Riding the Grief Wave - "Why is Mommy crying?"
You know what kids don’t understand - the grief wave. As a mother, it can be hard to find time to grieve the loss of someone when your children are younger - kids don’t understand you need time. That some losses will have an effect on you in multiple ways over the course of your lifetime. That you are riding the grief wave - you can be smooth sailing until BAM - a wave comes out of nowhere and you find yourself an emotional mess.
My kids are younger so they don’t fully understand loss and grief - I often wondered to myself who would be the first person to teach them about death (morbid I know). The first person to touch their lives that would leave them - the first person that I would have to explain to them would be gone for forever (physically). How do you fully explain to a child what comes afterward - the waves of grief that you ride for years to come as you learn to live without that person.
This week I find myself riding the grief wave as I approach the 1 year mark of losing my best friend, Re. One year ago, we were camping together with the family for the weekend, before she suddenly passed away. I don’t even have a picture of us together on this last trip* - I left my phone in the car the entire time. However, I will always remember paddling out to the middle of Lost Lake with her to see the spectacular view of Mount Hood and the look on her face as we talked for hours.
I remember the morning of our last talk - I had been woken up early by my son (4 at the time) and found her reading by the campfire. I sat with her and we talked all morning about life, love and forgiveness until it was time to pack up the camping gear and head home. I replay all the things I said and the things I didn’t say in that conversation in my head over and over again. Did I tell her how special she was to me? Did I tell her how much she was loved? Did I tell her how much she taught me? Had I listened enough?
Honestly, there have been times in the past year that it still doesn’t feel real - she can’t really be gone. This is just a bad dream that I’m going to call and tell her all about. I’m going to tell her that she better not dare die on me because I can’t figure everything out without her. I still need her listening ear and sound advice - she would laugh and tell me that death isn’t the end all, be all. She would make me promise to be happy for her when she dies and throw a party at her funeral.
Of course, like a good best friend…. I would promise. Except when that time came, I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain. I couldn’t bring myself to throw a party or be happy - instead I went on autopilot. I did what I do best, I shut down all of my own personal emotions to tend to everyone else that was hurting too. I shoved that grief way down and told myself that I would ride the wave later… when I had time. Not now. Later.
My birthday weekend last year that was supposed to be a surprise trip with all of us going to the beach - instead I made my first public speech at my best friends memorial. I came home that day numb and went directly to bed - my wonderful husband took over as my kids kept peeking in the room asking if I was ok. As I rode the initial wave of grief - crying and trying to figure how to wrap my brain around this loss - I also tried not to let my kids see how broken I felt inside.
In spite of the immense grief wave that continued to pound down, life went on. Days went by, then weeks, then months. The family had school, karate, gymnastic, workouts and another move. The grief waves came in smaller, shorter doses. I still have moments that I had to shake myself when I went to call her (even the other day when I wanted to share exciting news) - and I can’t even imagine losing/deleting our text conversations. I think of her everyday and got tattoo a few months ago for her - a constant reminder that she is with me.
“Why is Mommy crying?” my daughter asked my husband Sunday evening. The grief wave had struck again. I know it’s because we are coming up on the anniversary of her death and I also am fighting internal guilt for not being with her three girls on that day. I am riding the grief wave and know this wave will end and it will be ok - I can catch my breath. That’s just how the grief wave works. It can hit hard and leave you a little wobbly in the knees, but in the end, you pick yourself up and keep on going.
It’s ok to not be ok all the time. When the grief wave comes - ride it. Let the tears come down and tell that person everything that you wished you had said and everything that they meant to you. My personal belief about loss is that the persons soul/spirit will always remain with you - the restrictions of regular communication no longer exist - they are only a thought away. Take time to grieve and know that the grief wave won’t last forever. It will get easier as time goes on, the waves won’t always seem as huge and ever present. You are a warrior and the grief wave is just another battlefield along this journey of life.
P.S. If you are struggling with grief - please reach out. Know you are not alone.
(*found this picture I had taken from my hubby’s phone - this is the last picture I have of me and my best friend together. Me with my feet kicked up relaxing in nature and her running around doing 8 billion things and never letting anyone help her. She might haunt me for showing this picture, but in the end she knows it’s for a good cause.;-) )