I was taught an acronym for the the Five Stages of Grief during health class in junior high. I’ve never forgotten the five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I used to think the stages were linear and you went through them in order. Little did I know that grief would be so MESSY! There’s nothing linear about it.
I noticed that I did experience something linear, though. And I didn’t experience it until January 2nd, 2018. (This date still remains the worst day of my life. To read more about the beginning days of losing my mom, read Chicken Pot Pie for the Soul.) My linear way of thinking has become my newly created timeline of reference. My newest way of gauging when things have happened in my life is to say, “before my mom died” or “after my mom died”. That’s truly how I keep track of recent life events.
There is more to address when it comes to timelines, more specifically, my Facebook timeline. Writing and sharing about my “after my mom died” journey on Facebook helped me so much. It helped me in my grieving and healing process. It also helped me share the goodness of my mom. I was reminded to do more and be more. My mom was inspiring. (Or should I say is inspiring? I never know what tense to use. She’s not gone, she’s just not here.)
I recently felt strongly impressed to go through my Facebook profile and take screenshots of all my “after my mom died” posts. I felt impressed to share them on this platform. I know we all grieve and heal in our own way, but my hope is that sharing my personal journey can help even just one person. Maybe this blog post will help others who may be going through the same things as me. Maybe it can help people to understand what grief might be like for others, especially if they haven’t experienced death of a loved one yet.
For the first few months after my mom died, I consistently made posts about her and how I was navigating my new normal without her. Looking back, I’m so glad I shared my process, but I regret leaving out a lot of the anger I felt. I am glad I included some angry posts, but those posts weren’t an accurate portrayal of the full range of anger I actually felt. Why do we do that? Why do we try to protect others from our authentic journey? Is it out of fear? Are we worried how people might view us? Does it make us look weak? Is it because we feel we are betraying the one we lost?
(Deep breath.) I will be mapping out my screenshots from my Facebook timeline and filling in the blanks along the way. This has taken a lot from me emotionally, but knowing I need to share it gives me strength.
(I feel I must preface this, though. I had so much love and goodness in my life, amidst my devastation. The good outweighed the bad, for sure. Anger did not take over my life, but it was absolutely present.)
My world was turned upside down and I was obviously devastated. Sadness was alive and well, but anger became very real to me. Here’s a a response to a friend who was asking how I was holding up. WARNING: I swear here. And talk about boobs. I’m not even sorry, either. It further illustrates my anger and how erratic my emotions were.
I remember feeling the prayers of others. It was almost tangible. There’s no way we could have done what we needed to do in such a short time without those prayers. I’m so grateful for those prayers.
I remember at some point I started HATING the phrases, “she’s in a better place” or “sorry for your loss” or “let me know what I can do”. And that’s all I heard during the meet and greet before the funeral. One minute I was feeling the love and support of others, and then the next I was irritated by everything and everyone. (I’m sure I was super fun to live with during this time.)
Do you know what else I started to hate? Flowers! I understand that you should have some sort of floral arrangements at the funeral, but my goodness!!!! The cost of flowers for a funeral is astronomical. (Don’t get me started on the cost of funerals. Hiway robbery!) My cousins rallied around us and pitched in money for floral arrangements for the funeral. That was beyond touching. They knew we were dealing with too much, and they saved the day! It seems that giving flowers when someone dies is the norm. After my mom died, my table was filled with flowers that people gifted me. I definitely felt loved. I felt remembered. What beautiful emotional gifts. The flowers themselves are beautiful, too. However, when those flowers started to die, I started to feel angry. Those flowers died, just like my mom!!! I was experiencing abandonment issues, all over the place. (I decided I won’t give flowers anymore. From here on out, I will food, give gift cards, or something that is meaningful and helpful. I definitely won’t give something that will die! )
*Edit: This was my own personal experience with death flowers. Flowers are a lovely gift. I received flowers for Mother’s Day because a friend wanted me to know she remembered. That was so meaningful. I don’t hate flowers in general. Just death flowers. I am not saying you shouldn’t give flowers. However, if you are now questioning what to do after someone dies? Food is always a good thing to provide. Gift cards to local restaurants. Even monetary help to pay for funeral costs. I’m definitely going to share the wonderful ways people served me and my family in part 2. Spoiler alert. Friends rallied around me and my siblings and paid for house cleaners to come to my mom’s house. That was an amazing gift. I still get wet eyes thinking about it.
As I continued in my grieving process, I made more posts about how sad I was. I also included how happy I was that my mom was so intricately woven into our lives. I celebrated her. I tried to be more like her. I shared memories of her with my children. My mom was a phenomenal human being. She did not have an easy life. Like ever. And she was the Little Engine That Could. She did not give up. My mom did have struggles, both physical and mental. She suffered at the hands of others. Somehow, she came out of that with such love in her heart. It emanated from her. And I could only see the good in her. I had zero negative memories. Between my own happy memories and all the stories people shared with me, my mom was slowly but surely launched into sainthood.
My grieving continued, and my anger continued. I was angry at those people who ever “did my mom wrong”. I was angry at Heavenly Father for taking her much too soon. My mom was only 61 years old. I was angry at other people who had mothers who were alive and well but weren’t treating them right. I was angry at myself for all those times I was such a brat to my mom. Slowly but surely, I started to remember things about my mom. The not-so-good-things. Those rose coloured glasses I was wearing broke. I became angry at my mom. I felt like I was betraying her by questioning my memories, though. I felt so conflicted. I hated that I was angry at her, but that didn’t change the fact that I was. I was angry at my extended family. I was angry at the doctors. I was just so ANGRY. I remember I shared some of that anger on Facebook and then promptly deleted it. I wish I could remember what I said.
Anger aside, I need to mention once again how amazing people were during our early stages of this new normal without my mom. People came out of the woodwork and it was absolutely beautiful. People would share Grandma Margi stories. There is such healing in remembering and sharing. I’ll be forever grateful for the love that came pouring in for those first few weeks after my mom died. But people eventually move on. And people stop praying for you. That’s just natural. And that’s okay. But guess what? You can’t move on. You don’t get over it. How can you? There is a void in your life that cannot ever be filled. How can it? I will always need my mom. I will always miss my mom. I will always feel a part of me missing. I feel like people generally expect you to move on and get over it after a while.
One day, I happened to see this video on grief from BBC Stories: Like Minds, episode 12. I’ve never heard grief broken down this way. It was beyond perfect. If you don’t want to watch the whole episode, watch from 1:38 to 2:41. I found this explanation to be so profound, validating and encouraging. “You don’t move on or get over it. You just learn to have it as part of your life.”And that’s what I’m doing. Losing my mom is a part of my life. And will always be.
I have tried to paint an accurate picture of my stages of grief. (I can’t address everything in one post. I’ll delve until more in part 2.) I don’t think I really experienced denial or bargaining, but I definitely experienced anger and depression. The anger in me has mostly dissipated. It still comes out, but not the the extent it did before. I think it’s safe to say I’m now in the acceptance stage. It’s a peaceful place to be. I know that I couldn’t have got to that place without the anger and depression I felt.
Decorating our Christmas tree definitely triggered many moments of tears and sadness. My mom adored Christmas. Holidays without her are so hard. This Christmas, I noticed that another emotion was tag teaming my sadness, and it was happiness. I felt both at the same time! I will forever be grateful for all of my wonderful memories and traditions associated with my mom. I’m so grateful for Christmas decorations from my mom that will be reminders of her every Christmas season.
January 2nd is coming up. It’ll mark two years since my mom died. I’ve come a long way in my grieving and healing. One thing I’ve done for myself is let myself feel it all. That’s truly been a gift. It’s helped me process and heal. I’ve always gone for counselling. What a gift that has been. Do I still have moments? Of course. But now I’m having moments instead of days.
My mom is never far from my mind, but I feel like I have given myself permission to not be sad all the time. Being happy is not betraying my mother’s importance in my life. It’s honouring her. And I know she’d want that.