Monday, November 19, 2012

The Grief 365 Badge

Well dear readers, I apologize for not having written lately.  I have been a bit tongue tied.  With the impending first anniversary of my mother's death, I have been purposefully been avoiding digging too deep.  I have had a couple of crying fits, and have been trying not to remember the details of the days leading up to the day of her death.  Those memories find a way of creeping in anyway.Well, today is the day I am ripping the band aid off.  No more avoiding writing about the first anniversary. 
   I had a friend suggest finding a creative way to memorialize the date, and her.  Make it a fun or happy memory, filled with things she loved, or good memories of her.  I liked this idea, since I have been secretly dreading this day for weeks.  Of course it had to fall on Thanksgiving this year.  I noticed the date of Thanksgiving for 2012, last year right after she passed away.  So you could say it has been in the back of my mind, or I have been dreading it since right after she passed away.
   The first year after a death of a loved one is filled with firsts.  Everything is a new first without them.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  You get used to a new functioning normal.  When I say functioning  normal, I mean a precariously fragile state where you are on the verge of tears all of the time, but are pressing on with life. That is what they would want you to do.  Where the simplest thing can break open the dam of sadness you have been fighting to hold back.  Where a sunset, a song, a picture, a decoration, a favorite phrase,  a rainbow, fall leaves on the trees, a blanket bought for your child, a call from another loved one sharing their grief could  all knock you from your precarious position of functioning,  right back into the depths of your grief.  How do you ever get through it?  You soldier on.  You tell yourself that the loved one wouldn't want you to be so sad.  You go through all the stages of grief; numbness, denial, pain, anger, helplessness, and sadness. You tell yourself she would want it this way, and this is how she used to do things.
    Eventually you get to a point where you can talk about them without breaking down into a blubbering grief monster.  You can remember the good and funny times without quite so bad a longing. My favorite memory lately has become one of my mother in a hospital shower, one of the many of her forty some odd hospitalizations.  It was a day where I had gone to visit and spend the day with her.  She had asked me the day before if I would mind helping her get a shower.  She had designated that day as shower day.  I helped her get a shower, and wash and rinse her hair with a Slurpee cup to get the soap all out.  I told her shower stories of bathing my then two and a half year old, and using a Slurpee cup to rinse her hair as well.  We talked about my showers when I was two, three and four. She was so very grateful to have me help her with her shower, not a stranger.  I helped her rinse and soap her feet, and washed her back.  It makes me smile to know what simple pleasures I brought my mother by helping her shower.  This is something I did quite often.  I would help her shower and "put on smell good"for my daddy.  This memory brings me comfort, no matter how strange it may seem.  Any of the myriad of memories, and I pick a shower scene!  Those of you who knew my mother(and her obsession with being clean) and know me, understand how morbidly perfect this is!
   And then there are those days.  The days that no matter how hard you fight it, the grief comes pouring out.  You get better and more seasoned, so to speak, at hiding your grief, and compartmentalizing it, but then one of those days, comes along and knocks you on your ass.  The days where you leak all day, remembering.  The days where you sob and sob, and take to your bed to mourn, because there is nothing else you can do. The pain never gets any easier, I think we all just learn how to deal with it better.  We get better at dealing with the all consuming, mind numbing, raw pain involved with losing a parent, especially one with whom we were close.  Everyone deals with grief differently, but for me it has been one of the hardest things I will ever have to do in this life.
    I promised my mother that I would never let her grand-daughter forget her.  So I decided on a couple of things to memorialize her on the one year anniversary.  My father has to work on Thanksgiving this year.  My husband, daughter, and I decided to fly to Florida for the holiday with his parents.  We will be visiting more of his family while we are there. My daughter and I are writing letters to my mother, and her Granny, one year after losing her.  We are putting them in bottles, and when we are on the pier, we plan on throwing the bottles into the water.  We are including our return addresses in case anyone ever finds them, a la Message In A Bottle.  My mother also loved children.  She worked tirelessly with a children's youth group she was in when she was younger, as an adult advisor, sponsor and friend.  Not to mention all of my brother's and my friends that she cared for.  Our house was THE place to go!  Slumber parties and WWF central was our house.  So I also liked the idea of giving out sixty one suckers(her age when she died) to children, with a memorial tag remembering her.  So we'll see if I get arrested or not trying to give out suckers to unsuspecting children on Thanksgiving! Hopefully not!
  So I bawled the whole time I was writing this, and while telling my father my plans.  He has to work, and it is probably better that he keep busy caring for people.  He liked my ideas.  I am glad. 
   So a year later, we are doing okay.  We still miss you like crazy mom, but we are living life.  It seems so strange to say a year later.  A whole year without you in it. It almost feels like a big sigh of relief, like I have earned my grief 365 badge.  It is a badge I would give back in a heartbeat, if I could have one more second, hour, day, month, or year with you. But I know that I cannot. But I have realized, that you are in it, in every moment, and always will be.  You are always with each of us, in everything we do. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.