12 months of mama grief and undying love
As the one year anniversary approaches, I am starting to see that I have laid expectations on myself.
I also feel that others may expect me to act differently. Somehow a year feels like a great marker in the grief journey, because it is a whole 12 months, but the truth is, I feel like she died a handful of months ago.
A year is not a long time. I am still wild with grief, but the mysterious companions of stability and healing are coming around more often. It is confusing.
I still cry often, miss her, yearn for her, and ache for her on a daily basis. Multiple times throughout the day. I am shocked by my yearning. I gently assumed my heart would understand that she had died and she wasn’t coming back by now. I assumed that I would somehow be prepared for the years after her death because she had a terminal disease.
But no. Not at all. I was prepared for death, but not for grief.
Somedays the gap between earth and heaven feels like an impossible leap.
Other days it feels like I’m a breath away.
But one thing remains: I will miss her until my dying day.
This missing will not go away. It can feel debilitating and exhausting. There are wonderful days and distractions and there is great joy in our lives, but it always, always comes back. The Ache.
I scramble to save her still. I search for answers and reprieve. I look for a way out, for her and for me.
I glance at her pictures, but don’t stare into her sweet, soft eyes unless I feel like having a good, wet cry.
I don’t always want a good cry. I push it away sometimes. I am busy or having a quiet, good day. I can push the big cry away, but the little cries come often. They lead me to the big cry. I stumble along, missing her, smiling and laughing and keeping distracted. And when I can’t go on anymore, when I need to cry, I simply fall into it.
This kind of crying is a holy release. It leaves me raw and tender and less afraid of what everyone else outside of a grief bubble seem to be afraid of. This is the gift at the end of a good, cleansing cry: freedom and fearlessness and a throbbing, cracked open spirit.
I am humbled by my grief, by my aching. This is freeing.
Sometimes the intensity frightens me. I can’t catch my breath. My very ribs feels like a cage, and yet light as a feather. Every intake of shaky breath and every salty exhalation brings me right back to her, as though I am transcending the place between heaven and earth. Her body is warm, her cheeks are flushed with fever. And then, the veil drops and she is cold and the stillness trembles under the weight of our grief.
This plays out in my head whenever I have a hard cry. I remember her and I ache.
I will always miss her.
Death does sting, unfortunately. We tend to wallpaper over pain with a promise of hope. I am seriously opposed to whitewashing pain with platitudes. I believe that faith and hope come alive in the midst of weakness and suffering, not on the other side of them.
In our faith, I have hope for heaven. I really do. Somedays, the tears fall on upturned lips and I smile knowing she is free and secure and waiting for us.
But. This does not diminish the pain. The gaping loss in our lives.
More often than not, I have pain and feel the sear of loss, instead of hope.
One year and I can still feel her cool weight in my arms. I can see the hands on the clock ticking: she has been in heaven for 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours. I can taste the tart tannins from the red wine I had sipped from a mug with shaking hands to keep my nerves and shock simmering at a manageable level. It tasted too sour. Even water lost appeal. I could not bear to swallow a morsel of food.
This is impossible.
There is also a gift here at the one year mark.
I realize that time has no power and I have no fear of death. I have faced hell and horror and I have stared down the Great Fear: something happened to my child. I have felt the lick of hot flames and the crushing blow of trauma after trauma. I have watched my child die in my very arms, and when it was finished, I found myself looking into my husband’s eyes with hushed horror.
How can one go on after this? How can we survive this?
I have someone waiting for me.
Because of this Hope, I will live out my days with ferocious gratitude. I have bled and will bleed but I now know that my wounds will be staunched.
In the light of Love, one does not bleed forever.
My scars will remain and they will throb. I will gently finger them every day and every moment and remind myself that I get to love her for the rest of my life.
No one can take that away. No disease, no trauma. Nothing can take away Love. Love is eternal. I will always miss her, and I cannot fix that. But I can love her. I can send my affection out through my tears and into the garden bed and through my words. I can pour out my love to her as I sway on my knees and kiss her tear stained photo on the wall. These sacred tears, as Washington Irving says,“…speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.”
And this is the gift of Love: it never leaves us.
I love you, Florence.