Just let me feel bad about this...

July 23, 2019

Just let me feel bad about this

“It takes strength to make your way through grief, to grab hold of life and let it pull you forward.”~Patti Davis

It was a year ago today that my mom died. And shock still bubbles up when I think of her, along with all the other emotions like sadness, relief, curiosity, anger and envy. In order to understand this surge of emotions, I decided to unpack why I feel this way in an attempt to become aware of what grief is, and a guide to keep these memories from tripping me up.

A feeling of disbelief arrives with shock; initially it softens the blow with waves of reality sneaking to the surface. Shock is our brains attempt at protection. While we are all fully aware of the possibility of death, it still comes as a shock. The brain allows the reality and overwhelm of grief to slip in like a controlled drip in small doses, providing time to comprehend the finality of loss.

Sadness is one of the hardest and longest emotions I have sat with. What is this sadness? That quiet alone time when we feel hopeless, tears that moisten the eyes during a commercial, or a feeling we just can’t shake. 

This perception of change that we know is inevitable still pulls the rug from our lives in the process. There are so many things I wrap in this sadness. The complicated childhood my mother lived, the loss of two children, her grandson, a sibling and her spouse, and if that’s not enough, then she is lost in dementia. She had a tough life in the beginning and end, but I try to believe the middle was worth it. 

Motherhood suited her well. She doted on her four children and spouse in all the ways to make our childhoods magical, and as we grew she became that same adoring grandmother, yet still these moments feel so distant, like a trap door released them from my memory, now buried in the rubble of sorrow.

I still wrestle with the season of dementia. Being with her was so difficult yet not seeing her left me with remorse. Every part of her so healthy, except her mind. I recall the battle in my mind just weeks before her death, knowing that I needed to spend more time with her, not to have any regrets. Yet before anything changed she was gone. 

And once she was gone I again remembered the finality of death as I volleyed between relief and remorse. Relief now felt selfish, the end of her life should not bring a respite. Dementia is so painful for those it consumes; watching my mother decline, her memory of us vacant, a smile is all that lingers. There were days when her lashing out in public places felt like a cruel betrayal, a victim of my mother’s wrath I fought to separate the personality of today from long ago.

Eventually I became curious, curious about life and living, curious of love and loss and questioning how best to handle it. Do I give away all her things; pack them away for another time or get buried in the anguish of decisions… too many decisions.

There is no manual on grief, it affects us all differently, loss is messy and sad, shepherding me through its crooked course. Grief waxes and wanes from soft moments of reflection to anger and envy. It is always unfair to the bereaved; our lives forever changed while others cannot fathom the pain, still free from loss.

Grief does not expire; there is no timeline to our pain. It all becomes this giant well of loss that pulls us to its depth some days and releases us with memories on another.

Often, people just want you to “get over” your grief. Your tears and sadness make them uncomfortable. People want to fix grief, as if it is fixable. 

As I compare the saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I believe grief is in the heart of the bereaved and it does not matter how long the journey takes.

When I feel bad about the last years of my mother’s life, people try and talk me out of the pain. Reminding me of the good I did. But like the story line from one of my favorite movies, Ordinary People, Dr. Berger says, “a little advice about feelings kiddo; don’t expect it always to tickle and Conrad Jarrett says, “I feel bad about this! I feel really, really bad about this! Just let me feel bad about this!

As the dust settles and I seek comfort with a new approach to grief. I still feel bad about this; so just let me feel bad about this…

And maybe somewhere down the road I will recognize Gods mercy, and see her free from all her sorrow?


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