
I sometimes get mad at myself thinking that I didn’t appreciate her enough, I took her for granted, took her love for granted.
The truth is for those in your life that you love with all your heart, you always take them for granted. You don’t live your life thinking every second of how grateful you are for that person. You just live in that love, and aside from returning that love, that’s all you are supposed to do.
I long for her, and sometimes the depth of that longing takes my breath away.
It’s sinister and selfish. It’s debilitating. Cancer was not a part of my world, and not a significant part of my family history. Now I lost my mother to an aggressive cancer, and she was only 51. What does this mean for me, what does this mean for my children?! Am I doomed?
Understand that I’m used to grandparents and great grandparents getting old, longevity was just something I was used too. I definitely struggle with anxiety. I have since I was young, but worrying about an illness like this wasn’t on my radar. I worried about accidents, worried about my kids obsessively but this…this took me to a whole new place of anxiety and despair.
I won’t even go into the specifics about cancer and genetics. Yes, family history is important. Yes, eating well, being fit, and emotionally well are even more important. Yes, I’m doing all I can to ensure that myself and my children are healthy.
But that isn’t really the point.
*The Truth that lead to Peace*
The Worry was just a shallow manifestation of what was really bothering me. When my mother died at age 51, it made me feel like I could not possibly live to be old. And beyond that I didn’t understand how I could deserve to be old when she didn’t. The obsessing about my chances of getting cancer, was just a symptom of these deeper feelings.
I prayed to God, tons of family and friends prayed to God on her behalf. People were begging God for her healing, but she still died. She was good, so good. She was kind, she had a pure and genuine heart. Why should I live a long and full life if she couldn’t, why would God grant me this but not her?!
I won’t ever know why she died at this age in this way, at least not in this life. Why do sweet innocent babies and children suffer and die? God has the answers, not me, and I’m comfortable with that.
I understand that dying seems like the worst possible thing…to the living. I also fully accept that quite often things are not as they seem, and that we can’t rely on what we experience here in the physical world.
All that being said, I had to get to the place where I understood that my destiny here in this world is my own, not tied to my mother’s earthly destiny. This is my life, my own separate story. I have no idea how it will end, but I do all I can to make it beautiful. I trust in God fully, giving up control. Understanding that I never really had it to begin with.
With the awareness and acceptance that I am not in control, came a beautiful peace.
Now I can take charge of what I can control, living the best possible life. Living in fear and despair honors nothing, and begets nothing but toxicity. When I live my life fully, and happily, I honor myself. I honor my mother. I honor God.
After journeying through each of these phases, The Haunting, The confusion, and The worry are fading away. I was able to get to the other side of The Pity Party. I was able to see all of my blessings even through the pain. Instead of lamenting about the fact that I lost her at what I felt like was a young age, I became so grateful for all the time that I did have with my beautiful mother!
It was a gift that I had her all throughout my childhood. A gift that she was here for me as I grew into a young woman. A gift that she was here to witness me meet and marry the love of my life, that she was able to know and love him too. It was a gift that she was here for the birth of each of her grandchildren, here long enough for them to know and love their grandma.
For all of this, I am so incredibly thankful. No matter when you lose someone, or how long you had them, the time you did have with them was a blessing and a gift that should always be cherished.
The Longing on the other hand, is here to stay. But grief looks different to me now.
Grief looks necessary. Grief feels like an expression of all the love I have for my mother. Grief will be here for the rest of my life. I’ve decided to make friends with it now that we have an understanding. I will allow myself to feel this Grief, and it will not take over my life. In fact it grows a little bit calmer, a little more reasonable with each passing day. I have even begun to welcome it. It feels intrinsically right, to grieve the loss of my mother and feel the depth of my longing for her, the loss of someone so unbelievably special.
It’s also been a comfort for me to remember that I won’t be here forever either. That’s just not the grand design. I know in my heart that one day I will join my mother beyond the veil.
We are here for a time, and then we move on.
While you are here, cherish your time. Cherish your loves. Cherish your life.