December 12, 2018

The Waves Of Grief

Today, I'm getting serious in the midst of holiday fun and sharing something close to my heart.
Grief and death is a part of life, and one I unfortunately have experienced early on. I shared the bulk of this post on my dear friend Lindsay's blog for part of her series, Whiskey In A Teacup. Whiskey In A Teacup is full of real-life, raw and beautiful pieces from real women. The series is amazing, and I encourage you to check it out.

This past weekend I visited the Erie Art Museum and an exhibit that is part of a beautiful story from the Highmark Caring Place. The Caring Place is a center for families to visit after the death of a loved one...they can grieve openly and with those who are going through the same things as others around them. I volunteer at the Caring Place and have the pleasure of connecting with families who are dealing with something so new and hard, like I once was. The exhibit focuses on grief, loss and hope- all very large parts of me and my story. Here's my story:

A while ago I shared a letter to my Mom on the anniversary of her death and while it's not the most upbeat topic to write about, it helps me deal with this think we call grief.
Grief hits you in weird ways. I like to call them waves. My Mom passed away 18 years ago and sometimes it still feels like yesterday. Most times I struggle talking to people about it, so I choose to express it in words that come more natural.
The waves of grief come and go and sometimes I feel like I'm drowning. The tears hit me, the memories are so intense that it makes my chest tight and I break down and feel like I can't move. I'm paralyzed by it.

There are pockets of sunshine, like when my daughter Bella lights up so big when she smiles. My Mom did the exact same thing, and it reminds me that she's always with us. I feel her when the sky gleams an extra bit of sunshine and I know she is reminding me that she's there.
Grief is a weird thing. People tell you that it will get easier. I'm being honest when I say that I don't think it does. It isn't that I have a pessimistic view, I would like to think that I'm just a realist. I have realized that grief doesn't change in terms of ease, but that it comes and goes likes waves.
Having someone so close to me die has changed me. I'm a really matter of fact person now, and I just don't take people's bullshit. That sounds harsh, but I don't have time to live my life dealing with it. I have realized that life can be taken away from you in an instant, so you need to spend your time doing whatever makes you happy. I am much more emotional than I ever was prior to losing my Mom too.  I have seen so many things become "lost" and events like my parent's divorce, my husband having a stroke, my daughter spending time in NICU have all led me to grieve hard. I get terrified of what will happen next. That is no way to spend my time, but that's rears it's ugly head and consumes me. I think her death and me finally coming to terms with it stemmed some of my anxiety. I get anxiety over situations I can't control and when things start to get a little off the beaten path for me I freak out. I always want to be in control and make sure everything goes to plan. Because if there's a plan, nothing bad should happen. Grief makes my brain work in these ways.
It's hard to feel like I don't have anyone who understands what I've been through. Often times I get mad or sad and jealous and confused.  My Mom didn't see my graduate high school or college and I know she would be so proud. She wasn't there to help me choose a wedding dress or to find out that we were having a baby. It's all incredibly heart-breaking and I don't understand why she was taken too soon. I sometimes feel silly for crying over these things, especially since she's been gone for 18 years. That's a long time, but yet it still feels like yesterday some days.

Finding a healthy activity to combat the waves has been a journey all in itself. Music is a great escape for me, so I love listening to music and just driving. No particular place to go- just to get away. As much as I despise working out, it's also an awesome relief. Getting on the treadmill and sweating it out really makes me feel better. I will never be over my Mom dying. Some days I'm falling apart and others you wouldn't even know what I'm dealing with. I know I'm not alone, there are tons of people who are in my shoes. I think the most beautiful women are the ones who have been through awful things and still put themselves together to show up and move forward. You help the next woman, friend, neighbor with their grief and it teaches you and helps you in your process. It's a crazy, beautiful cycle. I don't know why these sad things happen in life, but I truly think that we are chosen to deal with things to help us, or to be a role model for someone else. Maybe that's a way of saying everything happens for a reason, but it's more than that. That's too cliché. We are here for a greater good, a bigger reason, and we need to ride the waves as best we can.

It's hard to go through life without someone who should be here by my side, it makes me extremely sad to think about all the things she's missing out on, but I like to think she has a front row seat watching everything I do. I saw a quote that said "Grief changes shape, but it never ends." It's so true. Grief comes and goes like waves, and these days I'm just trying to stay above water.

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