Five Things I’ve Learned About Grief

When I turned my phone back on again this morning (I had turned it off the prior evening, a rarity) there were some messages and one voicemail awaiting me.

The voicemail was from my boyfriend, calling to say goodnight. He sounded a bit worried but I had forwarned him that I was checking out for the evening. I seriously needed to be alone and just let everything go for a nice chunk of time.

It felt good to have no more fucks to give for a change of pace, an exceptionally freeing and guiltless act of self-care.

There was a message from one of my cousins, sending love and encouragement for the hard day ahead. Another message from my friend Cheryl, sending the same kind of thoughts.

I sent them both a heart emoji because that’s all I had in me to do.

My aunt had texted me “Morning Merry! Call me when you can.”

Since we don’t talk often, once I had woken up enough to think straight(ish) I found her number in my contacts and dialed her. She didn’t answer so I left a message.

She called back a few minutes later.

“I must have been in the bathroom, sorry!”

We discussed my mom, of course. An entire year now. We both agreed that it had gone so fast.

There were tears, a couple of laughs, many shared memories of her, several personal thoughts and then a rant about our annoyance with the cemetery, which throws everything that we bring to the grave away once a week.

I usually stick with plastic dollar store flowers. Some of them are really pretty.


I’ve lost my fair share of loved ones over the years. I’m not a newbie at this.

Yet my mom dying has been absolutely the most difficult death to accept and move forward with.

I’ve been as proactive as I could within the last year…attending a grief group, finding a new therapist that I really like, seeing my awesome doctor on a regular basis, writing as often as I could, plus reading, learning and exploring the topic of grief. I don’t like to stay stuck and the more knowledge that I have, the better my chances are for personal growth.

Rekindling my relationship with the big guy in the sky has also been wonderful, like being thrown a life preserver in a stormy sea filled with sharks.

Anyway, I’ve learned a few things about death, loss and grief but I’m keeping it very simple.

EACH EMOTION IS VALID

When I got the call early that Monday morning a year ago, my first thought was that of pure relief. Relief that she was no longer suffering and was finally at peace. It was also a feeling of relief for myself, that I no longer had to witness how very sick she was. One of the hardest things is to watch someone you love in pain and not being able to do a damn thing about it.

Of course, I felt guilty for feeling that way, until I read about something called anticipatory grief. She’d been ill for so long that deep down I had already begun the process of grieving before she even died.

LET IT OUT…OR NOT

Trying to act tough will only make matters worse. If you feel like ugly snot crying, do it. On the other hand, if you can’t cry and just feel numb, that’s alright as well.

There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to grieving.

IT’S A JOURNEY YOU WALK ALONE…MOSTLY

Once the first week or so is over, people will go back to their lives and you’ll be left alone to try and figure out how to move forward without your loved one.

Pay close attention to the people who reach out to you during this time and if no one does, then reach out to them. (When you’re ready.)

THE EMPTY SPACE

There will always be a void that will never be filled again once someone dies and as much as that reality sucks, I personally wouldn’t want anyone else to fill in for my mom. That’s how much I continue to love her and always will.

She was special and one of a kind.

That empty space will belong only to her for the rest of my life and I cherish the fact that she resided there for so long.

SIGNS ARE ALL AROUND IF YOU LOOK

My mom is still with me.

Those first few weeks after she passed away, I kept waiting for some profound thing to prove to me that she was alright. She’d told me to keep an eye out for her.

But it’s not usually like that.

It’s a certain song on the radio, a bird, a feather, a dream…and often, it’s just a feeling you have, that you cannot explain.


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My mom was almost my age in this photograph that I took of her, while we were on a family trip to Hershey, PA way back in 1989.

She had a zest for life and this photo represents that perfectly, I think.

I miss her so much.

Empath

Empath

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A highly sensitive and empathetic person, that takes on the emotions of the people around them, often at the expense of their own emotional well-being.

I don’t handle stress well. Chaos of any kind usually sends me into a panic state, where I freeze up and then I want to run away to a mountain hideaway, all by myself.

Empty tank, out of gas

My soul-weary self, exhausted

Picking up vibes I do not want

Another loud voice, I tremble again

Taking on worries that aren’t even mine

Heart in desperate need of mending

Silent Crevices

I’ve witnessed many things that I will never be able to unsee.

Not with the strongest eye bleach on the black market, nor any cheaply made cornea wet wipes ordered on Wish that take two months to arrive.

There isn’t a strong enough medication available to erase these disturbing images from my mind, for they’ve been deeply seared into my memories flesh, until the day that I pass on from this world.

No alcohol, by volume or proof, would ever be capable of forever eradicating the series of traumas that I’ve been exposed to.

For all it would accomplish is rendering me unconscious for a spell, only to wake up many hours later, discombobulated, with everything a blur, yet still unfortunately intact.

The only way forward towards survival is to allow myself to feel it all, to absorb it into the core of my being, by somehow (with sheer determination and prayer) continuing to live with all of the heartaches, the sorrow, and the multitude of crevices that are now permanently a part of my infrastructure.

I’ve learned that it is indeed alright to cry, to feel sad and to just stay quiet if you need to, even though these are behaviors that are mostly undesirable, unwanted and not socially acceptable.

I’ve been very silent lately, finding myself unable to put my thoughts or feelings into action, the way that I’m accustomed to and which makes a lick of sense.

I’ve had to remind myself time and time again that it is alright to be this way right now.

Deep inside my ever-churning brain, that’s always been riddled with ideas, where my words and creativity used to flow so free like a water faucet, is now dried up.

Hopefully just temporarily.


Watching my cherished dog as she passed away recently, then looking on at my daughter’s pure anguish (and now her regret and guilt that she didn’t spend enough time with her best friend while she was still alive) has sucked up the last remaining droplets of moisture on my tongue and fingertips.

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I love you, my sweet Maggie May. Thank you for everything.


I’ve learned many things during my grief journey and I plan on sharing them here this Wednesday, on what will be my mom’s 1st deathiversary.

Until then, stay safe and well. Thank you for reading.