It has been three months since my Mom passed away and I feel like my days fall under two categories: coping or crying. Most days are coping days that are filled with my normal routines like wrestling the kids into the car for preschool, trying to convince my 3 year old son to stop screaming at me,working part-time as a speech therapist, grocery shopping, having emotional outbursts usually directed towards my husband, etc. If I get sad, it usually happens at night after the kids have gone to bed.
But, about every week or so, I feel my head start to fill with pressure, a knot the size of Texas forms in the back of my throat, and the crying begins. There is not much that can stop the tears on my crying days. This is especially hard for me to handle because I have always been the girl that keeps it together, aka “heartless” as some people have called me. As the descendent of some pretty stern Irish Catholics, I hold onto my apathy like a trophy. But the loss of my Mom has ripped that apathetic trophy from my hands, and replaced it with a bottomless box of Kleenex.
Coping with her death has forced me to feel a grief that I didn’t think was imaginable. It has also forced me to take a better look at my life and question what I can bring to the world’s table. This blog has given me a path to travel during such a disorienting journey through grief and mourning. Until my Mom passed away, I often thought of the terms of grief and mourning as synonymous terms. But, after reading Joan Didion’s heartbreaking memoir “The Year of Magical Thinking,” I came to understand the difference between the two. Joan writes candidly of the year following her husband’s sudden death. In the initial months following his death, she describes how the passive act of grief morphs into a more active act of mourning:
“That I was only now beginning the process of mourning did not occur to me. Until now I had been able only to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened. Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention. Until now there had been every urgent reason to obliterate any attention that might otherwise have been paid, banish the thought, bring adrenaline to bear on the crisis of the day….I began.”
And so I begin mourning. I struggle daily as I learn to navigate through my grief in a more purposeful way. I allow myself to feel the sadness and emptiness of my Mom’s absence while also trying to keep my eyes open to those in the present, my children, my husband, my beautiful family and friends. It is a juggling act that this uncoordinated, lanky girl is not prepared to perform, but I begin anyway.