The Long Grief Road

Two years.

It’s a long time, but such a short time. Where did it all go? Truthfully the first year was a blur, even now I don’t remember much. I’ve done my best, but most of it is a haze. Things my friends told me, things I did, places I went, it’s all gone. There were many coping mechanisms along the way, luckily I never let them get out of hand… but boy was I ever walking a fine line. One of the first things to go was my ability to read a book, I simply couldn’t focus. Even if I did succuesfully complete a few pages, I wouldn’t remember it down the road. Truth is, I couldn’t remember mere minutes later. Two years on, I still struggle trying to read and this is an activity in which I used to thrive. One thing at a time.

Unfortunately what I do remember was seeing my Mom’s face every time I went to sleep. Sadly, it wasn’t the face of her in good health but only the last few days. I won’t go and describe it, but if you have any experience with late stage pancreatic cancer patients, you’ll know. I didn’t know a human being could look like that. I remember thinking of the pictures of concentration camp victims, the sight was eerily similar. I couldn’t unsee that image, for a while I wanted to forget her entirely. I wanted to erase all the memories, even the good ones. While that image still haunts me from time to time, I’m relieved that it is no longer at the forefront. One night at a time.

Everyone said I was so strong. I’d find myself at first comforted by these words, but slowly I would get angry. I hated hearing it. What strength? I was broken. I’d make morbid jokes, I’d laugh, most others would look on in uncomfortable silence or get upset with me. We all cope in different ways, I soon learned humor was the best form for me. If I could learn to laugh at the worst event of my life, it couldn’t hurt me anymore. I started off 2018 with a Facebook post that said, “at least the year won’t start off with my Mom dying this time.” Dark… yes, but it was true. That made me feel better. I laughed, I thought it was funny. Things began to get better. One joke at a time.

They say the first three years are the hardest, but now that I’ve completed year two I can say for certain it was merely a fraction as devastating as year one. I started to smile again, I started to do things. I spoke to people. I laughed. I laughed some more. How good it felt to laugh again. I could count on my hands how many times I truly laughed in 2017, but in 2018 I lost count. One laugh at a time.

Then a certain guilt began to set in and it struck a hole in my heart. I realized I wouldn’t have done any of these things had she not died. It took her passing for me to begin living to my fullest. I hated myself for feeling this way, it tore me up inside. I hated myself for weeks. At great relief I eventually began to look at life differently. Nobody lives forever. In the wild wilderness of the interconnected universe, my Mother had to give up her life so that I could live mine. It was a reasoning I could accept, I could give the situation meaning and was finally able to move forward. The saying goes, “everything happens for a reason.” I don’t believe it does, not in the sense of fate or destiny, but in the idea we as individuals can give it one. If I can give meaning to my mother’s death and use it as a positive influence, I can give any situation in which I find myself reasoning too. One step at a time.

The pain is still with me, I doubt it will ever leave. The act of writing this is excruciating, but it also needs to be said. Every day countless people lose someone they love and will begin the many stages of grief. This is but a brief glimpse into mine. I miss her dearly, but I’m glad she no longer haunts me and the act of remembering her brings to mind feelings of warmth and love. Still, I’d do anything for one more hug. I just wish she could see what I’ve done since. Maybe she can, maybe she can’t. Either way, I’m going into year three and I actually feel okay. One day at a time.