Grief, like most emotions, is different for everyone. The person who is lost, the relationship to that person, and the stage of life one is in, alters it. Whether the loss is anticipated or sudden, you can never know how the end of life will affect you. There have been general guidelines for how to navigate grief and stages that must be processed in order to move on. That's just it though; these are guidelines and rarely apply exactly to everyone's individual situation. While they are meant to be helpful, they can often leave one feeling more isolated as their emotions don’t fit neatly into the described timeline for emotional processing. You may experience all 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) more than once and in a different order than is 'normal.' Again, leaving you feeling more confused and hopeless that this journey may never end. Yes it is true that time does help to heal a broken heart but how much time, no one knows, because while things may get easier they will never be the same.
My mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 12 years old and suffered less and more for 14 years. In that last year, she was also hit by lung cancer that made it even more difficult for her to do things that were already impossible for her to do on her own. Ultimately, she was reliant on a feeding tube and could not communicate anything other than a low grumble. This was no life. It was an incredibly long journey for her and my family. Her final passing was drawn out as she fought with every last breath, surviving for days solely on morphine. A soldier she was.
Given that I knew her death was immanent, you might think it would have been easier. That I had time to grief and knew it was coming; thus, I could prepare myself for the inevitable. While this was true, the grief that I experienced prior to her passing was completely different from the aftermath of her physically leaving this earth. For this is something for which nothing can prepare you. At this point, I was past denial as this took place at the time of the original diagnosis. I was angry throughout her illness but had trouble processing this. I bargained and engaged in magical thinking as a teenager but lost this in my 20s. I experienced different degrees of depression before and after the loss, relying heavily on food and exercise to help mitigate such terrible feelings. Acceptance, the final stage of grief was always elusive and continues to be the most difficult stage for me. I wish there was a button that I could press to induce this stage but now all I can do is try to reconcile the past in order to move forward in the present.
I have grown tremendously since losing her 2 and half years ago, but I am still on this journey and there is no prescription for how it will progress. I know that I will never stop missing her and the wonderful person she was. Certain events will make me sad that she is missing but I know she will be with me wherever I go, inside of my heart forever. That is something I gratefully accept.
I See You
I see you in the sun, the wind and in the rain
I see you in my happiness, my struggle and in my pain
I see you in the past, the present and future
I see you in my strength, my struggle and nature
I see you in the good, the bad and times that are ugly
I see you in my heart, my soul and I wonder, Do you see me?
I see you in the fire, the passion that burns so deep
I see you my generosity and compassion; the traits I’ll always keep
I see you in the mirror, in my eyes, and in my skin
I see you in my competitiveness and the joy when I win
I see you in the sky, widespread and all encompassing
I see you in my hugs, my kisses and your golden aqua ring
I see you in tuna sandwiches, chachkies, and Spanish phrases you always said
I see you in my home, in my aura and in my head
I see you in the twinkle of the stars, as I send my wishes at night
I see you in my cooking, my art, and my voice and I know I am right
And though you have moved on, to a land I cannot be
I am so happy that I can still see you everyday, everyday inside of me