grief

  • Jul 21, 2009

I’d like to resurrect the year of wearing black.

In fact, so many of the old mourning rituals seem wise to me right now. Cards, flowers and food brought us the most comfort during the funeral. Without knowledge or planning, we sat shiva for the week after her death. And we found that hugs and somber faces are the best sort of greeting.

But now, when I lie in bed with sobs crushing my throat because I’m trying not to cry out loud, to wake Erik or frighten the kids or lose control once again; when I sit in a group of people and try to pretend that I’m OK; when someone asks, “How’s your mom? I heard she was sick?” and I have to tell them that she died last month, I’d like to have a black dress or an armband or some talisman to hold my pain.

And maybe we need a signal for, “I’ve just had a miscarriage; please don’t ask when I’m going to have another baby.” or “My son is suffering with bipolar disorder; please don’t make crazy-people jokes.”

Or maybe we just continue to treat people gently, ‘handle with care.’

I don’t feel sorry for myself, and I don’t blame people for not being aware of my mother’s death– it’s impossible to keep track of the lives of everyone around us. But I find it interesting, in an almost scholarly way, that whenever I say, “My mother died.” it feels like a literal punch in the gut, and that I don’t want to listen to the radio or my iPod anymore, that I can’t seem to concentrate and that I really, truly want to sleep 12 hours of every day.

Acquaintances ask first about my trip to Europe. And while it was beautiful and healing and wonderful in every way (and Benny-boy, I promise I will write about it and post photos after I’ve penned 50 thank-you notes and finished the photo shoots from last April), talking about Europe feels like discussing the fire engine when your house has just burned down. I want to talk about my mother. About how young she looked when she died, about her white nightgown with slim pink ribbons and the way she reached for heaven. I want to show you her earrings that I’m wearing today, to ponder her rose garden and to bake her bran muffins. Grief is a kind companion; it gives me new eyes for the beauty around me.

My dad is mourning by keeping himself fantastically distracted. I don’t think he stays in the same place for more than 4 nights in a row. He’s flying back and forth between Salt Lake and San Diego as he moves out of his San Diego condo and into my sister’s house. Last week he took Hans and this week Stefan, with him for company. He’s honest, “I don’t want to be alone and I need help right now.”

I too, am grateful for the distractions. My summer camp of six keep my hopping all day long and, deep breath, I was just called as the Young Women’s President of my ward. My Mormon friends are laughing out loud right now, because they know that YW President is a BIG job. A grown-up job. I regard it as privilege and a pleasure and pray that I don’t mess it up.

And so, I’m glad to have rich, full days and for the lessons my mother taught me to make it a better, kinder life, but I also want to cry every day; to grieve.

July 18, 2009
July 23, 2009

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20 Comments

  1. Reply

    brittney

    July 21, 2009

    I would love to see her earrings. You are wise and beautiful. Grieve.

    xo brit carman

  2. Reply

    Allison

    July 21, 2009

    Michelle~
    Tears run down my face every time I read your posts about your mother. I know there’s nothing I can say to ease your pain. I am sorry for you. I know that doesn’t help.
    For the past couple of months, I have been reading every word you’ve written about your mom. Many posts I’ve read two, three, four times. My father died in February. Suddenly. And I couldn’t write about it. I didn’t know how to put words to what I was feeling. You do. And it’s beautiful. You’ve helped me to be able to grieve. Thank you.

  3. Reply

    Selwyn

    July 21, 2009

    I second your call to return to mourning black. Particularly with the little veils covering your eyes so you can cry in private and shade the burning skin from the world.

    Let the tears come. Share your memories and mementos. Grief is important, and best to do it your way. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. Reply

    Jeanelle

    July 22, 2009

    So much to say and I have no idea where to start. First, you do whatever you want…as long as your grief is not getting in the way of you functioning, mothering, being a wife then grieve. But watch yourself…and if you think you need help, please ask. Second, I would love it if you blogged about your mom every day. Third, YW president? Oh you lucky girl. Yes it will be work and yes it will at times suck every bit of life out of you but oh the rewards are immeasurable. There is nothing like serving the young women in our church – absolutely nothing (and if you must know, I’m crying as I type this.) And what insights you will have about what boys really think!! The girls in your ward are so lucky!

  5. Reply

    Chelle

    July 22, 2009

    so much love for you, friend.

  6. Reply

    Kerri

    July 22, 2009

    Michelle, I’ve been reading your posts about your mother on Segullah and have been so moved time and time again. Finding your blog has been another treasure. Your eye for beauty is so remarkable. Thank you for sharing your heart through your words and your photography.

  7. Reply

    Tracy

    July 22, 2009

    It is okay to grieve and have pain. I am thinking about your daily and sending hugs your way, my friend.

  8. Reply

    Kira

    July 22, 2009

    I think it was Eyering who said, “treat those you meet like their heart is breaking, because it probably is”. I am so sorry the pain in so intense. I hope you can find relief soon 🙂

  9. Reply

    Coach A.

    July 22, 2009

    She looks so peaceful…

  10. Reply

    Coach A.

    July 22, 2009

    Michelle, have you read A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis? You might not feel like reading much right now… it’s a very short book about when his wife died and how he made it through the grief. Sending you hugs… xoxo

  11. Reply

    Alyson (New England Living)

    July 22, 2009

    I wish I were near to give you a hug and somber face in person. Much love, Michelle! xx

    Love your notion of having a visual cue that everyone would recognize as a sign of grief. We no longer seem to be allowed to wear our emotions “on our sleeves”.

  12. Reply

    Denise

    July 23, 2009

    Too much left unsaid today. Time together is always like that. I would have liked to hear more about your mom. Have you ever considered taking a weekend away? The fall foliage my way is not to be missed. I would love to sit and just listen.

  13. Reply

    jennie w.

    July 23, 2009

    I think I’m going to start wearing those armbands again. Maybe they’ll become popular like AIDS and breast cancer ribbons. But instead of signifying disease they’ll mean “something bad is happening in my life”.

  14. Reply

    Countryside Portraits

    July 24, 2009

    Michelle,
    I lost my mom 3 1/2 years ago to non-hodgkins lymphoma….It’s a long process. Do what you need to do to get through it. I feel your pain.

    Shawna Sweeney

  15. Reply

    Clint & Karen

    July 25, 2009

    You’ve given everyone new eyes with this beautifully written blog. I say it’s okay to sleep when you need to and do what you need to do to grieve. She is your mom.

  16. Reply

    Travelin'Oma

    July 26, 2009

    By sharing these tender feelings, you are soothing others with aching hearts.

    Each time I face a new challenge I suddenly realize that lots of people have gone through it before me, and I didn’t have much empathy. When my mom died, the people who could give me the most comfort were those who’d had the experience themselves. Your posts are already giving support, even as you express your sadness.

    Grieving is healthy and normal, but demands respect and time. For me it has eventually become sweet.

  17. Reply

    Jill

    July 27, 2009

    Crying. I too find myself trying to stifle my sobs. It’s been nine months for me and I still grieve and miss him every single day. At some point the sobbing subsides, not because the feelings have diminished, but because life somehow moves on and the weight of it becomes too heavy to carry every day. And yet, those crushing emotions and gut wrenching sadness always linger just below the surface.

    Spend time with your grief. Doing so will eventually heal you.

  18. Reply

    ellen

    July 27, 2009

    I loved your post.

  19. Reply

    Our California Life

    July 28, 2009

    Michelle — You are such a beautiful person and have such an amazing way of putting things into words! Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you!

    –Joan

    P.S. I have no doubt you will be an amazing YW President. I only wish I had daughters still in the program to learn from you and your wisdom!!! 🙂

  20. Reply

    kim & co.

    August 1, 2009

    That picture at the end is beautiful.

    I don’t know you, but I know your sister from when we lived in SD and she was my running partner, babysitting swapper, and all around friend, and I feel a very strong connection to her and her family and have loved how open you have been about how losing your mom has affected you. Your parents are two of the most amazing people–my husband and I have admired them greatly and I’m glad that you are willing to grieve in a way that lets the rest of us get to know them even a little better.

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