Grief / Mental Health

Looking for Answers: Navigating Grief

I did it again. I was thinking about something and reached toward my phone to call her. She was always there for me.

During our phone conversations, I don’t think I ever cried. She listened and we laughed. She heard me bitch about my day. She talked to me when I was in a bad mood. But, now… Sometimes I look at the phone and tears well up in my eyes.

How does one deal with the pain of death? The simplest solution is to cry. Tears are good. Releasing them allows us to grieve. Others deal with grief in other ways. I don’t know if my brothers have cried yet. But, they talk about her. You can’t sweep it under the rug. Talk about it. Without any books that’s my novice conclusion.

Keeping her memory alive by telling her story allows us to remember the loving, selfless person she was. Writing the eulogy, looking through her stuff and making collages of pictures was painful. But at the same time it was joyous as we looked at how full of life she was. We had a full house filled with memories.

Happiness. Being happy where you are at in life…that was the way she lived her life.

Her house was filled with framed pictures of her friends and family. So many friends from different parts and different stages of her life showed up at the wake, funeral and reception. That’s a lot of lives she touched. There are countless more. All the students she taught throughout the years. Friends of friends. Neighbors. Childhood friends.

There are several memories I have from the journey from the hospital to rehab center to eventual death that still haunt me. Finding out that she four to six weeks to live without radiation. But then there was four to six months if she did radiation. Okay, that was better. She tried but I guess her body couldn’t handle it.

Losing the ability to communicate. The thoughts in her head that just wouldn’t translate into words. Losing the ability to walk. The worsening tremors. This wasn’t my mom.

The pain in her eyes when she saw our sadness. That was the hardest part of all.

I have a read a few articles about grief looking for answers. There really isn’t a clear answer. Some books might say there are five steps. Yes, I have experienced denial. It still doesn’t seem like it has really happened. But then the heavy feeling of emptiness creeps up at the most unexpected times. I have, however, gone through the anger stage. Why was such a wonderful person taken away from us at age 65? She deserved to see her grandchildren grow up. To see me get married some day.

The only real answer (in my opinion), other than talking about it, I have read in my quick “Google search” of grief is to live intentionally. This is how we navigate this new normal.

The answer for me so far in defining this new normal is to find a sense of purpose in life and go after it. For me, I think this might mean changing the conversation on mental illness and maybe pursuing social work.

My mom would have wanted me to be the best person I can be. This might mean making difficult choices in order to change myself for the better. But I can do it.

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