I learned a few things from my grief,
but only after I came out of it.
It started long before my mother passed, the grief. When she was sick, I had a new baby, an injury, and a full time career outside of the home. That 9-5 in an office where expectations are often higher than you can manage. Where being late gets bitter judgement thrown about behind your back and the world around you doesn’t understand that a life still exists outside the office. A life full of people and responsibility that fights for space in your head.
It snowballed without me even seeing it, until it swallowed me up and tossed me out to sea. I couldn’t do anything but tread water, barely breathing, choking as the waves swelled higher and higher.
Grief is a crazy thing I never understood before. Loaded with anxiety, panic attacks, and constant fear and anger that even the most mundane task felt impossibly heavy. Grief locks you in a dark chamber, alone and scared. It changes your whole world.
I was once this multi-tasking, hard-working super mom–and I use that term loosely–that couldn’t be taken down by anything (except maybe the shingles for a few weeks in 2010). Then grief hit and my whole world imploded. It wasn’t until I was drowning that I realized I couldn’t go on that way or I would never come up for air.
When giving up was
the best thing to do…
While my mother was still alive, I gave up on the career I worked and fought to obtain for almost two decades. I wondered what kind of life I was living, stretching myself so thin I couldn’t even function. I was bad at all the jobs; mom, career-woman, caretaker, daughter.
It wasn’t until she was dying that I realized, truly, how much what I thought I wanted, wasn’t. It wasn’t until we faced her impending death that I knew the career had to go. It took me away from the limited time I had with my mother. It took me away from the good, patient mom I used to be with my children to a crazy lunatic who couldn’t handle a little paint on the walls. It took me away from my goals of working for myself, writing, and being an author.
Yet, it still set me on a mission to find my identity again. I knew I needed to let go in order to be better at the rest of my life, but who was I without a pay check?
“I couldn’t see anything through the grief.”
I jumped right into trying to run a business. I made a mistake. Well, I made many mistakes. But the biggest was not allowing myself to just grieve. Not giving myself time to transition from career woman to stay at home mom through that grief. And what a transition that was. Not leaving my job to focus on family but instead focus on building an income stream that only drove me even crazier.
I couldn’t see that then, through the grief. I couldn’t see anything through the grief. I just felt like a failure. I failed at keeping my house together as much as I failed at keeping my mind together. I failed at jump starting the writing career that was more of a hobby and part time venture at that point. I failed at keep deadlines.
It’s important I note that no one else saw me that way. This was all on how I saw myself. And when I look back on it now, I realize that it was grief and not failure that put those destructive ideas in my head.
Yet, I didn’t give up even when I wanted too.
When I fought for all the right reasons…
But I also realize that while going through all that, I never gave up on myself. Even when it felt like I gave up everyday. When most days it was all I could do to get out of bed. When most days during that time I couldn’t write a single word, except for some dreaded status updates on Facebook and even that stopped for a while. Even when most days I just wanted to sleep and let life pass me by, I didn’t give up.
Eventually the grief lessened. I don’t know how or why or when. It just happened one day. I found I’d been writing everyday, even writing about the grief and the loss. Even when my Nana passed away unexpectedly. Though that did set me back, I had been there before and was ever more present in the awareness of that grief that I didn’t let it control me the way it had with my mother.
I started working and collaborating with people again. I was freelancing a little and submitting articles and stories and poems. I joined a writing group and got myself out of the house, if only for a few nights or days a month. There are many reasons I started swimming again and keeping my head above water, too many to name. But the point is I did it. And everyday I did more.
Getting out of bed isn’t so hard anymore.
The world does go on and life does go on and wouldn’t it be a great disservice to her memory if I just gave up on all that?
When I look back on it, it’s only been a little over two years since I left my job to find a fulfilling life that was worth living rather than one that wanted to step on me with every turn I made. That two years was all full of hurt and pain as much as it was full of learning, surviving and getting up everyday.
I miss her (and my Nana), and the grief is always there. I’ve just learned to live with it. I’ve learned to allow it to be a part of me but not overtake me so that the rest of life is forgotten. I’ve learned to love what I do again and work towards building my career and my dreams again and on my own terms.
I did what I did for my own health…
I realize not everyone gets that opportunity, and if you knew the whole story you would know I didn’t either. I did what I did for my own health and the health of my family, despite having no idea where I would end up.
I also realize I might not be here had my mother not left this world too young and I struggle with that knowledge everyday. But I am here. Maybe you didn’t know, I am not just an author and poet, but I am also a freelancer running a business and I’m going to give it my all, no matter why I made this journey in the first place.
Now I’m gonna go work on one of the many projects I’ve got going and make room for some new ones! Wish me luck.
If you are struggling with grief and cannot see an end in sight know that you are not alone. There are others who have been there too. Please reach out for help whether it be with a friend, your doctor, or a counselor. Sometimes just talking to someone who understands makes a world of difference. And it may not feel like it now, but some day you’ll get through the darkest days and be able to smile again.