How do you solve a problem like more loss? PART II of the healing journey! (With Sound of Music gifs!)

It is DAY TWO of the blogging series about my healing journey – can you handle the excitement?! Do you have your coffee ready?!

I will recap yesterday’s post. The start of the journey, if you will, in one long run-on sentence:

My mom dies in 2013, I am very very sad (as one would be), a year later I try to get pregnant but can’t, I go to the acupuncturist, the energy gates open and I grieve every loss I have ever had (a lot of loss), I am on a road to healing…and BUM BUM BUM.

(Oh, and there is a flow chart! And Sound of Music gifs! Really you should take a look!)

That takes us to part two: we pick up at the bum, bum bum!

We are still at the top of the flow chart (<–here in full). BUT now we are gonna move to that section labeled SUFFERING. Hold on to your hats folks.

It is January, precisely two years, four months after my mom died. I am still feeling a lot of grief but it is flowing through me. This is good. But also, my husband has been witnessing the grief flow through me for, oh, two and a half years. That is a hard thing to do, to witness our loved ones in pain. (Psst, this bit is some foreshadowing, wink wink.)

As you may recall I was seeing an acupuncturist in the hopes of getting pregnant. I was starting to see shifts in my body, and I was also taking Chinese herbs and such.

And then in mid-January, I noticed all the signs I had noticed when I was pregnant with my daughter. I took a pregnancy test and I was pregnant.

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Sing it Maria! Tumblr.

Everything about this pregnancy felt miraculous. It is hard to explain. It felt like it came out of nowhere. I didn’t think my body was fully ready for pregnancy so I was a bit stunned.

I did the online calculator of when I was due: It was the date my mother died, September 18th.

To the day.

Now, I know due dates are estimations, but I got goosebumps. I mean really, how does that happen?

This feeling of disbelief–but also of something not being right, of it all being too easy, and not quite real–was with me from the start.

Seven weeks into my pregnancy I had a dream. It was a beautiful dream of huge cranes flying away into the night. I can still close my eyes and feel its beauty. But I awoke with a huge amount of despair and grief. I could not figure it out. I honored the grief -I figured it was new grief surfacing about how my mom would never meet this child, or something like that. I was so very sad though. I remember taking a day off of work, that was how much I was grieving.

Two weeks later I sat in an ultrasound room and saw there was no heartbeat. I had started bleeding the day prior. I knew that I had lost the baby, but I was not really ready to face it until sitting in that room. My husband’s eyes welled with tears and I sat numb. I knew it already on some level. But I hadn’t been ready to really know it, you know?

It appeared the baby had stopped growing two weeks prior – the day of my dream, I am nearly certain. 

This loss, this loss of a child that was supposed to enter our world on the date I lost my mom, it was the icing on the cake of so. much. loss. It was the tipping point. I had suffered up until this point, yes, but I was able to see light at the end, to which I was headed.

This loss was different.

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Maria understands. source.

Are you still with me? I now it is so sad but I will promise you, this big story ends well. It ends with love and connection. I think we need a reminder from Maria that it is going to be ok in the end:

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From TUMBLR of course!

But yes, what came next was suffering.

We have all suffered so what I will share I am sure you can relate to: I felt like I was being punished. (“Why me?”) I felt as though maybe it was true that bad things happen to bad people. (A favorite ethos of our culture. Not true however!) I felt isolated and alone in my grief, that there was NO way ANYONE could EVER relate to MY PAIN because it was SO UNIQUE. (Also not true.) I felt bitter and angry.

Remember my husband? Well, we both took it hard. And I wanted someone to blame and while it makes zero sense, I remember constantly being upset with him because he just couldn’t understand, he wasn’t being patient in my healing…and later, in therapy, I realized that really I just wanted HIM to make it better. Somehow. I didn’t realize it at the time but suffering does weird things to us doesn’t it?

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More gifs from here.

So, not only was I suffering from the miscarriage, I was feeling angry and bitter in my marriage…a bit of projection, if you will. Well that just creates more stress. A sh*tstorm of stress, really.

And then it all shifted.

If you were to ask me the turning point in my healing, if I could identify one moment in time, I can tell you. It was early March. I was talking to my sister on the phone. I can even picture the corner of my couch I was sitting on when I spoke to her.

My sister is often able to connect spiritually with my mother in intense ways that I am not able to. You know what she told me as we spoke on the phone that day in March? She said mom saw my intense suffering. And she said, “Mom wants you to be happy…to be able to enjoy your husband and daughter. She doesn’t want you to suffer any more.”

That, my friends, was the turning point.

I felt those words in my heart. I felt my mother with me, and I felt her pain at seeing me in pain.

It was like a light bulb went off. I thought, I do not have to choose suffering. Yes, I didn’t ask be dealt these cards. But I can choose how I respond. 

I surrendered to the pain. I didn’t blame, I didn’t fight, I simply saw that it was part of my story at this point, and that I could choose to embrace this or I could angrily fight against it. The fighting-against-it-trope was not going well for me, my husband or my family.

If you want the truth, it was my mother’s love that made me see. My mother continues to mother me from beyond the veil. Is that not incredible? 

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Hooray for a mother’s love! From source.

I TOLD YOU IT WOULD END WELL! But there is more…

TOMORROW – PART 3: How I chose love and connection over fear, anger, and suffering. (PLUS more gifs!)


Do your life also correspond nicely with Sound of Music animated GIFS? Then I invite you to join me on Twitter or Facebook!

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Let’s start at the beginning. My healing journey (Part I) told with Sound of Music GIFS.

This is a blog post about a flow chart about healing from loss as told with the assistance of Sound of Music gifs. Because that’s how I roll.

Behold diagram 1.1.

img_3423This is a chart about healing. It starts with loss (a heck of a lotta loss) and ends with connection, love, community and healing. (Cue the happy music!)

I got to thinking, wow what a wild and crazy path it has been…twists and turns, lots of suffering (oy, enough with the suffering!) and finally, shifts into other ways of being.

I also realized I haven’t really written my story from start to finish. SO I SHALL!

With that in mind…

Lets start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-B-C
When you hurt you begin with GRIEF-AND-LOSS. (Grief and Loss!)

My journey started with the loss of my mom. She was 63, and had been diagnosed with breast cancer nearly two decades earlier when she was 43. She had some good years in between but in the end, the massive radiation and chemo that gave her those extra years also damaged her brain, her nerves, her mobility. By the time 2013 rolled around she was not doing well, and we lost her in September of that year.

I was 35 and my daughter turned 8 months old the day my mother died.

Grief surprised me with its force and ferocity. I will be frank with you guys: I’ve suffered a share of dark nights of the soul. I survived childhood trauma and have been through PTSD and massive anxiety, and well, I must admit…I did not expect grief to be that bad.

And the universe laughed and laughed!

Patton Oswald wrote about this recently and captured it so well (with profanity! You have been warned). As he wrote, “Thanks Grief. Thanks for making depression look like the buzzing little bully it always was….Grief is Jason Statham holding that 4th grade bully’s head in a toilet and then fucking the teacher you’ve got a crush on in front of the class. Grief makes depression cower behind you and apologize for being such a dick.”

Grief is intense. I am still figuring it all out, but I think one of the reasons why it is such a challenging emotion, at least in my case, was because the grief of losing my mom was fueled by love.

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Via tumblr.

All the other stuff I went through? Fueled by fear. Love as we know is SO much stronger than fear.

SO THE CHART. Back to the chart. The intense love for my mom and the loss in my heart…well the experience truly cracked open my heart.  

Broken hearts, if tended to and healed, can grow back larger and stronger. Just remember that if you find yourself feeling broken-hearted. (As a human, i promise you will. Likely again and again. OH HUMANITY.)

Broken heart, pain, yes….but my story doesn’t stop there. It would be such a tiny chart now wouldn’t it! You may notice that loss isn’t listed once on my chart. NO NELLY IT IS NOT. Rather, the chart says loss loss loss loss lossssss!

It turns out that grief begets grief. By this I mean, if you feel the feels, you might find yourself opening a wellspring of MORE UNDERLYING UNRESOLVED GRIEF. This, my friends, is the part of my diagram marked “More grief? What gives???”

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From Tumblr.

What gives indeed. In my experience it went like this: I’m grieving the loss of my mom…I’m doing the therapy, I’m writing the writing, making progress… I decided to start to get pregnant. Oh this pregnancy journey. Well I could just tell my body had shut down. I could feel it in my bones. I knew that I needed some kind of shift in my body if I was ever going to get pregnant again.

So I did what all hippy dippy types do and I went to acupuncture! It was incredible (it always has been a wonderful tool for me), and let me tell you this,  it released a veritable flood gates. WAYYY OPEN. Tears flowed forth like the Danube…I remember asking my acupuncturist. I was like, uh excuse me but shouldn’t I be seeing less grief over time? Because mine seems to be INTENSIFYING. And she flashed a knowing smile and said, ah, but does it seem to stick or flow with you? I said, oh it flows, it just flows and flows and then stops but then more comes!

She said, Sarah – that is a huge shift. HUGE.

It was.

SO MUCH BURIED GRIEF CAME FORTH. It was like every loss I ever felt in my life…loss of childhood innocence from trauma, loss of family and friends, loss of my fitbit that my three-year-old ran off with and hid somewhere (and why isn’t it in the dog crate where she usually throws things??) Every. Single. Loss. It  was surfacing big time.

One day though I noticed…things were looking up. Things were making a corner. Turning a corner. Turning around in a corner. What the hell is that saying?

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Ahem. You might have a hunch that the story does not stop here. No it does not. (That is a big freaking chart I drew isn’t it?)

Yeah…the next thing on the chart is SUFFERING. With little arrows that say “isolation!” and “self-blame!” and “Bad things happen to bad people!”

Yes, you see, sometimes life is….shall we say…unpredictable. And downright crummy. Yeah I said it – CRUMMY.

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From TUMBLR of course!

My life threw me a curve ball. Maybe my life was getting turned around in that corner metaphor that I was mixed up about. I don’t know. But it was basically like, HA you thought you had enough grief? Not so fast missy.

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Gif Source

This wasn’t the end of my story.Maybe I just didn’t exactly squeeze all the life lessons out of grief and loss.

The universe piled on one more loss. Yeah you could say that it got my attention. 

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via Tumblr

NEXT: MORE PBS PROGRAMMING FOR MY KID PLUS PART TWO OF MY GRIEF HEALING JOURNEY.


Anxiously awaiting PART TWO? Make sure to join me on Twitteror Facebook.

 

My How You’ve Grown!

The other day Facebook popped up a photo for me to share from three years ago. The photo was taken two months before my mom died.

Look at this baby! I thought. Oh, and my toddler has grown a lot in the meantime too.

I look at this younger, much more innocent version of myself and think, honey, hold on. You have a wild ride ahead of you.

A wild-ride indeed. I’ve grown up. While the hard-fought life lessons may have come from circumstances I would never have asked for, I am grateful for where I have arrived. Grief cracked open my heart. (And gave me gray hairs, but that is beside the point.)

I feel like I’m coming into my own and damn does it feel good. I’m almost forty and I couldn’t be happier. It is like when I approached thirty–I was ready to say good riddance to my twenties. Well, same now.

I feel like I am in my prime. 

Oh, how my twenty-two year old self would have laughed at that!

Not surprisingly, standing in these nearly-over-the-hill shoes brings new perspective. I realized the other day that I am only five years younger than my mom was when she was diagnosed with the big C.

Womp, womp. Way to burst the happy bubble right?

Realizing this  has given me even more gratitude AND made me appreciate my mom in new ways. I remember her at that age and she seemed so…WISE. Grounded. She knew who she was.

And damn, she had a fantastic wardrobe. I know that sounds funny but the woman set the bar HIGH. It is seriously time to up my game.

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I would write more but my three-year-old is plucking leaves off a succulent plant. My husband is trying to convince her to ride her tricycle but now she has decided to roll the giant watermelon we bought yesterday. That would be my clue to wrap things up.

Life is good. But I also have a feeling when I’m staring down fifty, I will laugh and think, oh my little Sarah, how you have GROWN!

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Image source.

 

A Song for my Mother

There I was, palms sweating, all eyes on me. My heart was racing. Around me, new friends (very new)—most of them twenty, thirty, even forty years older than myself—urged me on.

“Will you consider it?” They asked.

Would I consider it?

I knew in my heart the answer was yes, even if my sweaty palms said no.

I was at choir practice, and these new friends were fellow members of the choir that I recently joined, which is part of the church that I recently joined. (You know, working on building my village and all that jazz.)

In the way that only deep, deep pain can motivate us, I recently came to the realization that I can’t do this life-gig solo. I need a village. Comrades. Partners on the path of self-actualization

I needed a faith community .

Seeing as I’m liberal-but-leery-of-organized religion, I naturally decided to check out our local Unitarian Universalist church.  Their mission statement is “Love. Grow. Serve.” Who can’t get behind that? They describe themselves as an “open-hearted multi-generational community” and that is what I found the instant I walked through their doors. love-grow-serve

The people I’ve met in this faith community include a baby-boomer hippy guitarist, a young physics professor, a Jewish grandma, a seventy-year old blue-bird enthusiast, a musical theater professional, and more. (And, they literally greet you with homemade muffins and coffee. In fact, they give new members the yellow mugs, so they can find you and say hello. It just so happens the yellow ones hold the most coffee, which also makes me love them.)

I immediately knew I wanted to join the church choir. Their Director is young and talented. The choir is small and half their members are snowbirds who return north for summer. In addition to needing more warm bodies, I had a hunch they would also benefit from having a few more members who could read music.

So there I was, at the second practice of my new choir at the new church I joined.

There are precisely four sopranos including myself. Judy, who carries a Monet Water Lilies tote and a tin of cough drops, sits to my right and watches out for me. She found an extra binder of music and shared her post-it tabs with me.

I was enjoying the practice. We were rehearsing the old Appalachian hymn “Bright Morning Stars” for Mother’s Day.

Our Director announced she would need a volunteer to do an a capella solo for the first verse, then we would add another part with each subsequent verse.

I absentmindedly scanned my music. I wondered who she had in mind to sing the solo. I was sort of relieved, in fact. Thank goodness I’m new, for surely she didn’t have me in mind, I thought to myself.

And then Judy tugged my arm and pointed to me. My palms started sweating. A lot. 

“Will you? Will you consider it?” she asked?

I looked up and all the others were smiling kindly. Wait, what? They were serious? Several altos nodded and smiled at me. I looked at the choir director who was smiling, waiting for me to reply.

It was then that I heard myself say yes. 

It is hard for me to describe how much this moment stirred me. I have always loved singing. From as long as I can remember I have sung in a choir. In middle and high school I took voice lessons and competed with other awkward pre-teens in various music festivals, singing with girls’ ensembles and honor choirs and on and on.

Recently, the most singing I’d done was in my shower or dancing with my pre-schooler to Yvis’s Yogurt Song.

And here I was, nonchalantly saying yes to SING A SOLO. In church. My voice, alone. What on earth was happening?

I was still wrapping my head around this fact as our Director paused to tell a story about this particular hymn. She explained how she had performed the song with a group of inner-city youth, most of them living on public assistance of some form in a very low-income area. She said how she talked to them about the meaning of the lyrics, how the song is about a parent’s sacrifice for their children.

It as at this point in the story that she said, that one of her high school students began whispering. Being the great choir director that she is, she cleared her throat and asked the young woman, “Excuse me, do you have a question?”

The student looked up and told her, “My parents are dead.”

At this point my eyes welled with tears. It turns out, of course, that the song is actually a metaphor, and it was about the eternal love of a parent toward a child even beyond death. The choir Director said she explained this to the student, how the song wasn’t literal but in fact about how the love of your parents goes beyond death, and perhaps this young woman’s parent’s were watching over her. Loving her still.

Well, at this point I didn’t know how I was going to sing this song about dead mothers. On mother’s day of all days. With my own dead mother up in heaven like that precious child’s. 

None of this mattered. I seemed to be carried by the energy of this group, and I suddenly found myself moments later singing the solo it out into the empty church. I finished and heard the choir members begin to clap.

Judy turned to me and said, “that was beautiful.”

The choir director wiped a tear away.”I don’t know why I’m so emotional today but that really moved me.”

Not only did I get through the song about dead mothers without crying, but I sang the whole thing fairly effortlessly.

And here is the crazy thing: I have always dreaded and hated solos. I have a traumatic memory of me singing at a competition when I was maybe fifteen years old, totally breaking under the pressure of performing in front of others. (I was perfectly fine in the comfort of the pianist’s living room when we had practices.)

Singing out loud, alone, used to be too vulnerable. I was fine blending my voice with others. Exposed and in the spot-light, I would wither and crack. My outsides didn’t match my insides. Or maybe they did, because I felt cracked inside too, I hadn’t yet embodied my voice, and was many many years from that being the case.

And so I circle back to today. This weekI sang effortlessly. I suppose you could say I found my voice. 

Today is Mother’s Day. I will put on my pretty blue dress, my heels and my mother’s jewelry. I will go with my daughter and husband to my new church, where I will sing a solo in front of my new, multi-generational faith family.

And I will sing out about how the love of our mother’s transcends death.

I will sing a song for my mother. 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother’s slippers

They were slim and satin. She kept them next to her bed, or on cold days next to the heat vent. When we went Christmas shopping together, in between buying gifts for others she would stop by the racks of ladies’ slippers at Hudson’s Department store. This was a long time ago, before it became Macy’s. She would pick them out for herself and then wrap them with all the other presents, feigning surprise when she opened them on Christmas.

They were usually white or ivory, sometimes made of cotton or terry cloth, but always Isotoner Signature Women’s ballerina with the suede sole. In the later years she wore a white satin pair that would turn to gray, despite my father’s efforts to keep them white. (Nobody could do laundry like my mother. It was an art and science. Without her at the helm, we no longer had special containers going at all times dedicated to pre-soaks and stain removal.)

Her feet changed in these slippers. From strong and fast to warped and curled.1m7ZhI3

She carried the slippers with her hot tea and settled into them both at the end of a long day spent tending to others. She would tuck her feet under her legs, her legs under an afghan. I can see her, scooting over on the couch, a small sweet in her hand (chocolate or perhaps a cookie she unearthed from the freezer). She would look at me and say, Oh honey let me make some room for you. (As though her tall slender body was taking up too much space.)  And after I joined her on the couch, she would tuck in my feet under the blanket, too.

When she died, my sister took possession of mom’s slippers. I was relieved. I could not bear to see them, but it made me glad to know my mother’s slippers were still tending to toes, once again keeping strong feet warm under a blanket.

 

 

Finding My Village after Losing My Mom

The last few weeks I’ve found myself fantasizing about what it would be like to have my mom around. I doubt this is healthy, but it goes like this: I envision her showing up and going to work. She would get my kitchen really clean—sparkling, lemon-fresh clean. She would brush my daughter’s hair, patiently untangling it. She would spoil her only granddaughter with a special Valentine’s Day dress (something that I wouldn’t have the energy or time to consider buying). Even though I would say to her, mom you shouldn’t have, she would reply, That is what grandmothers are for.

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Image source.

She would treat me to lunch, just the two of us. She would spoil me by footing the bill for a pretty new dress or shirt, just because.  I would say, you don’t need to do this. And she would reply, I know, but I want to. And she would mean it.

Lovely as this dream is, it is not reality.

I’ve been lonely for family lately. In addition to my mom being gone, the rest of my alive-and-well-family feels really far away. There is a literal distance of over 1,000 miles. Sometimes that is not a big deal. We Facetime, we talk, and we see each other pretty frequently despite the distance. But it doesn’t replace having grandma down the road. Our far-away family can’t swoop in to babysit if an unexpected emergency comes up.

We know that we need a nearby, substitute family. We are working hard to build our village. Our list of sitters is slowly growing and we are forcing ourselves to forge connections with as many families and friends in our neighborhood as we can.

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Finding Community. Image source. 

I see this community as providing patches to a well-loved quilt that currently has some holes in it. 

Even though I might not like the fact that big, important pieces are missing from my quilt, it doesn’t mean I can’t try to patch it up, to blend old with new.

To be certain, there is no patch or series of patches that will repair the empty space that was held by my mother. That is not possible.  I see the new patches to the old quilt as being like those in a crazy quiltYou know, those folk-art type quilts that are sewn together with irregular shapes and sizes and using unique patterns and materials. (Hey, the name fits too. All families are a little crazy, right?!)

I’ve always liked the eclectic look of crazy quilts. There is beauty in its imperfection.

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A crazy quilt pattern up close. Source.

Which is not to say that I always fully embrace the new. Fantasies about my mom come from a place of resentment. For the fact that there are holes in the fabric of my family. For the fact that clinging to my old quilt just doesn’t work anymore.

The problem is that fantasies never accurately reflect what was or what could have been.

Let’s be honest: If my mom were alive and well, reality would look a little different than the fantasy I described.  For one thing, I’d likely be frantically cleaning before she arrived to my house (in order to save face, of course). And while yes, my mom would comb my daughter’s hair, she would likely also raise my ire by asking, “Don’t you ever comb this rat’s nest?!”

While it is very likely we would have lunch just the two of us, it’s also likely that when she would lean over to pass me the bread she would also tuck my hair behind my ear, commenting for the fifteenth-thousandth time that I should “Just pull my hair back so everyone can see my eyes!”

Imagining this revised scene makes me laugh and helps to slay some of the victim-hood.

It reminds me that there is no perfect quilt. Well-loved quilts always have a few frays.

Still, I miss her. Flaws and all.

—-

You might also enjoy: One Year After My Mom’s Death: Overthinking the Deathversary

 

 

 

Why I Started this Blog

I thought I’d take a moment to welcome you and to share a little bit about why I started Mourning Dove Motherhood.

The real reason sounds slightly crazy, but it is the truth, and I’m a truth-teller. So here it is.

The seeds of this blog came about on the first anniversary of losing my mom (aka “Deathversary”). In typical fashion, I overthought the day and ended up having a slightly hilarious time attempting to mourn my mother on the stinking beaches of sanibel island.

I wanted to make grand sense of it all. Why this suffering. Why this loss? It sure sucked and I was tired of it, damnit!

Well, the universe/aka my dead mother/aka the oneness of the allness responded to me (I warned you it gets weird) and basically was all, “Yes this all sucks and you can be sad but get it TOGETHER WOMAN. You need to write. Write like your life depends on it. Sit. Down. And. Write.”

So I sat down and wrote. (I mean, after all my begging for answers, I wasn’t about to ignore the all-powerful-universe’s advice.)

I drafted dozens of posts on an unpublished blog with no name. I wanted to see exactly what I was going to write about before I put it out into the world.

Well, it turns out I have a lot to say about motherhood and a lot to say about the loss of my mom. A lot of it is funny. Some of it is sad. All of it heals me.

As far as the name of the blog is concerned,  it is a result of my close encounters with a mourning dove, which then led me to read about the symbolism of mourning doves, which made me realize that mourning doves perfectly encapsulate what this blog is about: motherhood and hope after loss.

Hope after loss. Oh yes, and we can’t forget the toddler who pees in the dog bowl. She shows up a lot. She is a feisty, hilarious, loving child and she is constant fodder for my writing.

Welcome and I look forward to sharing with you. (You and the universe, that is.)

P.s. I’m glad you are here. If you are anything like me and spend more time on Facebook than anywhere else, feel free to like the Facebook page to see all the upcoming posts!

One Year After My Mom’s Passing: Overthinking the Deathversary

I’m just going to throw it out there: deathversaries are hard. There is no avoiding the grief that bubbles up. I knew that marking the first year without my mom would be difficult, so I planned a day with nothing to do other than take care of me. Well, that isn’t entirely true. I planned a Day, with a capital “D”.  A magical day of spiritual and emotional significance, that would allow me transcend space and time.  (Or something.)  For this first deathversary I planned to walk to beaches of Sanibel island, collect shells that would forever symbolize this day of hope, healing and renewal, and ponder the meaning of existence.

In retrospect, I should have settled for date with Netflix, some chocolate, and a trashy magazine. But that would have been too simple.

The day started promisingly enough. I woke to rain that stopped in the early morning. This made me giddy, since I’d heard that shelling conditions are ideal after a storm.

Now, never having shelled after a storm I have no idea if what I encountered that day was typical. If it was typical, God bless the hardcore shellers because they have earned every last stinking shell they find.

Let me emphasize the word stinking.

I arrived to my secret shelling spot that day, visions of whole conch shells dancing in my head. Instead, I found piles and piles of knobby, gnarly mussels. Tangled in seaweed. With the occasional piece of trash. I should clarify: these were piles of knotty, gnarly, rotting mussels. As far as the eye could see.

A wiser person might have shrugged it off, headed straight back to the car, and driven home. Not I. I carried on like a soldier. Somewhere, buried in the depth of rotting mussel flesh I was determined find my pearl.

Now, you might be thinking, Ok, the stink smell doesn’t sound ideal. But the shells! Glory be, I bet you found some great shells!

You would be sorely mistaken. I spent an hour walking the beach and found nothing more than some cats paws and a lot of jingle shells. These are rinky, dinky little shells. Child’s play.

I was disheartened, to say the least. The magical day was escaping me but it only made me even more upset. I didn’t feel peaceful, serene or contemplative. Hell, I wasn’t even feeling grief. I simply felt cranky and was being bitten alive by the bugs there were attracted to the stinking pile of mussels.

I found myself alone on a stretch of beach. I hadn’t really felt a connection to my mom all morning. I sat down and I said, mom, I want you to be with me.

She said, I am, I’m always with you.

(What likely remained unsaid by her was “…but why on earth did you pick a smelly beach as the place for us to hang out?!”)

Anyway, I frowned at the stinky piles of shells.

Stop looking for a special shell, she told me. You don’t need it to remember this day. Do you know how much you are loved?

At this point, I played along: How much am I loved, mom?

I absentmindedly picked up a huge pen shell that had hundreds of little gnarly barnacles on it.

You see all those barnacles – that is how many people love you – and even MORE. So many people love you, you can’t even begin to imagine. We are all rooting you on.

I felt the wave of love and I felt the urgency in my mom’s voice.

An hour after walking the stinky beach, and hour after being bitten by bugs, I finally felt anger. Anger at the injustice of it all. How it wasn’t fair that I didn’t have my mom to help me become a mom, and that my daughter didn’t have my mother to become her grandmother.

She said, I know, honey. It isn’t fair. You have had your share of injustices.

But. Yes, there was a but.

“But you know what you need to do.”

She was practically yelling now. I mean, it was like I was getting a stern lecture from across the deep abyss.

Sarah, you get your butt down and write. Write like your life depended on it.

I took the pen shell, walked back to the car, and later that night created this blog.* I went to the beach that day looking for a pity party. I looked for answers or deep meaning. But really, I knew in my heart that moving forward I had to write. The time of quiet, introverted grieving was over.

It has been a difficult year. I survived tough storms and I came out a little rough for the wear. It wasn’t the year of the shiny conch. It was the year of the gnarled, weathered pen shell–and let’s be honest, smelly shell– that washed ashore after the storm, holding reminders of love from many. A little rough for the wear but fully intact.

*(Ok, by create I mean “start drafting blog posts that will sit on my computer, unpublished for a year.” See this.)