(That’s my mom, in the foreground, with the pretty smile. She died in January.)
The tears fall when I am least expecting them:
- Before breakfast, when I look at something and the memory of my mother rises
- In the middle of a crowd, where people are dancing or old songs bring up nostalgia
- Late at night, when I make time to stop and journal
Grief is an ocean. It ebbs and flows like this. It has been almost four months since my mother died.
It ebbed in the weeks after. A knot of emotion lodged itself behind my heart, like a rock stuck in my shoe. My jaw has been set in a square line. I’m often grinding my teeth without realizing it.
The world is moving on without me. I usually want it to. Babies, engagements, races. What used to bring me joy is no match for unshakable sorrow, alienation and sadness.
Sometimes, I try to jump back in. I want to laugh again, with ease. I want to love again with my whole heart. I have to ride the waves.
I have a broad, vast community of people who love me. Their presence, the way they show up for me day after day — that opens up the dark knot and massages it out.
Before now, I didn’t really know what to do with that. Faith and time help me learn to accept it. To let the good love in.
Over the years, I let myself become a filter for debris and flotsam. The water went through on the other side. I could be cleansed, and washed anew. I had armor enough to be a filter.
Now, I am like a random leaf. Carried off by the sea some days. Other days, I fall flat on life’s shores, the salt water of my tears washing over me until the tide goes out.
Writing is as good and distracting to me as falling in love or running, or listening to songs that used to break my heart or make it soar.
It is in the down time, in silent space, when these Spring nights call me to sit out on my back porch and watch the sky, that I wonder about if a time is ever coming when I’ll be able to feel complete again or satisfied or less like I’m floating.
My grief shows me I am learning all over again how to ride life’s waves. Some of it is muscle memory. I get up, I go out, I sometimes have a good laugh that brings tears of joy and recognition. A lot of the time, I don’t know what it is that I’m feeling.
Grief is also a bit like how I imagine purgatory would feel – like waiting for salvation you know is not coming because you are in the in-between space. I spend a lot of time waiting for the tide, like those angels crowded on the beach in City of Angels. They don’t die, they don’t feel the anguish of human flesh, but they also don’t get to feel the rush or the liberation of running into the water, naked.
I let the tears rise and fall. I don’t decide whether I will go with them or not. I surrender. I wish I knew when it was going to be over, but I have a feeling this transformation is so much different from any other.