It feels bizarre that I’ve been grieving for five years. It went by much more slowly in the beginning. The sorrow is less all consuming five years in, but the hurt is still there, as I suspect it will always be.
I attended a funeral on Friday (my mom’s birthday) and that put me into a state of contemplation. Death is so final. Obviously I understand that death is final, but I was thinking about it on a deeper level. The DFW National Cemetery is huge, there are so many graves that it’s almost unconscionable to even wrap my head around. What happened to all of those families? Were they able to move forward, or is the loss still affecting the family generations later?
I’ll never know the answers to those questions for those families, but I know the answer for my family. If I were walking through the cemetery where my mom’s dad is buried, I know for sure that the effect his death had on my mom deeply affected my childhood.
I’m not resentful about this, I point it out to illustrate that there is a cycle that can develop in families if grief and trauma remain unresolved. Our brains love patterns and seek them from the moment we are born. If there’s a pattern of sadness and grief in a parent, the baby’s brain will pick up that pattern and light up in the same areas. If that grief remains unresolved in the parent, as the baby’s brain develops it will continue to follow that pattern. That pattern of grief and sadness becomes the foundation for all the future relationships the baby has, even though all those feelings could be going on subconsciously in the parent. Isn’t that bananas?
The brain is amazing. It loves patterns, but is also adaptable. We have the ability to change those early patterns in our brains at any time. This is what has been going on with me. When something clicks in my self awareness and I examine it’s origin, I can create a new pattern my brain can follow that works better for my life.
Look how far I’ve come by simply becoming aware of the deep fear I was experiencing and learning to recognize the negative impact it was having on my life. I am in graduate school pursuing the career I always wanted but, until recently, never thought I could actually have. For the first time in decades, I actually feel ambitious.
Something that has really resonated with me over the last year has been to really take advantage of my abilities and talents rather than minimize them. When I use my creativity or connect with a child, I feel enriched. These are my gifts and I think they were given to me so I can use them to influence the world in a positive way. Maybe not the entire world, but someone’s little word.
I want to be honest and let you know that I still struggle. A lot of my recent growth has been sparked by having to accept some painful realizations about myself. I still have to keep strategies in place to cope with my anxiety and depression. It’s required if I want to be my best self and I own and accept that.
For me, there has definitely been marked change in the way I grieve at the 5 year mark. I’m beginning to come around to the idea of letting her go in a way that I wasn’t before. I was holding on to so much for so long because I was afraid that letting go of those feelings would mean letting go of her. I realize now that, regardless, she’ll always be a part of me. I still miss her everyday and I wish she could be here to see the person I am becoming, she’s the one who started me on this journey and she will always be a source of inspiration to me.
RIP, mom. I miss you and I love you so much.
April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011