For someone that writes about the grief spiral as much as I do, you’d think I’d be quick to recognize that shadowy arm as it wraps around me and sweeps me along to feel and heal the old traumas from a new perspective. You’d think that, and you’d be wrong. I’m blindsided just as easily as the next Widow.
When I saw my mom last week, she didn’t know who I was. That was the first time this had happened. And while I’ve been bracing for its inevitability, it almost brought me to my knees. That visceral response confused me. I’ve been pragmatic about this journey and have released her path to the universe with love and gratitude. Death and I are old friends, so why the overwhelming urge to sit sobbing in my car in the parking lot of her nursing home?
I encourage everyone to lean into their feelings and listen to what they are trying to tell us. I practice what I preach, so when I got home, I shut myself in my room and leaned into the space between life and death. It didn’t take long for the answers to arrive.
Grief Muscle Memory
“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.” Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
Only a day before I became a stranger to my mom, I’d had a visit with an intuitive healer. She quickly observed that the chronic health issue I was complaining about only bothered me when I was in Boise and was likely linked to my grief since it didn’t start until after D died. What the what?! How had I not noticed this connection? I often write about grief muscle memory related to significant dates and places, but I hadn’t realized it could also reach into my ongoing health. DOH! I came away from our appointment determined to break this somatic memory chain to this city that just won’t let me go.
In meditation, I was transported back to my deepest darkest grief moment, which occurred three days before D died, shortly before he fell into a coma from which he never awoke. It’s not a moment I like to recall as it was the epicenter of my falling apart and hanging precariously over the precipice of the dark unknown of The AfterLoss.
Deja F**k You
“It’s not that we have to quit this life one day, but it’s how many things we have to quit all at once: music, laughter, the physics of falling leaves, automobiles, holding hands, the scent of rain, the concept of subway trains…if only one could leave this life slowly!” Roman Payne, Rooftop Soliloquy
Our home had been full of family and friends coming to say goodbye for weeks. But on that horrible afternoon, D and I were alone. I was on my own when he had his pre-death rally; the one American hospice never tells you to expect, so you get tricked into thinking death isn’t imminent.
He suddenly woke up and was alert and walking around for the first time in days. He seemed better, except for the part where he didn’t recognize me. You guys, he ran away from me because he was afraid.
His eyes were full of confusion and stranger danger as I chased him around the house, fearing he would fall. In an instant, his brain tumors (f**k cancer!) erased our whole lives together and my identity, if I’d ever existed at all. My sense of self shattered to smithereens. I broke, y’all. A few short days later, our future also disappeared, and my descent into The AfterLoss became permanent.
You Have to Feel to Heal
When Mom didn’t recognize me, my muscle tissue remembered that long-buried worst moment of my life. Once I figured that out, I leaned in. I relived every minute of that horrible day but felt the pain and fear from a distance. I watched the scene play out like an old home movie.
With compassion, I absolved six-years-ago Lisa of any guilt for falling apart in an unimaginable situation. I forgave her misguided self-flagellation that she’d failed him and shamed herself in her breakdown. And from this new vantage point, I loved us both. Love was the thing she needed most and was unable to give herself.
The trigger of Mom not knowing me created the space to let that old trauma go. And I am grateful for all of it. The spiral continues.
One More Link
“Dandelions spring up where civilizations have been destroyed.” Marty Rubin
Will this epiphany and release mean I can finally move forward and find my place in this big wide world? Will I finally be free to start living life just for me? Not quite. But with one more link of that chain cut, I know that day is drawing close.
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.