For Mothers Who Grieve

Griefs tendrils have coiled around my body with no regard for my life, goals or daily schedule. Despite the bright eyes of my child bearing witness to my demise, who I know I love most of anyone dead or alive, I recently was forced to very publicly attempt to be (and fail constantly at being) a normal human after losing two friends within ten days of each other.

I think it no coincidence that I likened her—my friend who absolutely brightened my days so often— to the sun, and yet I hadn’t seen the sun the whole week. In fact, every day the week she died, it rained. The clouds had claimed the skies and my mind. I remember in the news after her death, the amazon caught fire. The very lungs of our earth filled with smoke and fire so abundant you could see it from space. Media outlets were flooding with concern for the earth, calling out for diet change and harm reduction. I remember feeling no escape from my dread. Sadness here and there, I had lost someone I loved so much and I felt like at once, the world grieved with me.

In the real world, my child wasn’t grieving with me. In fact, he was far from worried what all is out there at all.

After her funeral, I placed one foot on the ground, just to receive a call from a once mother to me that a once lover to me had passed. Did I mention it had been ten days? In an instant, my attempt towards progress capsized. At his funeral, I remember through sobs reaching out to touch the hairs on his arm like I used to. I had missed them so much, but I pressed too hard and felt his cold skin instead. I was breathless from the agony. Each day, I went through all five stages of grief over, and over; Sprinkle in anxiety, and guilt, and confusion, on top of pressure to still function, on top of the obligations to my living family and friends, to my business, to my job. I was stuck inside my head, haunted by the thoughts of what would never be again; plagued by the confusion of why we even live, when inevitably, we all end up there. The thoughts swirled around and strangled me often, savagely whispering to me at my most wounded that I brought a child onto this cruel, cruel earth. I could never save him from what’s out here. How selfish could I be to bless myself with his life not knowing what his life could be?

In the real world, my child wasn’t grieving with me. In fact, he was far from worried what all is out there at all. For one month, he’d watch his momma writhe, cringe, cry and sit on her phone. The first day, he didn’t eat until the afternoon. Thankful for breast milk, thankful I could sleep and he be smart enough to just pull my breast out of my shirt. Until I randomly decided I couldn’t be touched, which he couldn’t magically know. For weeks, our emotions bounced off each other. Dad was forced to be Superman no matter how busy work was. This was no way to live; this wasn’t how I maintain a healthy, happy home. What else was I to do? Two huge sources of light shattered in my life. I couldn’t take care of myself, how was I supposed to take care of my child?

Intermittently, I leaned on friends for borrowed time before boundaries were set and expectations arose. My grace period came to an end too soon and the harsh normalization of “everyone’s grieving” became the new way to comfort me. Frankly, it was salt in the wound. I was isolated in the height of that breakdown and it was the lowest I would reach. I floated in limbo, and realized I would either do for myself or give up on myself. I had exhausted my very few resources. Two funerals later, I was cooking dinner again. Sometimes, enthusiastically. Sometimes, my mind in space, my hands half way through a portal to my oven on earth. After living on DoorDash, cereal, and tea concentrates, my family was so happy to have me here even for a few seconds. My next mission was to achieve balance.

While my child is still small, while my body still fits into my husband when we spoon, while we can all still fit in one bed, I will be thankful I lived another day.

There are pitfalls. Around me, I realize everyone IS grieving and it can be so triggering. Still, I’ve tried to remember that my losses have empowered me to live, and live lovingly. I took all the steps. I sought help, acquired an amazing therapist, medication that suits my diagnosis, stopped expecting myself to be the mom who can cook every night and settled for dinners I could just pop into the oven when I needed. Most importantly, I’ve been careful: Careful to truly take moments and love what’s left, and who’s left; Careful to remember we truly are only here for a good time, not a long time; Careful to honor my friends lost as often as I must. Most importantly, I’ve been careful with me. The cheesy Hallmark cards reminding you that every day is a “gift”, a “surprise”, a “blessing” is true. Death, albeit uncertain, is forever. What I have now is only until then. Every day I wake up interlaced in my family is all of the above. While my child is still small, while my body still fits into my husband when we spoon, while we can all still fit in one bed, I will be thankful I lived another day.

It does not get better. You adapt to a new normal. Your heart can grow, so that the holes look smaller, but you will carry them every where you go. Some days will be sorrowful, but eventually most days will not. If you are dealing with grief, please know you are not alone. Seek help. Stay alive. We’ll see them again, one day. You’ll want to have stories to tell.

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