Grief: In Conclusion, Lessons from Mom, Acceptance

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Eight days have passed since I last wrote. For a “blogger” this is akin to obscurity. For a writer, which I believe know I am, eight days is almost like torture.

I wanted the lesson I learned from the ether, the one about forgiveness, to gel. I considered it as though it were a soufflé: Shh! Don’t make noises around it, step gently, don’t disturb it.

Of my grief the other day, I wrote to a friend, “I think when my mom died I literally lost time and data. I am encountering things now that I don’t remember forgetting… If that makes any sense. It’s like some of them are totally new.”

. . . . .

CS Lewis was right when he wrote that when we love our departed and don’t feel grief about them, that they feel more near. I was in a place last week, true acceptance — and I am still there, although with occasional tears — that allowed her or my memory of her, or something real and true of hers to come to me. I let it feel safe. I let it know, without any specter or sliver of judgement or regret or resistance, that I am ready:

In yoga last week, the very next day after I appealed for forgiveness, I was in child’s pose, at the end of a vinyasa series, and I smelled her twice. The first for about six bewildering seconds and then >poof!< it was gone and then a few seconds later, it came back for about another three seconds. An incarnation of my mother’s earthly spirit as only I could relate to it was with me. I didn’t court it, I didn’t beg for it to stay, I just … accepted it. I didn’t believe it at first. I sniffed my clothes, my hands, my skin to debunk it; I must’ve looked like a lunatic: they’re all in child’s pose, face down, chest to thighs, shins to earth and I’m acting like a bloodhound. Nothing around me that smelled like her. I smelled of my laundry detergent and my hair conditioner. I nodded in gratitude. She felt safe; that was cool.

A friend just messaged me about the significance of that moment. Child’s pose is one we do to come down or cool down or relax from a series. That we are at peace, submission, when we do it. My friend said, “She was at peace and wants it too for you; the fact that you were in child’s pose, is a big deal too.” 

A few readers have lovingly appealed to me that I accept that my pre-Labor Day world is gone. I appreciate their guidance, and I agree that I have been reluctant to accept that truth. Who could blame me? No one I know. No one else is in my skin. But it is with heavy emotion imbued with truth that I accept it now. I will never be ‘over’ her death. I don’t think anyone ever expects me to be. My life has changed forever. The woman who bore me has left forever.

Mom used to speak all the time about acceptance. I suspect that some of it was a lecture for herself. She meant, despite my rigid assertions that she lived in the ether, reality. “You can’t change reality, or people,” she used to say.

The reality is that she has gone to God and is no more a living being on this earth. I know now, the deep and profound love I had for her was primal and true. How could it not be?

She used to say that about me all the time, “Maally, you are so true. True blue and loyal to the end!” she would exclaim, almost as a cheer, and I would recoil with embarrassment and pride; I guess that’s what we refer to as “sheepishly” now.

Those exchanges in my memory now are threatening my soufflé. They tread very close to evoking how I felt at the time she said such things, as though I was being teased. Right now, my gut is telling me to be careful not to lionize her for if I do, I disavow and invalidate the crushing challenges I endured as her child; to accept this entire thing means I must accept all of it: her perspective and limitations, and all of mine as well.

I feel her on my left side right now. Or something like her.

It’s gone.

. . . . .

It occurred to me, in this grief-inspired, post-guilt haze that I still have a lot of life to live. That I have other things to write about and that I need to assimilate the reality that Mom has died and is never ever >gulp< coming back, into my life because this is how all life goes. Eventually: it ends!

Most of us come into this world, meeting them for the first time and expecting them to always be there. Even as her health declined and I witnessed her truly staggeringly precipitous aging, and I rationally knew that her time was short, I was not at all accepting of it on an emotional level.

My ongoing break wall graffiti, “Pfft. We had barely known each other when I was growing up… it won’t be so hard to adjust to when she dies…” is total garbage. Her loss has been profound. Her personality was massive. She. Was. My. Mom. It doesn’t matter if the relationship was gossamer-strong or plutonium-fragile.

The fact is that she was always on my mind whether I own it or not. We shared cells, DNA … we were connected. Tragically, we both wanted acceptance from one another — constantly.

But that forgiveness and grace I experienced last week has ushered in a new space where I am allowed to matter to myself. I can write about other things and it’s not to spite her. For me to continually and actively devote this space to the void her death created and my grief from it is to feed a vacuum of self-indulgence.

While I will continue to write, the underlying truth is that I now write in the aftermath of her death. Just as I write in the aftermath of any other experience, of the first day of fall, of 9/11, of ten five two minutes ago.

Of course her loss will color my writing. I can hear her now, “Stop using parenthesis! You’re better than that! If you’re going to say it, Say It!” She was a very strong formidable editor.

Part of my quandary is that I want to move on from this publicly and I don’t know how. This is all new to me. I started this situation, by blogging about my grief, now I must clean it up. “You need to lighten up, Maally…” I can hear her.

Yes, I suppose she was mostly right. I was the Felix Unger to her Oscar Madison. Part of that entreaty was to get me to leave her alone, to let her be, and in my German shepherd mind, to let her continue with her self-indulgence. She won. She always did, and finally, I’m ok with it. I also win too — I don’t feel guilty about it not working out because it was never mine to fix.

So that is the deal here, the final lesson: you can’t change a damned thing about anyone else. All you can do is change your reaction to other people. It’s been the message of this earth and all its conflicts since the beginning of time. It is the mother of all realities. Once we accept it, truly, it colors our lives. Everything becomes less stressful.

We are not as separate as we once believed. When we let go, we let in.

This was a disjointed post because I cut a lot out. I found myself breaking my objective, to not blog so obviously about my grief. I just remembered that one of Kubler-Ross’s stages is “Acceptance.”

Thanks for sticking around. I’ll be back to new normal soon.

So I’m going to wrap it up with a quote from a movie that Mom loved,

Thank you.

10 responses »

  1. The smells. By far one of the strongest reminders of them, and they come whenever and wherever they do. She came to you in your happy place, in your moment of stillness and quiet and peace. This means something. You know what it means. xo

  2. I am glad you felt her presence…..especially while you were in that pose……very telling……I do believe she was trying to let you know that she is watching over you and also for you to be ok……While I have never felt my father’s presence by scent, I will share with you something that happened. My father loved the song Ave Maria and told me he wanted this played at his funeral……I was left out of the planning and definitely was not consulted. It was not played….and I was crushed. Hubby and I went out and purchased a cd player and the song and played it the next day at his grave. The following evening, we were coming home after picking up the kiddo from hubby’s parents, and a car flew by and promptly pulled in front of us. The vanity plate read Avemarie…..my hubby and I looked at each other with a look of disbelief……..I truly want to believe it was him saying “thank you”. Today is his Birthday and I do miss him so much. It has been almost 9 years since he passed away, it does get easier, I promise you.

    Hugs,
    AC

    • Oh AC! I love that story! It was him. It was “thank you.” It is a fantastic story. My brother and his wife went to a new restaurant in their town a couple weeks ago and a few minutes into the visit, each of them said at the same time, “This reminds me of Mom/Mimi.” It was an uncharacteristically Mimi place, but they each felt it and said it at the same time. Those moments are visitations, I have no doubt.

      I am grateful you shared it with me.

      Happy birthday to your Dad. He made you. That is awesome.

      Xo

  3. That’s beautiful Molly! I’m glad she’s surrounding you and feeling closer. It’s funny how that works. Just let things work as they work and let yourself be as you are. No sense in worrying if how you feel, grieve, or think is the way it’s supposed to be. As long as you are okay, then it’s the way you need it to be. And that’s the only way we can truly deal with grief, whatever individual way we need to. Thanks for sharing so much insight on here.

  4. Molly, first, you are such a talented writer. I hope you write a memoir. Second, the child pose, your mother, the scent…it’s so moving and so wonderful. I am glad you had that moment. It’s really special. I didn’t know your mom, but from what you have written about her it’s obvious she would make a grand, symbolic gesture like that. So much meaning. She’d do something smart like that to get you thinking. The moment just has a deepness and layers that cannot be ignored.

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