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In recent weeks I have experienced the loss of my beloved mother.  It was unexpected.  I was certain she had more than a few years left in her.  Her strength was solid.  Her heart was fierce, she would never die from a heart attack.

Yet she is gone and I am left to deal with her loss.

My mom inspired me so much in my work.  We would speak daily, usually in the morning, me with a cup of coffee in my hand and her with the phone up to her ear, if I wasn’t physically with her.

You might wonder what I had to talk about with my mom.  There was always something.  Many conversations were driven by me.  My questions were legion;

How did you survive the war mom?

What did you eat?

How did you make that delicious soup?

How did you learn to sew so beautifully?

What made you so resilient?

What made you adventurous?

Why do you love the color yellow so much?

And on.

I wanted to know everything about her.  My curiosity ran deep.  I was intrigued by my mother’s ability to make something out of nothing.  And how she withstood the loss of my father when she was still a reasonably young woman.  She always found a way to remain positive.

With my mother now gone, the predominant feeling I experience is untethered. I remember feeling strangely “lost at sea” when doing ordinary life things like groceries.  Even as I was selecting vegetables and fruit at the grocery store on the day of her passing, I felt as if I were betraying my mother because I was getting on with life and she was no longer in it.

I wondered if the people I saw at the store could tell that I was now an orphan, completely without parents.  That’s how unlike myself I felt. 

My head was a very busy place as I tried to make sense of the empty space left in the wake of mom’s passing.  There were so many feelings to process.  Yes I felt loss and deep sadness.  Every time I went to call my mom and then realized she wasn’t there, the tears came with a vengeance.  I even called her number once.  How strange.  There was no reply.

Still I wanted to honor her passing so that it would not be for nothing.  This was an entire life that needed to be respected for what it was.  I didn’t want to waste her loss by not understanding what her message for me was.  I spent a lot of time thinking about that and writing. Writing always helps me work through big emotions.

The mixture of emotions, including grief, sadness, joy, relief and loneliness, is at times overwhelming, so much so that I became derailed from picking up my old life and starting in the same place I left it.  My body felt trapped in exhaustion and grief.  I couldn’t picture myself lifting a weight.  Running any distance.  There was no place to go and no purpose in it.  Or so I felt.

Inertia felt good for a time.  Doing nothing was all I could manage.

Slowly, very slowly and with the tiniest of steps, I was able to take hold of doing one thing, a simple thing, to start again.  Do not laugh when I say it was to drink water.  It was all I could manage and it was a lot for my emotionally bruised heart.  Yes, I started with drinking water.

Then I tried walking.  It’s still bloody cold here in Ontario. Bundling up to take my dormant self outside for a hike in the snowy woods was an effort.  Initially I resisted the idea but once outside, feeling the breath of winter on my cheeks, I started to feel alive again.  

There were brave little birds chirping overhead and foxes slipping through the brush ahead of me on the snowy trail.  There was so much beauty all around me.  My tears froze as I walked.  Bit my bit, some of my frozen grief slipped away.  Eventually I could lift my head from my chest, where I had so heavily planted it.  My eyes traveled up over the treetops skyward, where I could feel the soaring possibility of hope.

It is only weeks ago that mom crossed over, where I fully believe she will be reborn.  A lot about me and my life have changed.  

I read somewhere that when traumatic events happen to you, you should never wish to go back to being the same person you were beforehand.  That makes sense to me. I am not the same person now, after mom’s death.  How could I be?  

Traumas always leave a mark and from these you may grow (or wither) as a soul. I am a more relevant, clear thinking, trauma-informed version of myself and those elements continue to develop as the lessons of mom’s passing develop in me.  This new light that I have invited into my life as a result of my mom’s passing has transformed me in the kintsugi tradition.  This is the Japanese are of “fixing” broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum to make an entirely new and this unique method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. In fact, kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with a new look and giving it a second life.

I have discovered there are things I could and did do that helped me during these first fragile weeks.  I share them with you because I know somewhere out there one of you is also in my shoes.  I pray that even one sentence I write helps you, guiding you out of your darkness and into the light.

Here are 3 ways I’m handling self care after my mom’s passing:

HEALING WORK #1

Allowing time to feel all the feelings of loss.  The loss of the mother, my mother, anyone’s mother, is always traumatic, whether you have had a good relationship with her or not.  Her leaving rips a giant hole in your purpose for being here, on this Earth.  

The glue that she was or may have been in your family, is now gone and what does that mean for you as a child of hers, to your siblings, to the rest of the family?

The trauma of her loss is going to stun you into silence.  What else is there to say now that she, your she, is gone?  What we live after loss is not fixable.  That place is foreign and dark, not immediately offering comfort to a mourning soul.  

What has to happen is acknowledgement.  Acknowledgement that nothing feels normal and you’ll feel that way for a while.  There is no normal.  There is only feeling crazy. And deep, terrible pain.  And a terrible sense of having lost your anchor so that you no longer know where you are on this planet.  

Once you name this as your loss, it feels slightly better because it is a Thing that has happened to you.

For me, naming my loss came through telling my mother’s story helped me greatly.  While she was dying I sat beside her every day for hours with my Uniball pen and my Moleskin alchemizing feelings into words.  The more I wrote the more I felt the knife edge of her leaving soften with the evolving story of Mom’s life and incumbent death.  

Afterwards I shared the story with my family  friends.  With others who had lost a parent. I listened to them tell their stories.  Sometimes I did this while walking with them and that felt healing.  I didn’t feel so alone with my pain and I could give a compassionate ear while they told their own stories of loss.

I also told my mother’s death story to a grief counselor and a death doula because the telling was not sufficiently done once, it needed more telling. 

HEALING WORK #2

Being gentle with myself and what to do about grief.  It’s fair to say that our modern culture avoids grief and the grief conversation. Not talking about the grief that takes up a vast space inside you to protect others, makes it almost impossible to live with the unbearable pain of grief. Grief has no ON/OFF button.  It isn’t just one or the other.  Grief contains a vast scope of emotions in the middle ground that invites a “sitting down with it” conversation with yourself. 

This quote by David Whyte from Consolations says it well:

“Our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence,  but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”

Offering yourself enough space to be gentle with yourself, taking down every Must Do on your list, is healing.  Being kind to yourself is healing.  When was the last time you were kind to yourself?  Dealing with loss is the exact time to offer yourself space to be gentle.

HEALING WORK #3

Celebrate your kintsugi self. Traumas always leave a mark and from these you may grow (or wither) as a soul. 

I am a more relevant, clear thinking, trauma-informed version of myself and those elements continue to develop as the lessons of mom’s passing develop in me.  This new light that I have invited into my life as a result of my mom’s passing has transformed me in the kintsugi tradition.  This is the Japanese are of “fixing” broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum to make an entirely new and 

This unique method celebrates the unique history of a piece of art, or a person, by emphasizing the broken places instead of hiding them.  Kintsugi often makes the once broken piece even more beautiful than the original.  It’s a lovely way to look at oneself while navigating trauma.

Here I stand with my broken parts being healed by veins of gold. It isn’t perfection I wish to offer here. It is the light of healing I wish to pull into my heart.  With that light I am aware of my mother’s light.  For she gave me the best of her and I vow to house her light and expand it with all I have in me.

 

With love and light,

Tosca 

 

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