It’s been 11 months since I lost my mum, officially anyway. Although I never really would have labelled myself as grieving, I do feel now like I finally have little pieces of clarity appearing in my life. I had never really thought about grief, what it was or how it affects you. Sure, people had died, great Aunts and Uncles, great Grandparents. Pets had died. Even kids at school. It had never really affected me. I started to think I was just kind of a realist when it came to death and never gave it another thought.
My Pap (grandad) died in February last year. Almost exactly a year ago in fact. He was a wonderful man and we had a wonderful relationship. I have the fondest memories of spending weekends with my Nan and Pap. Long summer evenings too. We were always so busy, building, growing, planting, creating. They were the first people to teach me to sew. I always imagined losing him would be heartbreaking. Then the day came. The news came via text (as is reality in a transatlantic life). I was working as a server. Quick phone call to my mum, a handful of tears, and I carried on with my shift.
Again, is this what grief is? Is this just how I grieve?
Now, god bless my Pap, but the weekend before he left us he had told my mum that he was done, he’d had a great life and he was ready for whatever was next. “I’ll be waiting for you”, he told her. Underneath however we feel, is a layer of uncertainty about life after death. My mum felt it for sure. She was religious for some of her life, fell out of it for many years and seemingly back in right at the end. Knowing her dad would greet her wherever they would now be was the strength (yes, strength) she needed to finally give up the fight. So, she did. 8 short weeks later, she passed away too.
I choose the word strength specifically. The emotional and mental strength to allow yourself the freedom that will be found in death is immense. Some people very close to me have struggled with this. Like, why give up? Didn’t she want more? I applaud my mum for every step of her journey. She fought when she felt she could and she stopped fighting when she felt it was no longer worth it. I am proud of her. For choosing her own path, for allowing herself the space to believe and for letting her body rest at the end. Although losing her has affected me more than anything else in my life, it was not my fight.
It was only then that I started to understand grief. Truly and deeply. Grief, for me, is the absence of something so necessary you’re not sure what to do with yourself.
Grief is looking at the same life you saw yesterday and seeing a whole new perspective. Grief is a confrontation of how you live, how you want to live and how that affects those around you. Grief highlights the cruelty of the world. If losing my mum taught me one thing, it is to be kind. The world has enough of most things, more than enough in fact, but the world can never ever have too many people who are kind.
Each day that has passed I strive to be kinder, to understand another’s perspective and truly put myself in their shoes. Grief has told me to slow down, hear the birds, listen to the waves, taste the wine and savor that smile just a moment longer. To surround yourself with people you want to be more like, not with people more like you. Grief is a haze of new perspective veiled in heartbreak. The past few weeks have brought an unexpected glimpse of clarity. Situations have finally made sense, relationships have been heightened. I’m noticing, truly noticing my surroundings, the good and bad. It’s strange. I didn’t realize I’d been living in this fog until it cleared. I didn’t understand how grief had affected me until almost a year after the fact.
The journey isn’t over. Grieving my mum is going to continue to be part of my existence and I don’t know for how long.
Grief has taught me to analyze who I am, where I am going. Most importantly it is teaching me that sometimes being a little less like you is totally okay.