You probably read the title of this post and thought “oh my gosh, that is tragic.” If you yourself are in the journey, please know that I am approaching this post with a sense of gentleness & deep empathy, as well as authenticity. I believe in adding another voice to the dialogue out there & I can only do that by being 100% myself.
I want to share some silver linings of this difficult process, and give you a bit of my own hope and the strength I have found in the darkest moments of this human experience.
I hope this will touch you and give you a bit of strength to carry on your journey. If you have already been on this journey and have come out the other side, I hope it will give you a feeling of solidarity, knowing others have walked it too…and maybe as you continue to question how senseless your loss was, you can also begin to make some sense of it, and sprinkle in some some glimmers of hope. This is what it is like for me, 2.5 years after being a cancer care giver and losing my mum when I was 6 months pregnant (aka this greatest shit storm of the “shit storms of life”!)
Some days I feel I can write, other days I just can’t. Today I felt like something was telling me to write, so I am. Quietly as both babies sleep, with a tea, I am sitting here typing.
I am glad I acted upon my hunch.
WHAT IS GRIEF LIKE 2 YEARS ONWARD FROM YOUR LOSS?
I feel like all I can do is list a few observations here. Everyone is just so different with their timelines, so please don’t use this to benchmark. But I hope it gives you peace.
-I miss my Mum EVERY damn day, it makes my heart ache. I think about her on average 10-15 times a day, mostly during activities with my babies I know she’d enjoy. But it’s a strange thing. I feel it, I think it, I acknowledge it, and it fades away. Depending on my self care (see below) it fades away on its own, or with a grief burst. But the aching is manageable. There was a time when the grief felt like my heart was torn out, but it was a short stage in the grief process. This one is a longer stage, but it is more manageable for sure. I feel that carrying this level of grief, I can have a wonderful, loving, happy quality of life and live with gratitude. Mostly for the reasons below.
-My daughter’s health – physical, emotional, mental was not affected in any way being in my womb during such a stressful time in life. She is a beautiful, happy, balanced child full of light, love and laughter. Please don’t let anyone EVER tell you that your baby will be affected.
-As an old soul in a new human body, my daughter had the honour of meeting and feeling other souls concluding their earthly journey. At chemotherapy, I walked around and visited with patients. There were many women there. Young, old. I happily let each of them touch my belly and say hello to my daughter, and it was beautiful. It is one of the most cherished memories I have from chemotherapy.
There was one moment in chemotherapy I will never forget. An patient once told me that she felt great comfort greeting the little spirit in my belly, because she symbolized the infinite circle of life – as one life ends, another begins. She said their spirits were just passing by and saying hello to each other in an infinite universal journey, and that they’d see each other again. It sent chills down my back.
-I walk with a still pool of sadness in me. Most days I do not notice it, but I know it is there, quietly sitting in my inner garden. It used to be an overwhelming, choppy LAKE of sadness, but now it is just a still pool. Every now and then, a rock is thrown into the pool, and the ripples cause tears. I call my occasional tears “grief bursts” and I’ve learnt to be 100% okay with them and absolutely embrace them, even in public. I will just tell someone “I lost my mum and I’m missing her right now, this is my grief coming out.” The last big one I had was in December, as I was flying to London Heathrow on the Air Canada flight my Mum and I always used to take. As we flew over tower bridge, I lost it. Rather than hiding, mumbling I was okay, like I would have before, I simply said “my Mum and I used to take this flight every year and look for tower bridge as we arrived. I lost her a few years ago.” Why bother hiding something that is simply being human?
-Your emotional intelligence and emotional range, including empathy, will become so much more enhanced. This is a gift, because from this moment forward, you will be a gift to everyone who has the honour of knowing you. They will feel your love. Because you know how to silently transmit it now with just a look, or your presence.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
-The grief bursts are about once every 2-3 weeks and most often are triggered by myself just being tired or run down, and then a trigger happening, like seeing an oxygen tank, a woman who looks like my mum, or one of her favourite songs coming on or seeing my friends with their own mums.
-Self care and grief go hand in hand. When my self-care is low, my grief bursts are more frequent and more intense. For example, when my self care is low, ColdPlay’s Paradise (funeral song) sets me off. A few weeks ago that song had me pulled over on the highway sobbing my heart out.
When my self-care is high, Cold Play’s Paradise makes me smile and I am struck with a fond memory. That happened today, in the middle of toys r us, where my mum used to love taking me on a weekend. And today, I smiled, bought my daughter a toy and said “thank you mum.”
-Your grief will always be a beautiful barometer of self care, and (hopefully) you will take better care of yourself than before, because you are more aware of how self care impacts your mental, physical and emotional health.
-Every moment outside of those ripples, of those grief bursts, I am generally joyful and full of gratitude.
My appreciation of life, health, and happy moments is 1000x stronger than they were before losing my Mum. Loss intensifies sadness but it also intensifies happiness and gratitude for life.
Trust me on this one.