The main impact is just the loss, the incredible loss. The expectations just were gone. The old age that I expected is different. It just never occurred to me that she would not be in the next rocker…At the Catholic school that I went to, the motto was hic et noc, Latin for “here and now.” What they meant was you do what is necessary – here and now.” -Cokie Roberts
I’ve spoken with several newish survivors this week. The length of time since the death is clear when I speak with them. References to that time as in “it’s ‘only’ been 2 years” feels as if it puts expectations on the survivor that should not be. We are harder on ourselves than anyone could ever be on us.
When my mom died almost 40 years ago, I entered a new country. Nothing had prepared me for this nor for what was to come next. In many ways, I felt as if I’d absorbed it and continued with my world as it had been. The reality, however, was just the opposite. Every breath I took was ragged, every step I took was heavy. The demands of children and spouse that were upon me floated away as I began my journey. Who could/would understand? I certainly didn’t understand! Other family members reacted differently. Many behaved as if life went on as before and later I learned that, of course, it did not. What I thought was “normal” for me was anything but.
It is the devastating loss or the “goneness” that stays with us and can eat at our soul. As the shock wore off, the reality of never hearing her voice, never receiving another letter, never spending another holiday with her became at times so overwhelming that I literally could not move nor function. The very thought that I would have no more time with her could and did stop me in my tracks. I found myself on autopilot.
As I look back on the early years after her death, there’s much that I cannot remember. I marvel, now, at all that was accomplished. I have some regrets about how certain things were handled. It’s the “do over” that cannot be “done over.”
As I move through late August into early September, the regrets can overwhelm me if I allow them to. Perhaps it’s the death for all of us – that date- that is truly “ours” and is our private time. I celebrate the day she was born and give thanks for the 61 years that I had with her. Yet, as I ruminate more as September 5 comes closer, the private thoughts, regrets, and recriminations need to be balanced with what good I did while she was alive. The good times we had, the fun times, we had, the outings and laughter. Pulling that from deep within me is often hard. I find that I do best when I can sit in my garden or on my back porch and not do anything but admire the flowers, feel the breeze on my cheek, and smell the fresh air. Petting the cats helps.
I was recently concerned about something and my granddaughter wisely said, “Get out of your mind.” Ahhhh….yes….the mind that can create havoc. That same mind can also bring peace if I allow it to.
I am fortunate to have some around me who will caution me to clear my calendar and slow down. I normally don’t work on September 5 but I have a class to teach this year and a brief presentation to give. My back-up plan is in place if I find I cannot do this.
If you are a newer survivor and you read how I am at 40 years, know that this is MY personal journey, not yours. If you are a further-down-the-road survivor you know how this goes and you may nod and smile and say, “Yes, Stephanie….be well. I am with you.”
For each one of you, try to remove words and phrases that are judgmental. Loosen your expectations on yourself and try not to let those around you who have NOT experienced what you have offer you their “wisdom”. Take your journey day-by-day and breath-by-breath. In your eagerness to “do” and to “make something out of this” know that nothing can get done until you are able to move forward and cope. You have entered a new country. The language and customs are different. Your old expectations have been replaced. Feel the journey and know you are not alone… “To every season there is a time….”