While Mother's Day is a celebration of love for many, it is a day of pain and grief for so many more. There are many faces of motherhood, some less obvious then others. There are mothers whose arms are empty; suffering from infertility, miscarriages or the death of a child. The world doesn't recognize them as mothers but they are and always will be.
The reality is that rebounding and finding your mojo once more after a significant setback, failure or loss involves a lot more than simply "shaking it off" no matter what Taylor Swift says. It takes some essential and necessary stages and actions that if missed will keep you stuck, and stop you from learning and growing from the experience, which no matter how unpleasant is a rich opportunity for personal growth.
Find ways to honour those you miss. Look at old photos and tell stories of any loved ones you have lost. Honour the expectations that you may have had for relationships, life and even your vision of the season, as they are a part of our story. Let a lost loved one remain alive in you, and be an active part of your experience.
While for many the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, for others, they are dreading the oncoming festivities because they may mark the 1st, 5th or 50th season without a loved one. No matter what denomination they are or what holiday they celebrate, there is one common factor that binds all of them together: someone they loved is gone.
The shifts in friendships and relationships are extreme. The negative ones go all the way to a feeling of being shunned. Here comes the living nightmare, take cover. A couple who lost two children. Sometimes it feels like we have a contagious virus that others try to dodge by avoiding bereaved parents.
Hope is truly something beautiful. But so very easy to forget when faced with the pain of loss, when faced with the pain of separation. When faced with death. And while we might forget such when in the midst of great trouble, marked by betrayal and rejection, by the tragedy of disease and unexpected loss of both minor and grave proportions.
Seven months later and I'm still stunned by the palpable pain I feel in the pit of my chest when I think of him. I marvel at how grief just patiently sits there quietly, waiting for me to suddenly catch a glimpse of someone who looks like him, or for a whiff of someone's Aqua Velva aftershave, that cheap blue stuff he splashed on his face when I was a kid, and suddenly pain, like a searing knife, cuts through me. Seven months of firsts. The first Christmas without him, first New Years' celebrations, first Easter, and now... the first Father's Day.
The idea of a jolly holiday is like rubbing salt in the wound when our loved one isn't there. Honour your grief. You may find a completely new way of handling celebratory occasions by starting new traditions, or you may feel more comfortable sticking to old ones. Either way, you will know what feels right.
My mother is dying. When it got to be too much at home we put her in hospice. Hospice, for those who are not familiar with the term, is a place where folks go to die. The criteria to enter are you have three-six months left to live with an expectation of no heroic measures. The goal is comfort and dignity in your final days. My brother and I camp out in the room with my mom. Me in the Murphy bed and him on the Lazy Boy. We fall asleep listening to her whisper to herself and hallucinate on the shadows she makes with her hands. My mom had lung cancer and it progressed to her brain, so she is not safe to be alone anymore. She could fall. She could leave and get lost. She could take all her clothes off and run the halls naked. So we move in to the tiny room with her.
For almost four decades, I did not talk about the plane crash. Instead, I buried the tragedy and any associated feelings of grief as deep down as possible. That was the way tragedies and death were dealt with in the 70s. I was told, directly and indirectly, that the subject was closed, never to be discussed... the subject of death was unmentionable.
I learned early on when I was coping with my baby's death -- and again after my husband died -- that I had to be very specific about what I did or did not need from those around me. I used to be a shy person.. As I was working through my grief process, however, I started to see that a new, bolder side of my personality was begging to come out.
How does one trust in life again after experiencing two tragic losses? This is a question that I've asked myself since losing my son to stillbirth after a healthy 9-month pregnancy, followed just 18-months later by the death of my husband, a soldier serving in Afghanistan. How could I ever trust in anything again?
Last August I was again reminded about the impermanence of things. Of life, of ideas, of the present. As the two year anniversary of my father's passing approaches, I find myself reminiscing about him to be sure, but also about my grandmother, his mum, and thinking about her passing this past summer.
I am a widow. Friendships, I learned, are not immune to grief. Despite what you may think, some friends will leave you when you need them the most. Perhaps they don't know what to say or how to act. After speaking to people in similar situations, I now realize that in many cases, friendship and grief do not mix.