Going Through the Motions
When Grief Takes Your Heart
Musings on My Mother’s Passing
Waves of intense sadness come over me
at the weirdest times.
Brushing my teeth.
Listening to the words of a song,
which mom would have never heard.
Hovering over my computer
writing about something unrelated,
but somehow related.
A flash of her sitting
in her favorite chair
leaning on her left elbow.
Distinctive expressions of her dad
but with a slight twinkle in her eye
and that playful, crooked smile.
A mother going through the motions.
Wanting to carry on,
but not wanting to carry on.
Weary of trying to be strong.
to the darkness of grief.
Feeling profound emptiness.
Taking up space
in a chaotic world
with no place for her.
No longer wanting to
Worn out from pain.
Wanting to rest easy.
Ready to float free
among the clouds.
When Grief Overwhelms
I never imagined my mother would sink into a slow spiral of grief and depression after the death of my father. She was always a pillar of strength and resilience.
Grief had other plans for mom.
During the first year after dad’s passing, mom went through what I would describe as a “pink cloud”. The transition that recovering addicts go through before the reality that they have been numbing themselves to finally slaps them in the face. It can be a cruel awakening. But liberating if one can manage to re-orientate their behaviors and mindset to that new reality.
Grief counselors may call this denial.
Eventually grief weighed her down and did so internally. I am not sure she fully realized this descension. Her heart was no longer in the game.
She withdrew so very slowly. Under the radar. She was losing her spark and that spirit she had when dad was alive.
I don’t think it was deliberate. But when a part of one’s heart and soul vanishes no one can help recover it. She did not want to show her hand, but her grief was real and becoming palpable. Maybe there was guilt with not being able to move forward.
Dad’s memory was everywhere. He touched a lot of lives in the community, as she did. Not sure if that was a comfort for her or just a constant bittersweet lump in her throat. Probably both.
I believe on some levels she went through the motions to help others deal with his loss. That was her modus operandi, after all.
Going Through the Motions
In retrospect, there were signs indicating her will to live was fading, Phone conversations she and I had were shorter than usual. I do not live in the same state as her.
In some ways this may have been mom’s way of avoiding my inquisition regarding her state of mind or health. She would attempt to say goodbye and I would start on another topic. It was frustrating, but understandable.
I was never much of a phone conversationalist, myself.
There are days when I have just gone through the motions. We have all been there. Just getting by, surviving the day. Like a robot stiffly moving through each task on the docket.
Some are unable to snap out of it.
When my dad passed away, my family was devastated. Not in a visible sense, but we all struggled internally. The patriarch of our family was gone and way too early. We were not prepared.
My siblings and I went through the motions. We did our due diligence with the service plans and dad’s wishes. We held up well when friends and family lavished us with sympathies. It is what people do and we did it. We did not break down to the point of making any kind of scene.
Standing tall in the face of tragic events is what my family has always done. Going through the motions. Our private selves find a quiet space in which to melt down. Expelling our despair individually.
My quiet personal space to melt down is on the canvas and in my writing.
The Unbearable Silence
Mom was in a great deal of physical pain, but equally intense was her grief and broken heart. Mom and dad were partners for 48 years. They set out to make a life at 19 years old, distancing themselves from their past.
Mom had a good life with dad, her children and friends.
Silence was not part of that life. Although sometimes she wanted it to be. Their life was fulfilling, overwhelming, often frustrating. And far better than her youth as an only child of divorced parents in the late 40’s and early 50"s.
She had resigned herself to the fact that nothing could replace what was. There would be no replay.
Silence crept in gradually and made itself at home in her life after dad.
That quiet uneasiness created a discomfort she would often ward off with the television. A constant din to alleviate the absence felt. Filling a void when needed.
We have had conversations about the differences between alone and loneliness. As an independent woman, she was okay living alone and said so repeatedly. In retrospect, I don’t think she was grasping how the isolation affected her internal state of mind. Mom was just making these motherly proclamations so I would not worry.
A Generation Lost
Now both parents gone. A generation has been lost. Questions unanswered and I seem to be experiencing an altered sense of loneliness. The connection shared with my mom is stronger than I imagined. Suppose her loneliness is now being transferred to me. “So what are you going to do about it”, I can hear her say.
Do I carry a torch and what does that look like?
How am I going to visit mom now? How will she present herself?
I think she will float freely among the clouds. As a fervent cloud gazer and daydreamer myself, `that is how I want to remember and be visited by her. Rest easy, Mom.
Articles to Read:
Expectations: Life & Death Part II
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Oh Heidi, you are so welcome. This was a tough one to write and send out into the universe. It resonated with so many and that gives me solace. Take care of you.
It was a difficult but necessary piece to release. Thank you for continuing to read my articles. Take care. Michelle