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The New Normal

2017-01-30 12.06.34

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.

2017-02-01 22.43.05

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.

2017-02-09 20.06.02

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.

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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.

2017-02-09 20.20.29

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  • JamieSplendry

    What a beautiful legacy your mom gave you and that you are passing to your children. I’ll continue to pray for comfort. Hugs to you.

  • Really, truly thinking of you and your family… the death of my dad more than five years ago was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. Give yourself time to grieve and be patient with yourself throughout the process… <3

  • Emily

    What a lovely post. I lost my dad four years ago, and it was a couple of months before I started to feel the heaviness lift. You are blessed to have the wonderful memories that you have with your mom. Many are not as lucky. I love what you said about your children having this blog as kind of a document of life. But they also have you! All of those little things that seem to mean nothing will one day be a memory that brings them great happiness in their time of grief. I certainly remember the big things that I did with my dad, but it’s the small things that bring me to my knees with both tears and laughter.

    Oh, and I so know what you mean about people’s responses. I had someone tell me to just be thankful for the time I had with him (**tch). When my best friend’s dad died two years after mine, she apologized to me for not understanding the pain. It’s a blessing that God doesn’t tell us what it’s going to be like, I guess.

  • Adriele Dixon

    My heart aches for you. I will continue to say prayers for you and I asked my friends to keep you in their prayers as well. Honestly, if you want to, wear black. Cry in the backseat of the car. Weep on the floor of your childhood bedroom. Take the time to mourn. Ignore the stupid comments from other people. Your posts are a blessing to people everywhere and I have always been struck with your authenticity as you discuss hard issues with family and your personal life. Thank you for being strong enough to share what others wouldn’t. Thank you for your faith and honesty, Rachel.

  • We lost our dog of eight years at the end of December and it’s made me afraid of the day I lose my parents. Because, if the sadness I feel with my dog’s passing hurts this badly, how can I possibly handle their death one day? Despite my faith in God, the thought is still quite crippling. I don’t know if my heart can handle it. As soon I read about your mom, I couldn’t help but cry for you. I’m so very sorry, Rachel. I can’t possibly fathom how you’re navigating this big change, but I truly appreciate your honesty and grace. While I remain in the category of those who don’t truly “get it”, I hope you know you are in my prayers and in my heart. Let yourself feel all the feelings and grieve as necessary. We’re here for you.

    • I’ve decided that when we love big, we hurt big. It’s so hard. Thank you so much for your love and prayers. xoxoxo

  • Janelle Taylor Hunt

    This is so beautifully said, Rachel. Grieving is so tender, so personal, so overwhelming. Your tears are precious to our Savior. Praying for you.

  • Cathy

    You are so right. You are different now and adjusting to a new normal is hard. Nine years ago, my husband passed away suddenly and I still get ambushed. Sometimes it’s a smell, sometimes it’s a song – it can be anything. But God is good and my life is good!
    Be patient with yourself. Time does not heal all wounds but it does make the wounds less painful.

    • Oh man. I cannot imagine the horror of a sudden loss like that. You’re absolutely right – smell is such a trigger!

  • Bridget Wall

    <3

  • Rachelle Tucker

    so beautifully written. after losing my pawpaw 5 months ago I still have those days/moments when i feel like the grief is going to literally swallow me whole. just yesterday a bag of pecans had me bawling..and that was my grandpa, not my momma. my heart aches for you. you have been in my prayers and thoughts. praying that each day the joy is a little more and the grief a little less then the day before. love you.

  • Sasha Price

    I lost my Mother quite unexpectedly in 2011, and yes, you never get over it. She also suffered from bouts of depression, and I, like you, spent a lot of years making sure I never showed any signs of the same. But, grief is hard. I had no idea what to do with myself, and often found I could only sit down right where I was and talk out loud to Jesus. Just very real, very raw talks with the only thing that still felt steady. And He didn’t disappoint. He drew quite close to me, and, I believe, gently guided me to being a little better, more compassionate, than I was before the loss. I pray that you also feel Him draw very near in this season of your life.

    • Love this frank and honest comment. Thank you for sharing your heart. You’re right – He doesn’t disappoint in our need, does He? xoxo.

  • TheNewDiplomatsWife

    Thinking of you….