Five Months

Yet another milestone today, on Halloween when the kids are excited about pumpkins and trick-or-treating, and my reflections on death are far more mournful. Five months, and a whole summer has passed since my mother’s death. Five months that seem the blink of an eye, time still frozen, yet containing enough sorrow and loss for a lifetime. My sister Tabitha wrote in a recent email, ‘I miss [mom] so bad, and the loss and length of time she is now gone for is unbearable. I think I was just “holding out” till she got back.  And now she is not coming back.  Ever again.  That thought is only sinking in. And is horrifically big.’  I think this sums up some of why it seems to feel more painful then ever sometimes.

It is a deep relief to be in touch with a small handful of fellow mourners who feel very much as I do, reminding me that continued sorrow is normal, and the expression of it a vital honesty that is healing, and sharing, not selfish or self-indulgent. It is equally reassuring to hear this echoed in both of the bereavement books I have been reading. I feel so defensive at the moment, and I can feel how increasingly difficult it is becoming to speak or write of my sorrow. I am becoming more withdrawn and angry, as well as losing self-confidence. It is impossible to know how much of this comes directly from losing my mother, and what has been influenced (and how this has influenced my reaction to) subsequent events, many of which are far harder – or simply impossible – to articulate, or cannot be shared in a public forum. These things cannot be separated; they have become intermingled threads in an ongoing process.

I never let go of hope, or thankfulness. I have many wonderful things in my life I am deeply grateful for, including my amazing family, and the many years spent with my mother. It is important to hold on to this knowledge, but it doesn’t take away from the loss or pain, even though it makes them more bearable.

There is a chorus in a Suzanne Vega song called ‘Gypsy’ that has echoed ‘round and ‘round my head many times over the past months, making my voice catch with tears time and again and I softly whisper along:

“Oh, hold me like a baby
That will not fall asleep
Curl me up inside you
And let me hear you through the heat”

The soothing melody and rich voice, as much as the words, evoke within me a sense of generations of mothers before me rocking their babies to sleep, as my mother did me, and I have my children… an image of physical comfort that speaks to my earliest memories, and the depth of my loss.

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16 thoughts on “Five Months

  1. Wow 5 months already! In the one hand it seems time has flown, but I bet as you are reading this you are thinking “but in the other time has felt like it has stood still too”.

    It will feel like this for a long time. There are times even now (nearly 20 years on for people who don’t know me) that it feels like yesterday. Memories will come flooding back, based on a smell, a sound, a sight… it will get easier, that I can promise you. I know at times it can feel frustrating almost, as you feel you have not moved forward on what you know is the path of grief which will one day lead back to “normality”, the new normality where the loved one is now a living memory.

    In time…. almost sounds like a cliché. I am sure you have heard that a million times over the last 5 months. But in time the pain will ease as you adapt and other priorities try take place at the top of the pile. The memories will never fade and these will become joyful and snippets that you will smile at and be happy with.

    1. I find it hard to express sometimes how much it means to me when people hear me and respond. I am deeply, deeply grateful for your comforting words and sharing of your experience, and the perspective of time. Thank you.

  2. Laur – we hear your, read your posts – even if we don’t always have the perfect words to respond to you on this forum. I look out for your posts as a little window into how you are doing, what you are feeling, where your process is up to. Sending so much love
    Elin

    1. Hey sis, thank you. Please don’t feel that you a) need to respond, b) need to find perfect words, or c) need to reply on this forum (sometimes getting emails after I’ve posted makes for a more intimate communication). It is impossible for me to know who is and isn’t reading. Thank you for love – sending you a whole heap back x

  3. This made me cry so you are not on your own in the weepy boat! You are absolutely not on your own though at times you might feel very much so. It may not seem like it but I think you are being very brave to feel what you will instead of what others persuade you that you should. Hold on to that, things take the time the take. Today I am drying my tears on this quote “Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.” Emily Dickinson

  4. Grieving can never be selfish or self-indulgent; you must never think that. And you have reached out to others, just as people have reached out to you. Risingontheroad is so right to say you must follow your own path through this and not be dissauded from it. You must do and feel what is right for you.

  5. Laurel – you have written so eloquently and so starkly here. Why are we humans so compelled to claim the goodness of our lives, in order to try and justify our expression of sorrow or pain? I think it must be our western culture and our adherence to the ‘stiff upper lip” approach. Yes, balance is always healthy……….BUT……expressing pain is not necessarily unbalanced, Laurel. Let’s all just take a communcal deep breath and say “My life is good. I have many blessings. AND I have pain. Deep, devestating, gut-wrenching pain. And here, in this forum, I am going to talk about my pain, my sorrow, my confusion. And I will do it unapologetically.” There, how’s that for a disclaimer? Laurel, you know that I am in the same tippy-boat as you are and that this disclaimer is as much for me as it is for you. But how about if we give it a shot??

    1. Ah, you have hit the nail on the head here, and I was actually thinking a lot today about exactly that. A friend said she had got the impression from my blog that I have been doing okay, when in fact I have been really, really struggling, which made me realise that firstly I don’t write when I am at my lowest ebb (understandable perhaps), and secondly that I always try find a positive spin on even the worst days. Sometimes I think that it helps me, but other times perhaps it is simply not being honest with myself, or others. Okay, I’m not quite sure how I’ll get on, but yes, let’s give it a shot!

  6. When writing or reading about the loss of a dear one.. I am always brought back to the time where I lost someone dear to me… No matter how happy I may be in my present life… Ithose emotions do come up….

  7. Laurel, I share the quote below with you…it was just posted yesterday on a blog site that gives me insight and balance constantly. (http://mindfulbalance.org/2011/11/02/14052/)

    ‘Leaning into suffering does not mean losing our balance and getting lost in suffering. Because our usual stance in relating to suffering is leaning away from it, to turn and face suffering directly serves as a correction. As we lean in, we are inviting, moving toward what we habitually resist…leaning in can help us become aware and free in the midst of our experience.’
    Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance

    I like the idea of ‘leaning into’ an emotion, an experience, whether painful or joyous or something in-between. To me it suggests something gentler and more evolving then confronting it…it almost suggests that we can be supported by our feelings whatever they are…I think artists especially realize this.

    I lost my father suddenly (25 years ago) when I was away living in England and know that the worse thing you can do is hold in what you feel. When I returned to England after the funeral, my ex and his family dismissed it with “how very sad for you” and never “allowed” me to speak of it again. When I was on the phone with my mother who was having such a difficult time with the loss (as I thought then, more legitimately than I was) I denied my own struggles. Suffice it to say, this was not healthy for my body or mind or spirit.

    My mother lost her mother when she was ten and to this day (she is 82) she can not talk about her without tears…but the sadness she carries is also a kind of joy at having the vibrant mother she did even for a short while… I have realized that to deny her those feelings and their expression is to dishonor her life as well as my grandmother’s. I believe that her grief, in its creative continuing, her life has had much value and purpose and appreciation for what’s truly important. And also, given me the opportunity to know my beautiful grandmother as otherwise I would not have.

    1. Thank you Diane for your ever-thoughtful, honest and caring response. That quote is beautiful and absolutely perfect – something to go back to and reflect on again in future, I am sure. It makes absolute emotional sense to me.

      I am sorry to hear about your father’s death – it sounds like you did not have the support and understanding you really needed at that time. I am very grateful for having a very supportive and understanding husband, who creates space for me to talk and feel whatever it is I am feeling (he has learnt, after many, many years, that he doesn’t have to try ‘fix’ things and can just allow me to feel).

      It is wonderful to hear about your feeling of connection with your Grandmother through your mother’s emotional expression. I hope very much that my children will continue to have a sense of the amazing Grandmother they will not have a chance to get to know as they grow older, but loved them immensely and will always be a part of our family. My eldest, who is four, still talks of ‘Granny Tessa’ a lot (though doesn’t understand why he won’t see her again), and I want to ensure we continue to have those conversations. We have photographs of her with the boys all over the house (some were up before her death, others have gone up subsequently), and these are simply a pleasure for me to see – to feel her still with us, smiling joyfully.

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