Updated: Aug 29
Grief is this amorphous mysterious state of being. According to Google, varied definitions include "acute pain that accompanies loss" and "deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone's death." Those are a part of it, sure. Much like a raindrop is part of the ocean.
I think it is so individualized and unique and changeable that trying to define grief is probably better stated as "a vast individual wilderness with caves, fires, lava, craters, quicksand, no street signs or lights, through which you must guide yourself, through which you must travel as slowly as the wilderness allows or you might end up in a cave for the rest of this lifetime."
First, let me share my review of grief after the passing of my mother. I found this on my laptop which I wrote about a year and a little bit ago, seemingly 6 months after my mother died. It's raw and angry and a little disjointed and amorphous but much like a wound hidden under a bandage, I felt it deserved some fresh air to help expedite healing. Also, since I am still typing with one hand due to healing shoulder, I was all over the option to cut and paste.
Six months ago, my life turned in to this weird altered universe that doesn’t make sense. For a while, I have found angry to be easier than sad. Then there was this addition of a thick, heavy blanket of denial unlike any I have ever known. If you know me well, you will know I am a master of denial. Sleep is sometimes the only answer that makes sense because it’s the only place I can find her. Because I have looked everywhere that I can think of. I even went to Europe thinking she might be there. Nope. Not in Europe. Then I went to our summer cottage, easily her favorite place on earth. Not there either. So, she is officially gone. She is everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. My great fear is that if I really lean in to this, if my brain or my heart even let me, that I will explode in to a million pieces. And, in spite of this weather, it is cottage season. I have to go there. I have to face her absence. Or not, maybe she is somewhere else that I just haven’t looked yet.
I would sit next to her hospital bed, first in Orlando and then in Buffalo, and think “If she dies, I am literally going to stand next to her coffin and kick it.” For some reason, that made me feel better. But when the time came, I didn’t actually kick her coffin. It was a rental for one thing, and to be honest, the day of her wake, it didn’t occur to me. Which is weird because I spent so much time imagining it, just standing there, like a pissed off 6-year-old who didn’t get to go for ice cream after dinner. Kicking, not talking to people, angry and quiet. I had seen this before, people so grief stricken that they just stand in a catatonic way at the side of their person's coffin, not making eye contact with anyone, soaking in every moment of the dead person’s remaining physicality. No one bothers those people, the catatonic staring types. That might be the better way to do wakes in retrospect. Instead I talked to everyone, people I can’t recall, people I don’t know, people I hadn’t seen in 30 years or more. I talked so much in fact that my throat was actually raw from pain; a bitter iron laced bloody taste in my throat that eased its way in to my mouth. Can you talk yourself bloody? Talking is my thing. I almost never stop. My Dad used to try and pay me to stop when I was a kid, but it didn’t help. "Your moon is in Gemini," Pat would tell me, before I even knew what that meant. Sort of like my Dad telling us to “sober up” when my brothers and I would mess around in the backseat. I had no idea what he meant but it felt like we were in trouble so we usually would “sober up”. In fact, it took me years to realize he wasn’t saying silver up. But I digress. My moon is in Gemini and yes, that means I talk a lot. Long story short, I never before that day ever talked so much as to make my throat bleed. First time for everything I guess; dead mother, talk until your throat is raw; anything is possible. Just because you don’t think of it, doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
I also told myself that it wasn’t her in the coffin. She looked beautiful, sure, in a way only dead people can, but it wasn’t her. Which actually made the whole day easier. I just had to withstand 6 hours of talking to everyone in the whole world who came to see this woman who bore a close resemblance to my mom. She wasn’t there after all. If she was there, I am sure I would’ve kicked the coffin which clearly I did NOT do. And I am still looking for her, so what’s the big deal. It’s like the longest vacation without Wi-Fi ever. She will hit me up when she comes home.
Then there are times I feel her so close to me that if she were in the flesh, I wouldn’t be able to tell where she started and I began. But not that often. Maybe if I stop looking for her, I will realize she is always here. That’s what they say anyway, the books I read, the Instagram feeds I see. Still right there. I think looking for her is easier.
For a while, I didn’t feel anything. I got so sick after all the activities were over. This was either a result of not only talking to every person in the world but hugging and kissing them too or it was spending 6 weeks on guard, trying to not fall apart, trying to manage her care and get a fucking diagnosis already, and then to stomach her transfer across the country when she could barely move and or to watch, helplessly her rapid hourly deterioration that was tearing my soul in to shreds. Maybe it was a little bit of everything. I managed to get better for Christmas. And was fine for New Year’s. I remember that ball drop. Not only a new first month without her, but a whole new year without her too. A lot all at once but I guess that's what happens when you die in December. She was just here. She was fine, I swear.
So I got mad. About everything and nothing because mad is literally the easiest emotion. I spent a long time being mad. I think maybe I am still mad. But after a while, I did start looking for her.
In fact, one night in England, I was so sure that I saw her that tears instantly ran down my face. Here she is! She’s been here the whole time. Now she is taking in a Shakespeare play in Stratford-upon-Avon. Of course! But it wasn’t her. It was a lady about her age, wearing her signature color of coral, rocking the blond loose ponytail that was classic Pat. She had her glasses on her nose like Pat too. And she looked at her phone and held it like Pat did. And I never wanted to run and hug a stranger so bad in my entire life. My body literally ached to touch her. At intermission, I was afraid I would see this doppelganger in the bathroom or near the bar and that I would either fall apart or hug her, either reaction would not have been appropriate at the theater. (Said like Pat, thee-Ay-ter.)
So today marks six months of this tomfoolery and to be honest, I am about ready for it to end. I never thought it was possible to miss someone as much as I miss my mom. I try my hardest every day not to make room for all of the pain, mostly because I am just not ready yet. I am amazed at the power of my brain, and my heart and the inherent defense they offer me. It’s like they actually have a system in place that allows just a slow trickle of pain to seep in so I am not lost in the flood that would be there if they didn’t have control.
I miss you momma. I hope wherever you actually are, they have lots of flowers and birds and wine and music and dancing and TJ Maxx and a beach with access to SPF 4 so you can get your Magda on and I hope there are rakes for you to rake with and that you can see us all and hear me when I talk to you. I love you.
So that was my early experience and it continues to change and evolve everyday. I am never sure when or what will inspire me to write this blog. Yesterday I watched a movie with my son, the biopic of Johnny Cash that I never saw before, "Walk the Line." It's not unusual for me to have missed a movie (in this case I am 15 years late) but Johnny Cash is a part of our family. His voice was the long time backdrop for Sunday morning breakfasts at the cottage. In fact earlier this summer I was pissed because I couldn't find the classic Johnny playlist that was my go to while making breakfast. I had to improvise and add new songs which just felt all wrong. At any rate, I learned yesterday what likely contributed to Johnny's darkness and genius - the sudden and tragic loss of his brother to a table saw accident when he was just a kid himself. Young Johnny didn't get an escort through the grief wilderness, in fact his tumultuous relationship with his dad most definitely couldn't have helped and it appeared, at least through the perspective of the movie makers, that this haunted him most of his life and maybe he was stuck in one of those grief caves I made up.
This happens to so many of us. There are some things that are so terrible we simply can't move past them that they become anchors in our life and understandably so. Some of the most magical things I have witnessed are when spirit people come through in a reading and help people remove some of the weight they carry. The response is almost physical at times making people walk taller and shine a little brighter. What if Johnny had seen a medium who brought through his brother to let him know that this accident was not anyone's fault, and maybe it was a part of his brother's soul journey to leave this world early? Or maybe to show some soul contract between John and his Dad that each was to be the other's greatest teacher and allow for some healing there? Of course I am making that up and it is pure speculation. Might he have experienced some great relief? I don't know. Might we have missed out on some of his magical songs? Likely so.
Here is what I do know: Grief is hard. It is something we all go through at some time in our lives. And while I am certain our loved ones in spirit are with us always, the loss of their physical presence in our life sears like a hot red flaming stick pulled from a fire and jammed in your eye. They really want us to feel their love and cheer us on to live our soul's purpose without the weight of their loss.
My anger and sadness led me to develop my mediumship so I could feel my mother better. It helps but it still isn't the same as a warm hug or hearing her hearty laugh outside of my brain anyway. Seeing other people make these connections during a reading makes my heart so light however that I know we are both receiving healing. Love is a powerful thing, perhaps the most powerful thing that exists.
My prayers used to be very specific to include certain people, families, causes, etc. Sometimes they are still super specific but one thing they always include is a prayer for all those that are grieving. I am pretty sure that includes just about everyone in the world.