Life events, milestones, and the transformation of grief

No matter what you’ve read, what advice you’ve been given, or what your expectations are for your future after the loss of a loved one, one thing becomes very clear as time goes on. Grief doesn’t end. It changes its shape and direction, but it has no end. Every major event in your life and every milestone will cause your grief to re-emerge in a new form and you will feel like you are starting your journey from the very beginning. You will feel like you are right back in that very moment when you experienced the loss of your loved one.

Motherhood is the second and most intense milestone in which I experienced the transformation of my grief. The first was when I got married and those first few months of being a newlywed.  In the months that followed, filled with writing thank you cards and basking in that “new family” feeling, all I felt like doing was picking out sheets, dishes, and other meaningless objects, which only a mom could have the patience and excitement to go shopping with you for.

Motherhood has caused my grief to come back with a vengeance, which is something I have posted a lot about in the past. My experience has really verified for me the notion that my grief will never leave me. It will always be with me, re-emerging in different shapes and forms. It will always have a grip around me, whether it be a tight, suffocating embrace or a soft and gentle wrap around my shoulders.

After my mother’s death, I tried reading a few self-help books that explore grief and mourning. I was looking for a solution of sorts, a “how-to” for feeling better and being happy again. Looking back, I now realize my approach was the wrong one. My “situation” isn’t one that can be corrected. I don’t even know if acceptance is what I am after – will I ever accept my mother’s death fully and whole-heartedly? Will I ever think of her with peace in my soul and a smile on my lips? Will I ever remember a moment in our time together without that ever-present little pain in my tummy?

Grief is unfair for so many reasons. It’s especially cruel because it re-creates itself in a brand new version just when you have begun to make peace with its previous presence in your life. I made peace with the version of my grief in which I was a twenty-something newly wed, just beginning my career and adult life. I had accepted that my husband would never have his mother-in-law to joke about. I had accepted that my mother would not witness us buying our first home or celebrating our career goals. I had accepted that I would never go shopping again with her or watch American Idol together.

Then, I became pregnant. And my grief returned, with a new intensity I wasn’t prepared for. There were now so many “what will never be” tears alongside the “what I miss and once was” tears. My daughter is almost four months old and I think about my mother and her absence every single day. I have thoughts big and small – from wondering what my mother did about diaper rashes, to wondering if she was scared and nervous about raising a girl and passing on the wisdom that a mother gives to a daughter. In a strange way, I feel like my mother has just died. I am back in August of 2012. I have accepted so much along my path of grief over the past three years, but all of a sudden, I am bewildered and shocked all over again that my mother is actually gone. That she’s not physically on this Earth anymore.

When I have one of those dark days when I can’t stop thinking sad thoughts, I remind myself that nothing I feel or do will ever change the situation. This rationalization of my feelings really helps me get clarity and a grip on reality. She’s gone and nothing can bring her back. I think of what my mother wanted for me and it’s not tears, regrets, or sadness. If she’s watching over me now, which I strongly feel she is, she would want nothing but happiness for me. Happiness is the goal to strive for.

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