What would I tell myself if I could speak to the August 10th, 2012 version of me?
I don’t think I’d say anything yet. I’d write a letter and tell myself to give it a couple weeks to open it. And then….
(Note, this is only what I would tell ME. It may not apply to you. We live individually. We grieve individually.)
Grief isn’t one singular emotion. It’s not like sadness or fear, one way to feel until the next feeling sweeps in. It’s all emotions and the lack of emotion. It can be surprise and anger and love and pain all at once. And sometimes just nothing, drab and empty. And along those lines, you don’t grieve by simply feeling sad. You grieve by feeling and doing things. You can grieve by crying or screaming or staring or humming or swaying or running or loving or shopping. It’s whatever you’re feeling and doing at the time. There is no standard way to feel or way to respond. It will be what it will be. Accept whatever comes.
You won’t forget her voice. I know you’re afraid you will, but you won’t.
You won’t stop loving her. You will continue to love her each and every day, intensely. And you will still feel loved by her.
You will think about her every day. You will miss her every day. This will not kill you. You will get used to it.
The obsession over the final days will fade. The regrets, the flashbacks, the what-ifs. You’ll be able to summon them, but it will take effort. They won’t haunt you forever. They will be replaced by an appreciation for the whole of her life, the story from beginning to end, and a desire to make the most of your own story.
Some days you will be surprised by how good you feel. Some days you will barely be able to function. And there will be no rhyme nor reason to this.
In the beginning, you may feel like a ghost, not entirely part of the living world. You will still be expected to function like anyone else. You will wonder if people can tell. They can’t. You will wonder how the rest of the world is still going on as if nothing has happened. This is normal. Disbelief, frustration, jealousy, isolation… these are all normal.
Self-checkout is your friend. You don’t always have to make eye contact with people.
You will grieve more as a mother than as a child. You will try to keep her memory alive by talking about how amazing she was with your kids, but you won’t want to make them feel too sad and left out because they didn’t get to have this remarkable person in their lives. Trying to find the right balance is rough, if not impossible. This is the part that will hurt the most.
Be kind to yourself. The burden is real. Give yourself credit for getting through the day.
Keep talking about her. Even if no one wants to listen. And keep talking to her. Even if she doesn’t talk back. She usually will. You will almost always know exactly what she would say.
It’s okay to feel like a lost child. You were always her baby. We are all our mother’s babies. Even when we’re old and gray.
There are some good things about it, and don’t feel guilty for acknowledging them. She was always beautiful. She never had to mourn the loss of her husband or child. She didn’t have to deal with that week-long power outage last winter. She missed many world atrocities. She died under a democratic president.
Don’t feel guilty, period. Just don’t. It serves no purpose. Not even as a lesson to do better in the future. Because if you beat yourself up too many times, you won’t do better no matter what, because you will feel incapable.
It’s okay. It’s not great, but it’s okay.