November 3, 2022

Honouring the Mess Within: What it’s Like to Navigate Grief.

It’s humid tonight.

The wet type of humid, where you know rain is on its way. There’s also that earthy smell permeating in the air. Oh yes, it is going to rain tonight.

I can’t sleep and feel somewhat restless. I start to watch a movie but lose interest quickly. I pick up the current book I’m reading and realise I’ve read five pages but have absorbed nothing. I pick up my phone and start absentmindedly scrolling through Instagram and then Facebook. Nothing piquing my interest. Finally, I get my laptop, and here we are.

I’m trying to sit with this weird mood I am in. Trying to interpret my feelings and what emotions I feel in my body. It’s not sadness, and even though I’m still moving through the grief process, I’m currently managing quite well. It’s not loneliness; I feel connected and content with where I am in life. It’s not anger, as even with this current restlessness, there’s a calmness around and within me. It’s not an overwhelming anxiety, but perhaps it is a subtle anxiety, an anxiety just murmuring under the surface. Not enough to set me off into fight or flight, but enough to have me questioning what’s triggered these feelings.

Things have been going relatively well. Considering the past few months I have had, I feel like I’ve come up for air and feel more myself. I’ve completed my first book, a children’s book about loss and grief and am excitedly getting it illustrated and ready to publish. My business is well on its way to being officially launched. My beautiful new granddaughter is growing and brings so much love and joy. I have an incredible circle of family and friends. So all in all, things are bright in my world.

So why am I sitting here with this unexplained restlessness? This simmering anxiety, just quietly whispering to me, ensuring I know she is there?

The breeze has picked up and the first few drops of rain have arrived. I’ve always found the sound of rain hitting the earth so soothing. I love sleeping in the rain, with the windows open, letting in the fresh air and that smell. The smell of rain always reminds me of my childhood. I remember one day at the age of about seven, it was raining, and I took my shoes off to walk home, jumping in and out of the puddles. My mum was not happy about my bare feet, and even more unhappy when I cut my foot open on broken glass that required stitches.

With the same ferocity of that shard of glass slicing my foot open, all those years ago, it hits me. It all hits me and hits me hard. So hard I almost feel winded. It’s longing; it’s yearning. It’s not just the normal missing of someone when they die. It’s the missing of sharing my life with her—my mum.

Missing someone is not unfamiliar to me or to most people. But when you find yourself in this space of restlessness throwing you into contemplation, you start to analyse more deeply and specifically what you are missing. Tonight, it’s like being starving but there is no food. Like being parched, but there is no water anywhere.

I have all these things happening in my life, but I can’t share it with her.

It’s the sound of her voice on the other end of the phone to either soothe my worries or share my excitement. It’s the frustration I would have when she was being overly worried, opinionated, or closed-minded. It’s the unwavering support she gave us all, even if that was undeserving. It’s her never being able to see me become a grandmother and her cherished granddaughter become a mother. Never being able to hold her precious great granddaughter.

I realise I have tears rolling down my cheeks but have no idea how long I have been crying. It’s inevitable that I would miss her, and I understand grief all too well, but I recognise that there’s a small little piece in my heart that can’t be filled by anyone else.

We so easily take people for granted, thinking they will always be there, even though logically we know that’s impossible. When they die, we question every disagreement we had, every frustration and hurt—because it’s unavoidable that there will be some negative. After all, we are human.

We question all our last interactions before they died and beat ourselves up as to whether we told them we loved them enough. Did she know how much I loved her? Did she know that I forgave her for any hurt, and did she forgive me for any hurt? Did she know I would miss her this much? When I remove myself from the heightened emotion, I know she knew these things, but still, it’s easy to ruminate.

The rain is heavy now and adds to my now somber mood. Maybe not all somber, as the reflecting is good. I don’t bury my feelings, and I don’t want to distract myself or hide them either. I know sitting with them, understanding them, and deeply feeling them is what I need to do as part of the process. But it’s hard, sometimes brutally so. That hole someone leaves when they die is really dark and deep at times.

Missing someone you can never physically speak to again is rediscovering who you are without that person. You change. Your grief and longing doesn’t disappear; you just slowly grow around that grief and longing. It will always be there but will become smaller in time. Well, that’s the goal.

I wonder now where she is. Which one of us she’s currently watching over. There’s a little bit of thunder and lightening now. She didn’t mind the rain, but she was terrified of storms, especially lightening. I love storms and lightening. I’ve always thought it so magnificently beautiful how it lights up the sky. It makes me smile a little now, these memories and how different my mum and I could be—so different in many ways—yet startlingly alike in others. Nobody could get under my skin like my mum, sometimes deliberately and sometimes accidentally. With amusement, I reflect on mum’s fear of storms, yet she could be a typhoon of a woman.

I wonder why when you lose someone and feel that immense loss and longing, old losses and longings resurface. Everything feels fresh, and this overarching new loss invites all your old losses over to join. Perhaps it’s to remind me how much I love and how big my heart is. Or perhaps it’s the last remnants of old losses that haven’t quite been completely processed—a reminder there’s still some work to do.

My thoughts are as scattered as the weather tonight. But I realise that’s okay; it’s okay to not always have everything in order. It’s okay to acknowledge your thoughts, emotions, and feelings, including the messy ones.

I accept my mum is gone, and no matter the pain, the sorrow, and every other emotion I have, I cannot change this. I cannot hurry the grief process, and I cannot stop missing her. What I can do is be honest with how I’m feeling and feel my emotions. I can honour my love, my pain, my grief, my losses.

I can honour myself as I navigate my new normal. And that is enough.

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