I haven’t experienced grief very many times in my life, and for that I’m grateful. But now, as my family gathers around my mother in these last days of her life, I am experiencing my own grief, as well as others’. And I’ve learned that everyone deals with the pain of loss differently.
One of my siblings openly grieves, cries freely, shares the stages of my mother’s passing on social media, asks others for prayers. Another takes care of others, wants only family around and cries in moments, but mostly in private. One of my siblings said goodbye to my mother a few days ago, unable to bear her passing. And another of my siblings spends time with my mother, leaves for a bit to gather thoughts and reflect, then returns to her again, all the while, also taking care of others.
I’m kind of a combination of all of them. As the oldest, I don’t feel comfortable crying in front of others, though I’ve done my share. I’ve found I deal with my grief by planning, organizing and doing. I’ve taken most of the calls from friends and family and have headed planning my mother’s funeral. Most of all, I feel the need to write about my grief and what I’ve learned. But I’m conflicted about it, because I also feel it’s a very private process.
Still, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned.
We all deal with it differently. As you can see in what I described about how my siblings deal with grief, it can be ripe for judgment from any of us about how the other deals with it. Some of us may not agree with sharing on social media. Some of us may not agree with one of our siblings not being here. And some may not agree that I write about it.
In the end, we’re all entitled to process this pain the way we need to process it, and we shouldn’t fear judgment for it, certainly not from our loved ones. We’ve talked about this in the last few days, and I feel so fortunate to have sisters and a brother with whom I can talk about such things.
Finally, I’ve learned that even with all of its pain, grief holds a kind of magic. With all of the reflecting on my mother’s life, her time with us, and the time I’ve spent with family in the last week, my grief has turned to gratitude. This metamorphosis was helped along by a video my daughter put together of my mother’s life.
For five days, Andi gathered photos from dozens of my mother’s albums. From over 600 photos initially collected, she filtered down to 450 to create a 25 minute video filled with pictures from when my mother was about three years old to a photo of her holding Tommy, her first great grandchild.
Twice now, my mother’s bedroom has been filled with her children and many of her grandchildren as we’ve watched the video and passed around the tissue. I’m not sure my mother was able to see the stream of memories flowing past on her television, but I’m sure she heard the music and our commentary as we watched.
What a life my mother has had. What a life she gave to us.