“Grief is the price we pay for love.”- Queen Elizabeth II
I’ve recently lost people in my world who I never expected to lose. At 21, I never imagined going to so many funerals of my friends back to back. I never imagined that I’d have to learn to navigate a world where my friends just stopped existing in.
Grief comes in waves. Some days are so busy with my little one that I don’t have the time to sob or to hurt or to think about the overwhelming sadness that has settled into my joints and my limbs and my chest and my head as a dull, physical pain. Other days, I can’t focus on any of the tasks that I have to accomplish because my sadness is a vortex that sucks me away from reality like a vacuum. Some days, I’m distracted. Others, I’m overly focused, obsessing over small, insignificant things because I need to channel my energy for something. Anything.
As a child or an adolescent, grief looks different. The world around you-teachers, friends, parents, etc.-expect the spiraling. They anticipate the agony that you feel. They say comforting things like, “Take as much time as you need.” They become overly accommodating. They allow you to stay in a bed, under the blankets, for weeks at a time if that’s what you need. As an adult, specially as a parent, that opportunity isn’t one that we’re afforded.
When I experienced this particular loss, I felt like my world was ending. The world as I knew it had ended. There’s something about knowing that a person no longer exists on the planet. It’s soul crushing. It’s devastating. It’s world ending.
Life as I’d known it had drastically changed. Every single memory with this person stopped being a “fond memory” and it became a necessity. I was sitting on my couch, tears streaming down my face, recovering from the screaming and the yelling frenzy that I’d had a few moments prior, and I was forcing myself to remember every single detail of their face. Of their voice. Every detail of every second spent together. I was torturing myself with memories and recollections. I was grasping at every straw, desperate for anything tangible.
The next day was soul crushing. It was going into work and having to tell my boss that I’d be needing a few days off so that I could go to the viewing and the funeral services. It was choking on those words because it was the first time that I’d acknowledged all of this out loud. It was the emotional breakdown that followed immediately after. It was trying to do my job, but my brain wouldn’t allow me to focus on the task at hand. It was me, sobbing, asking if I could leave early.
Grieving as a parent is being grateful for the daily distractions and for the routines. I’m grateful for the consistency. I’m grateful for waking up in the morning and getting us dressed and ready for the day. I’m grateful for daycare drop off and for my work day. I’m grateful for the evenings after work; the playing and the cleaning and the dinner and the baths and bedtime. I’m grateful for the daily distractions that arise-tantrums and messes and time outs and day trips and Target adventures.
But grieving as a parent is also waiting until you’ve five minutes alone to fall apart. It’s wishing you could have the calmness and the silence and the spare time in the day to fall apart. It’s wishing that you didn’t have to be “so strong”. It’s wishing that you didn’t have bills and responsibilities so that you could take an infinite amount of time off to lay in bed and cry and remember and feel all of the feelings that we have learned to suppress. Grieving as a parent is crying in bed at night, quietly because you don’t dare wake up the little one that you fought to get to sleep. It’s feeling guilty that being a parent robbed you from time with the deceased. It’s feeling annoyed for feeling guilty. It’s feeling guilty for feeling annoyed for feeling guilty. It’s losing hours of well needed sleep because you only have night time to be sad and to fall apart and to put yourself together again before your family wakes up in the morning and expects you to be the mother that they need you to be.
Just because a life ended-a valuable, loved, respected, celebrated, and cherished life-mine didn’t. Yours didn’t. Like it or not, we still have to wake up every day and raise our families every day and do our jobs every day. And it’s hard. It’s hard and it’s scary. It’s terrifying to think that maybe, one day, I’ll forget a detail of our time together. Or that I’ll stop being so sad. Or that I’ll eventually get used to living in a world where they don’t. And it’s necessary…healing and moving on is necessary. But there are some things that one simply can’t move on from.
I’m so sad. I’m so hurt. But I’m still a mom. So I’ll continue to fall apart at night. Or to yell and cry on my commute home from work. But my grief, as big and as painful as it is, won’t deter me from being the best mom that I can be. And it won’t stop you from being a great mama, either.
To all of my grieving mothers, I see you. I’m with you.