Just when I thought I could turn the corner, have a good day, not cry and clutch at my heart for even one whole hour, a day or even a week……..sometimes, like being t-boned at an intersection, I do not even see it coming.
Grief is the most all-encompassing, overwhelming and complex emotion in the human experience. It wasn’t until I became one of the broken moms, ripped apart at the seams by the loss of my daughter to substance use. I thought the 10 years of trauma, from her disappearance at the hands of a serial predator, to her returning to us as a fully addicted victim, to the months of therapy and treatment centres, were the worst experiences through which we would ever have to live. But the death, the loss, the loneliness….the utter agony…..trumped the trauma by far. I would eagerly offer up my agreement to live those 10 years of trauma again if I could have my daughter back. Because I’d be much smarter now, wouldn’t I? I would know what to do and I wouldn’t have to face the rest of my life living with regrets. You know: the woulda, shoulda, couldas. We all do it.
Grief is a regular visitor to our household and I don’t think it ever really leaves the perimeter of our home. But I had been getting to a point where I was able to function almost normally, albeit as a different, softer and sadder version of my former self. I was getting to know the new me. And then I’d flip the calendar and see another anniversary date looming. The date of her death, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, her birthday, my birthday – even Halloween because we loved getting dressed up in outrageous costumes. I would see one of these dates coming and like a bronc rider getting ready to mount the back of the horse, I’d bear down, grit my teeth, dig in and prepare to be thrown and pounded into the dirt. And then the actual day would come and go and I’d survive.
So when I heard the term re-grieving at one of our Healing Hearts meetings, I pounced on that and it has been my life preserver. This is my wording, my dialogue and my explanation when someone close to me says (not to my face of course), “Oh, she’s still grieving, she’s not over it yet”. That term makes us all cringe as we know there is no “getting over it” – not in this lifetime. We learn to live with it as a part of what makes us this new person, trying to muddle our way through while dragging an anvil of pain. But I can let my friends and family know that a challenging time is coming for me. “I’ll be re-grieving so please give me some space”.
Re-grieving works for me. Every anniversary date that looms I allow myself the space to bring in that raw grief from the early days and know it will take me back. And I’m okay with that because that is how I remember this beautiful human being I grew inside me. It reminds me of what we had and I work toward not regretting what we didn’t get to have. I can look at the calendar and see an important date coming but with a more balanced set of emotions, knowing the re-grieving will be a process of some anxiety mixed with deep sadness leading up to the day, and then it will begin to recede after. It’s like an ocean wave, cresting to the beach, crashing and then pulling back into the depths. As time goes by, the storms that cause the water to crash on the shore tend to move farther out into the vastness of the ocean and the incoming and outgoing waves begin to slow into a rhythm that will never stop but at least they are no longer a sure sign of drowning.
So re-grieve when you need to. Cry, give in, feel it to the depths of your soul. It keeps our loved ones’ memories alive and it gives us a boundary, a line in the sand we can draw for others who just wish we would be our old selves again. We need never make excuses to stuff it down and put on this ridiculous happy face that only causes us more pain because we are putting on a false act. It’s true that this day too shall pass and we’ll be better tomorrow. At least until the next time, as we stand at the shore being kind to ourselves while we wait patiently, watching the waves begin to slow and the storm to pass again.
Photo is Wikimedia creative commons
First published at Healing Hearts