On This Day
It doesn’t matter how many articles about grief I google. How many times have I searched for answers to the question, “how long will it take me to grieve my mothers death”? I’m not an idiot, I know there are no hard and fast rules here. I know as I type the words into my search bar I won’t get the answers I want. But sorrow makes you do stupid things. So, I stupidly google through tears, searching for the article or expert who will pull me out of the abyss I was thrown into today. Days like today, where I am blindsided by grief and pulled under by my sorrow. When does the involuntary, hits-without-warning, crying stop? Is there a time frame for mourning? Everyone at some point loses their mother. It is part of the human condition to love and lose, to mourn and grieve. Somehow knowing I’m not alone in this experience isn’t making it easier though. It makes me feel foolish on days like today. It makes me feel weak and unstable. So I scour the internet for clues as to how others have dealt with this life altering shift. How do you continue to spin when you have lost your axis? How do you move on when the very person who would help guide you through your grief is gone? My tearful googling has led me to find out that apparently grief is an extension of love, that the pain and loss we feel is the love persevering after the one we loved has passed. The bigger the love, the bigger the loss, I guess. That makes sense, and is a lovely sentiment. But it doesn’t help me on days like today.
How is it the mind can trick us and we can have a few days where we think we are ok? “We are doing alright!”, we tell ourselves. We got this! We go through our routines, we talk to our therapists, we show up, we put one foot in front of the other, we may even think about our loss and we can be calm and objective about it. And then that is all undone on days like today. Days like today, when I see a photo and the image hits me like a tidal wave, smacks me down, flips and tumbles me around and pushes me against the sandy floor of the ocean until I am swallowing water and gasping for air. Memories on my iPhone that come up unbidden while I’m taking a photo of my smiling, happy nephew on a Wednesday afternoon. “One Year Ago Today!” I used to love that feature on my phone, sweet reminders of celebrations and milestones, or random, mundane and all but forgotten, simple yet beautiful moments caught on camera that bring us back to a happy memory. But today I felt as if I’d stumbled upon a landmine. Today it was a memory from March 1, 2020. That day my sister Robin had invited me, my bridesmaids and my mother over to plan and go over logistics for my bridal shower and bachelorette. I’m in the middle of the photo, beaming, surrounded by my sisters, my dear friend Lauren, and my cousin Kate. And right next to me is my mother , enthusiastic and smiling (she was always enthusiastic about planning celebrations!). I remember that day so well! It was such a fun day. I left elated, excited, and hopeful. Unaware that a little over a week later so much would change. Oblivious to the fact that soon so many of us would experience so much loss. We smiled not knowing that a week later our nation, and our world would essentially be shut down. That normal would no longer be what we were accustomed to. Jobs would be lost. Lives, and our way of living, would be forever altered. We would mourn the loss of mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters friends, family, coworkers. But in this photo, on this day, we were happy. We were normal.
There is so many layers of loss in that photo, seeing it was like a punch in the gut. Looking at all of us there, smiling, and unaware of all that we would soon lose, was just too much for me on this day. There would be no bridal shower, no bachelorette. There would be no wedding reception with the cream and blush floral arrangements my mother and I had chosen, no dancing, no toasting, no 3 course menu at the lovely inn 10 minutes away, no getting ready together in our rooms beforehand. The rooms I had booked side by side so she could be close to me on the biggest day of my life. None of the details my mother and I had planned would come to fruition. The navy mother of the bride dress she and I had gone to Bloomingdales to find a few days before would never be worn. All of it was gone. All the planning, all the stress, all the details and logistics, all the joy, all the visions, all the hopes, all the happiness, it was all gone so soon after we smiled into the camera that day. So much was lost. I can get over losing my dream wedding day. I know that so many have lost so much more in the year that has passed. I can get over the big white dress and veil siting unworn in a closet, the dances not danced, the toasts that were never said, the food that was never enjoyed, the flowers, the vows, the music, the honeymoon that never was, all of it, I can get over. What I can’t get over is that I lost my mother. I can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that in this photo, on this day a year ago, she sat next to me smiling. Yet today, she is not here. That I’ve lost her forever. How could so much change in so short a time? How could so much be lost so quickly? How is it that I will never hug her again? That we will never plan anything together again? If we all experience loss, why can no one answer these questions for me? If we all live through loss, why does it often feel so lonely? Why, when so many of us are grieving so much loss this year, after losing so much, does it feel so alienating? Grief is personal. Grief is different for everyone. I know this. It doesn’t make me feel better though. I weep for my loss as well as the losses that so many I love are mourning over this past year. This collective mourning, in a year of loss that took away those we loved as well as our ability to hug, console, gather, support, and care for each other in the ways we are accustomed to, is so unfathomable and all the more painful due to the distance we’ve been forced to create. Knowing that in addition to my sorrow, so many are grieving so much makes it oddly more painful. Misery doesn’t always love company. At least not in this case.
I know that even if my wedding had gone exactly as my mother and I had planned, even if she were there beside me for my shower, both of us surrounded by family and friends as we played silly parlor games and I wore one of those ridiculous ribbon “veils”, and even if she were there giggling and celebrating along with me the weekend of my bachelorette, even if we had the wedding day we envisioned, a day of pampering and primping, of nerves and excitement, of dresses and makeup, of music and dancing, toasting, and speeches, even if we had that day, I know it wouldn’t make losing her any less painful. It wouldn’t make me miss her less. It wouldn’t take away this drowning sorrow. But oh, this picture. On this day. This hopeful, joyful picture, this ignorant bliss in the calm before the storm of our lives. This picture brought me to my knees today. This memory on my phone, a year gone by, a year of loss, a year of mourning. This picture feels like it was taken a decade ago, and a week ago all at once. I remember that day so well. I miss you. I miss “normal”, or whatever I thought normal was. I miss life before all this loss. I miss all our plans that never came to fruition. I miss what could have been and I miss what will never be. But most of all, I miss you Mommie.