Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Looking for signs
Here’s what I’ve discovered about the grieving process… it’s not what you think.
I always thought when my Mother died I would never get out of bed again. I thought I would never be able to stop crying and the grief would be a black cloud over my head forever. But that’s not what happened.
The first couple of weeks were hard… getting through the wake and funeral, going through her personal items, figuring out who gets what and what to send to Goodwill. It’s hard to pack up your Mother’s stuff and send it in a box to a charity. The funny things you think about when doing that. I had this vision that I would be driving down Water Street and I would stop at a crosswalk to let a homeless lady cross the street and she would be wearing one of my Mother’s sweaters…. And that would be a sign from my Mother to me, to tell me that she was ok.
But it never happened. I never saw the homeless lady wearing my Mother’s sweater. She never appeared by the side of my bed, even when I thought for sure if I opened my eyes she would be there. I never caught a glimpse of her standing behind me in a mirror or saw her ghost when I turned off all the lights downstairs before I went to bed.
She just never came back to me… I think it is because she never left me.
We think we are going to grieve like it is portrayed in a Hollywood movie. We have all seen those movies where the grieving widow throws herself on top of the casket as it is lowered in the ground, or when Patrick Swayze comes back to Demi Moore in Ghost to warn her that she is in danger, or like Norman Bates who kills his Mother in Psycho and keeps her corpse in the house with him because he can’t get past the guilt.
That’s not how it happens in real life. No one threw themselves on my Mother’s casket, I don’t own a pottery wheel and my Mother’s body is safely planted in a graveyard.
The truth is, life goes on. You have to return to work. There is laundry to be done. Dogs to be walked. Kids to be fed. Life to be lived. That’s life!
A friend of mine (who is a psychologist) pointed out to me that there is healthy and unhealthy grieving. It’s healthy to cry during a funeral, periodically over the next few weeks, marking holidays and events (birthdays, Christmas) etc. It’s not healthy if three months later you still can’t get out of bed or get back to life. She also pointed out that if you have no regrets, it is easy to move on. People who can’t move on are stuck because they have regrets. I made sure before my Mother died that I thanked her for everything she did for me. I apologized for all the times we fought. She did the same.
The one thing she did do for me, which helped me to move on, is she set me free. She told me not to feel obligated to stay in touch with people I feel no connection to. Without getting into details she said, “Be happy. That’s all I wanted for you. If you didn’t get along with someone when I was alive, you won’t get along with them after I am dead.” It was the best gift she ever gave me.
I had no regrets. I went on living while still looking for signs that she was with me.
I rarely go to the graveyard. I don’t feel her there. It doesn’t do anything for me.
This past summer I looked out in my garden and to my surprise a carpet of blue Forget-Me-Nots had grown throughout my yard. She had planted them there a few years before. I took my tea and went out and sat down on the deck. I could smell her perfume in the air and I could feel her in the garden.
Posted by Helen C. Escott