Today I want to write about grief. How you think you can be coping really well and although you really miss the person who is gone, you no longer have to drag yourself through every happy event in your life for which they're not there. I thought I had arrived at this magical, and apparently mythical, place in my grief for my mother. I am not even close to being at this point. It is not even in sight. I have not left the house. I haven't even had a shower or dressed or tied my shoes. I'm still in bed, with the lights off and the doona over my head. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
What is it that triggers grief? I find it really interesting. My mother died when I was 17, after a four year battle with emphysema. It was a horrible way to die and my beautiful mum struggled and fought against it to the bitter end. I know she did it for me and my siblings - I am the youngest of six. Now that I am a mother I totally understand why she fought the way she did and I would too, God forbid, if I found myself in a similar situation.
When I look back over my life I compartmentalise it into sections. The first section is Before Mum Died, followed by After Mum Died. That's it. Just the two. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that I am in this new section called Over Mum's Death. That I have this thing that Americans like to call "closure". As I get older I am more and more convinced that closure doesn't exist. Otherwise, why would I be able to float along in life, just doing my Mothering thing, following routines, making lunches and looking after my family and then - BANG! Grief delivers a sucker punch right in my guts and demolishes my diaphragm.
This happened most recently, two days ago on my 40th birthday. Yes, I know what you're thinking. "She couldn't possibly be forty!" and "But she's so vibrant!" and "She still has all her own teeth!"
But, my friends, I did. And it knocked me for six. The amazing thing about our subconscious is that it prepares us for events even when we don't know they're going to be significant. Upon reflection, I started thinking about Mum over the last month as I approached this milestone. I wondered how she felt when she was forty. She would have had five children between 12 months and 11 years. That's very different to me - I only have two children being 8 years and nearly 11 years. The fact that both our oldest children would be 11 was kind of cool - I haven't realised that we must have been the same age when we had both had our first child. That made me feel connected.
But when I woke up on my birthday, I just felt sad and drained. I didn't know why. I thought I should be happy but I didn't want to answer the phone, I didn't want to speak to anyone and I even contemplated cancelling my lunch with my sister. Little old introvert me was backing into her cave at a rate of knots. I hate that feeling where it is physically impossible to smile. I feel like such a misery guts and it is an effort to talk to people. I feel like such a burden to everyone because they know I'm sad and I know they know I'm sad but I don't want them to talk to me about it because then I'd be more sad. And what if my being sad makes them sad. *shudder*
Anyway, by the end of the day, I realised that this sadness, on what should be a fun and exciting celebration of a milestone, was due to the fact that my mother was not there to share it with me. To celebrate with me. To see that her baby made it to forty. She would be 83 this year.
The last time I had such a strong grief response was when I turned 34 because I had been alive without my mother as long as I had been alive with her. So I could say that I had lived without my mother for half my life. For some reason that was significant. But after that birthday passed, I really enjoyed my 35th - 39th birthdays. Didn't have such a painful grief response as I had had in the past. I put this down to the 34 years milestone. After my 35th birthday, without having those grief feelings, I thought "yay! I have sorted out this Grief Thing once and for all! I am free of my grief and can now get on with my life!"
Wrong! As I get older, the more I want to connect with my mother, so I am anticipating that between now and when I turn 59 (the age at which she died) I am probably going to have some more Grief-days. And 60 might be the toughest. But who knows? I sure don't. And I thought I did.
Thanks for reading :)