As my newborn is snoozing away in his swing, I am sitting here once again reflecting on everything that has happened in such a short time-frame. In a way, going through years of infertility and pregnancy loss has prepped me for the loss of my mom. Maybe prep isn’t the right word – can you ever really prep for a loved ones death?, but there’s a familiar feeling. It’s obviously not to the same extent of losing my mom (though at the time, I’d argue it was) but the feeling of hopelessness, helplessness, defeat and anguish were all present. I had to learn to live around my grief and pain. I had to learn that life goes on and the world does not stop for me because I had a miscarriage or because I was on my third egg retrieval. I had to learn that I could feel both joy and pain at the same time. I had to learn to find moments of joy during a very heavy period of my life. I had to learn that it was ok to disappoint people in order to preserve my mental health. Lastly, I had to learn to find ways to ease my suffering even though the pain didn’t go away. So here I am once again in that same grief boat, this time grieving a different loss.
I guess I could be grateful that I have been here before so it’s not an entirely new destination for me, but my therapist did mention something that I found insightful. She said, “You want to go back to things that you did before to help yourself, such as yoga or trips, but you were never a mom before your mom died. There’s no going back to who you were before because you never were a mom. You are experiencing two new realities at the same time. You have a different identity now.” 🤯 I never thought about it like that, but she’s right. I often wonder why I cant get myself to do the things that helped me before and she answered it for me. I am not who I was before my mom died. I am a mom now – which on it’s own- is a huge change in identity. Now throw in the identity grief that comes with all the changes required by being a new mom and add in the death of your mom to the mix. I am literally navigating two life altering changes simultaneously. It’s crazy! My situation is absolutely crazy. I often have to remind myself that I am not crazy. I am just grieving.
Let me be clear, this does not insinuate that I am not grateful to be a mom. Not a moment goes by where I don’t feel grateful for my miracle and blessing. I do, however, find it important to share that just because I have a baby does not mean that my grief is less, easier to manage or nonexistent. Some people mistakenly believe that having a newborn as a “distraction’ makes the pain of losing my mom easier. First off, I don’t want to be distracted. I want to feel my pain so that I can heal my pain. Not to mention, how can I possibly be distracted by my newborn when literally every single milestone he reaches I think about how my mom cannot be here to see it or experience it. His life is a constant reminder of her death. There is no escaping this reality. I will have to live with this for the rest of my life. Which brings me to my experience with the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance). I always believed that stages of grief were linear, which went something like this… Ok, I’m no longer in denial, I have graduated to the next stage of anger etc. This is not true. You can experience all five stages in the same day, which is why you feel so exhausted all the time. Your mind is performing mental gymnastics all- day- long. The smallest tasks feel like immovable mountains when you’re in the early stages of grief. Our brains are not equipped to process death. This is is unfamiliar territory. Our brains cannot relate this to anything else, so it’s working extra hard to find a way to understand something that cannot be understood. This takes a lot of energy. This is one of the reasons that people who feel immense pain from grief want to sleep all day long. We are literally exhausted from simply being awake to this reality. This is why I find myself after two hours of doing nothing thinking “wow did I really just sit here and do nothing when I have so much to do?” Yes, because nothing is what you need when you are literally overwhelmed with something you cannot understand, identify or accurately put into words.
Acceptance, to me, in the context of grief, means we learn to accept that we may feel emptiness and sadness forever. Not necessarily being ‘ok’ or accepting their death, but understanding and coming to terms with the fact that things will never go back to ‘normal.’ Accepting that there is a distinct ‘before and after’ they’ve departed. Accepting that you will need to learn how to live your life without them in it and that this will become your ‘new normal.’ I learned in yoga training that attachment is the root cause of all suffering. I also believe that resistance to what is, is also a root cause of suffering. In order to move forward with your grief you have to work on accepting what is. I will literally say to myself, this is the shittiest possible circumstance. It’s atrocious and I did not deserve this. My mom did not deserve this. Then I move on to accepting that this shitty situation is my reality. I cannot change this situation, but I can allow myself to feel whatever comes up in order to heal.
Pretending to be ok when you are not ok just so others around you don’t feel uncomfortable – in my opinion- is a form of self-inflicted abuse. People are not used to dealing with friends or family who are in pain. They want you to get over it as soon as possible so that THEY can feel comfortable around you again. “Get over it” or “It’s time to move on.” What they’re saying is, “I feel really uncomfortable watching you hurt so I’m going to suggest ways to ‘fix’ this.” Some things cannot be fixed, clearly. You know how you always hear things like, “You’ll see people’s true colors in times of happiness or times of sadness” Well, I’ve come to understand that people can only meet us as far as they’ve met themselves. The way I interpret that is, if someone has spent their entire life being told to not express their feelings, or their feelings were invalidated, or that they needed to ‘get over it’, how on Earth can they hold space for your feelings when they can’t even hold space for their own? You see? It’s never personal. So if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t understand how your friends or family are acting in a certain not-so-great- way around your grief (regardless of the type) try and remember that we don’t all handle emotions in the same way, we don’t perceive things in the same way and we don’t all do the necessary (and challenging) work it takes to break generational conditioning. It’s never about you it’s always about them. As long as you stay true to you and do what you need to heal that is all that matters.
Where it gets tricky for me is that i’m dealing with two completely opposite emotions simultaneously. I don’t have the privilege of spending time just to grieve. Or spending time just to enjoy my baby. I have to do them together in real time. So there are moments where I look and feel happy, but minutes later I experience deep sadness again or even moments of anger. I waited so long and tried so hard for this baby and yet I can’t even experience pure joy in the moment because it’s laced with heavy grief. I’m not saying this for pity. I am expressing that this is my reality. It sucks. No one can help me either. I have to just work through it in the best way I know how. What keeps me going is hope and faith. I believe that my mom is watching over us and protecting us. I believe that there is a bigger purpose to all of this pain. If I can even help one person through my crazy situation, then it has served its purpose.
I will always miss her. Always missing her means she will never be forgotten. I can at least hold on to that.