My mom died eight years ago today. EIGHT. It doesn’t feel like it has been eight years. And in some ways it does.
Grief and time are always weird when it comes to death though.
Sometimes I forget my mom is dead and try to call her on my phone.
Sometimes I can’t believe how much of her I’ve forgotten. I stare at pictures of her and remind myself, “That person was your mother. You used to be very close. She really loved you.”
Other nights I miss her so deeply that I cry myself to sleep.
Physics has some interesting theories about the warping, twisting, and overlapping of time. I think they make sense when it comes to grief.
Some days it all feels so fresh, like she just died a week ago. Sometimes I barely remember her in a day.
Overall though, I will say the pain of it all has lessened with time. That’s probably due to a number of factors.
When my mom died, it was like a large gaping hole was left. We were very close and talked daily. I lived with her when she died. I felt her absence profoundly.
Over time, I developed stronger relationships with my other family members and made new friendships. While no one could ever replace my mom, these relationships provide me with love, support, laughter, and many other things that my mom did.
In addition to my mom dying, there was also the traumatic impact of watching her slowly die from cancer over six years. There were many painful memories. I found a therapist and processed through these events and periods of my life. It was incredibly helpful and lessened the pain.
I also provided myself with many opportunities to express my grief. I painted large abstract paintings. I made a book. I made YouTube videos (sorry, the channel is no longer up).
The creation of my book about grief also led me to connect with many people on the subject. I began doing workshops, presentations, and classes about grief. All of these experiences gave me more and more opportunities to ventilate my grief and feel connected to others on such a painful matter.
Time has also provided me with experience. I now know myself better and can attend to the grief better.
For example, the second anniversary of my mom’s death hit me hard. I couldn’t believe how sad I was. It was like it came out of nowhere.
I now know to expect the unexpected with anniversaries, holidays, and the like. I make sure I have something planned on the day of her death. Sometimes I plan a trip. Today, I’ll be doing a podcast interview about grief. For holidays, I like to find some way to incorporate her (adding something she would have liked, etc.).
Regardless of the holiday, I also make sure to provide myself with lots of extra downtime to rest and recover throughout the week because I never know how my grief will impact me.
I’m also better at allowing the grief to move through me. I used to get upset that I was upset again. Now, I make space for when the grief comes back. I honor it by making some art, talking to someone about it, taking a walk in nature with my mom, and other ways.
In the 3rd year after my mom’s death, I was going through a particularly rough breakup and was really missing my mom. I decided to attend a weekend grief camp put on by Stepping Stones of Hope. In my early stages of grief, I probably would have felt “embarrassed” going to a grief camp when so much time had passed. Instead, I accepted that the grief was hitting me hard and sought support. It was one of the best experiences in my entire grief journey.
And yet, for all of the “experience” I’ve gained, it still hurts.
I still wish she was here today. I wish we could go order six dishes at once from the local Thai restaurant or sit and laugh at Price is Right.
Those memories, they feel like they just happened yesterday.
I provide art therapy for those experiencing grief and loss.