Updated: Oct 21, 2019
This week marks the 24th time I've remembered my mom's death.
24 years. If you have lost someone in your life- you may know the grief that follows, the stuff that rolls in, and sweeps out. You may know a little bit about how to navigate grief too.
I wish it came with a road map.
I want to share a bit about my story and how I have learned to navigate grief, whether it is from loosing one you love to death, to divorce, or a diagnosis.
I was all of 27, new teaching career, and newly married. Making our house into a home.
I received a call at 3am.
The kind you never want.
And dropped off my lesson plans at my co workers porch, and rushed the hour and a half drive down a river road to my mom.
I wasn't prepared. I don't think anyone ever is...it was sudden. There was no pre-existing diagnosis, no recent illness.
My mom, 56 years old, died 7 days later.
What quickly followed were the last 2 days of the school year, teaching my 2nd grade class, memories, photographs, 2 funeral services, relatives, driving back and forth to my childhood home, and the beginning of a new school year all in 7 days. I shoved ALL of the pain down. Not even able to process what was a new normal. I thought it was my job to "carry on" and just "do" all the things my life required of me.
The severe and deep impact of never hearing my mom's voice on our daily check in phone call or have her with me when I became a mother were buried so far down- because I thought that was what you did.
I went on, and it was So hard. I felt like we weren't suppose to talk about my mom anymore. It was this weird unsaid thing, but sure and sh_t I could feel that.
Fast forward 21 years...I was navigating the storms of separation, betrayal, and divorce, single parenthood and a cracking open of my soul. Grief was deeper than I had ever thought it could be. And somehow, I got through it.
Here are 10 things I have learned along the way.
1. Cry. Cry every single damn tear you want to. People will be uncomfortable with every tear you cry- And That's OK. Crying is for you, not them. Cry harder, until the tears subside....I can assure you they will.
2. Take it slow and just try to "be." Forget the "doing." Be with your pain. Sit with it. Feel it, write about it, pray about it, surrender it. And it will lessen.
3. Ask for help. This is one I'm still practicing. I had never in my life needed help, prior to my separation. This is when I began to ask. Thing I never anticipated was who would show up to help. It wasn't who I thought would or should. It was the "first responders to grief" really. The kind humans that are equipped with empathy and compassion, and a knowledge of pain.
It was something.
4. Seek emotional support. Find an exceptional counselor, or therapist. A grief recovery group. A divorce recovery group. Recommendations from a trusted friend will give you a place to start. And don't be afraid to give each counselor a try first- find a good match.
5. Discover who your safe people are. Not everyone has earned the right to know your story, let alone ALL the details- It is YOUR story. Protect it. Share with whom will also cheer the loudest for you when the victories come too.
6. Start a prayer or meditation practice. If you don't know where to begin, find a podcast to listen to. There are GREAT resources out there, and they SAVED me during the "sleepless-sleeping hours of 12am- 5am.
7. Rest. Sleep when you can. Nap when you can. Grief recovery takes a LOT of energy.
8. Remember that you ARE Loved. That you ARE worthy. AS YOU ARE right now. AS YOU ALWAYS have been.
9. Know that this valley, even though it feels so so deep, and dark....has a river at the bottom of it. AND you get to follow that river OUT of the valley. Choose to follow it one step at a time, not camping out next at that river, but walking along side it, one step at a time.
10. Have faith that one day you WILL be Happy, you WILL feel JOY, and you WILL be OK.
Thank you for listening. My prayer is that you will find hope or a nugget of something to put in your pocket. Because even though you may have not experienced loss, not one of us here is immune to it.
ps. If you follow me on fb or Ig personally I wrote a tribute about my mom.