The New Normal
I’ve lived my whole 35 1/2 years with my mother but now I have been without my mom now for almost two weeks which is every bit as awful as one might imagine. And it’s been the longest season of my life, this weird place where I’m stepping blindly, poking at everything under the brush with a stick as I go. Sorting through feelings, memories, grief, and the like. The funeral was lovely and we were honored by everyone who came, sent flowers, showered us with food and cards and love and hugs. And there was something weirdly final about watching her glossy white casket laid into the ground. We went home to their house afterwards, where my four other aunts (Mom’s sisters) kept catching my eye. “Is that Mom?” my brain kept asking. “Isn’t that her?” No. That’s one of her lookalike sisters.
The following week, Dad wanted us to clean out Mom’s closet, so my sister and I did, carefully folding and sorting through her things. But I couldn’t bear to get rid of everything or donate things just yet. So we put everything into the back of my car, where it’s still currently residing. I thought I was ok with it all, and then that evening I opened the backseat of the car door to get something out and it hit me. Her. The smell of her laundry. Mom. I crumpled into the backseat of the car into her clothes and I sobbed, closing the door behind me. I don’t know how long I laid there but it felt like forever, like I would never stop sobbing.
So that’s what Now looks like. It looks like sobbing in the shower, allowing the water to rush over my head like some kind of visual representation of what my insides feel like. It’s laying on her side of the bed and inhaling her pillow like a drug. It looks like laying on the green carpet in my childhood bedroom closet, surrounded by my prom dresses and old high school notebooks, tucked into a ball as I let the grief swallow me whole. And in many ways it is very much like that old hymn, describing grief as “when sorrow like sea billows roll.”
There is comfort in allowing myself to feel the sadness, its weight ever present on my shoulders and in my core. A perpetual optimistic personality and naturally cheerful, I’ve feared Sadness for much of my life. Depression was something I saw in my mother and it scared me but when reading more about grief it was reassuring not only to remember that the physical pain of grieving my Grandmother years ago did pass eventually, as well as the encouragement(?) that grief is not necessarily depression. So I’m giving myself permission to grieve, mourn, wail, and sob.
In my mind, I’ve (perhaps unfairly) categorized people as Those Who Get it and Those Who Don’t. Much like with my many miscarriages, the idiotic statements that people make (not so much from wanting to be hurtful as much as from ignorance) have already come out of the woodwork. Once when I miscarried, a girl told me point blank that maybe now I could get some organizing in my house done since I didn’t have a baby to prepare for. Yes, I thought in my head, I’m sure that’s why my baby died. So I could finally get those closets cleaned out. And we all know that culturally we aren’t really given permission to mourn. Death is this uncomfortable place that surely happens to Other People. I find myself raging on the inside to others who blithely mention that they’ve never lost anyone in their life yet. Oh really, I think. Just you wait. Also, shut up. In many ways I wish that we could go back to mourning clothes, like Civil War widows. To give others the visual reminder that “I am hurting” and thus, treat me gingerly, carefully.
However. I’m reminded that through all this pain and suffering, I am teaching my children something and the importance of leaving a legacy for them. All these posts I’ve written through the years (and I’m not talking about the fluffy ones)? These are my life’s great work, telling our stories and reminding my children of God’s goodness to us. The highs and the lows, the valley of the shadow of death, the mountaintop of seeing His blessings. Through it all, I find God’s grace, mercy and love despite our Great Loss. I am thankful for the hope that my faith brings me, which is not to say that I don’t feel angry or sad. Even Jesus wept at the loss of his dear friend Lazarus (although Jesus wins in this scenario because of that whole resurrecting from the dead thing. I do wish that I could summon back my Mom, Lazarus-style). I am reminded of What Truly Matters: the love of my family, the love of my friends. Loving and serving others because He first loved us.
We carry on.
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