The Wave

A year ago we sat, riddled with anxiety, mostly in silence or distracting ourselves with something on a screen, waiting for my mama to leave us. An unimaginable situation. Unthinkable. Unbearable. 

The face of courage. 


My precious mama, dancing just days before, now so small and tired and undoubtedly wanting to stay for us. To be stubborn. 

We prayed for her to let go, to have the peace she so rightly deserves. 

Grief is waves. It is the sea. It’s not linear. Even in the best of circumstances, grief will last a lifetime. It will ebb and flow, you will bob along; days will be beautiful but maybe the colors will be just slightly less bright. Bad days may feel unbearable. You have a better grasp of despair, which, in my opinion, is a very acute emotion. I believe if my personal situation were more straightforward I would perhaps have more insight into a neater version of grief. That’s not the hand I was dealt though, so the process is maybe different. I don’t think tremendously different, but definitely less formulaic. You can’t quite check the boxes. When you face multiple losses at once, you’re not really sure how to direct your “process”. I have been so hesitant to share this past year because, to be very honest: I don’t like being vulnerable, I don’t want pity (especially given how blessed I know I am) and I haven’t known how to help others by sharing. My most special people (and my therapist) have all encouraged me to write, knowing somehow that it is a healthy outlet for me, so here I am, trying. While not necessarily ready to share, I know I need to start somewhere. And more than anything I want to be useful. 

I have reached an age where loss and disappointment are coming into fruition in the normal course of life. It’s simply that time. It’s reality. We are fortunate that we’re a generation benefitting from relatively easy access to therapy or even some of the wellness culture that is all over the internet, things our parents didn’t really have access to and therefore mostly weren’t equipped to deal with in an emotional or therapeutic way. 

I think what I want to tell you all is that grief is a motherfucker. Shocking, I know, groundbreaking news. And, as in my case, sometimes life will IN FACT throw more at you than you can actually handle, and you won’t be afforded the “normal” course of grief. In my case (and many others) I only get to crack the door every once in a while. A quiet moment watching the clouds at sunset driving down the interstate or maybe bearing witness to a small kindness in the Harris Teeter. It’s weird how grief can wash over you in those tiny moments of mundane life. In general though, right now it’s about powering through. Unless you have the means to check in somewhere for “exhaustion” like a ‘90s celebrity, you don’t have the luxury of truly sorting out grief. You don’t get to sit on a mountaintop in prayer or meditation. 

I am doing all of the things. I’ll keep doing all of the things. And I recommend that you all do them too. I have been in therapy, I’ve tried to take care of myself physically, I’ve picked up some new hobbies and tried to expand my horizons. Therapy is necessary. If you don’t have the financial bandwidth to fit in private therapy, find yourself a support group. Find an Internet forum. Do whatever you have to do, but you must do this thing. Taking a walk, being in nature, hiring a trainer. Do that shit. Just find a way to uncoil your body. You must. I have pushed myself to be more social and lean on my friends. I have opened myself up to some of my friends and asked to be able to entrust to them the confidences my mother allowed me. That has been one of the biggest leaps of faith of my life, and I can only attribute it to my overarching desire to do what I know my mama would want for me. I am an intensely emotionally protective person and the loss of my mother, my sense of family, has forced me to reckon with those restrictions. I want to tell you: if you have cultivated those friendships and built things that are real, that leap is worth it. Your friends are going to be the family you’ve chosen and the ones who will be your survival lines through this phase of life and after, ultimately. And another thing, the small act of reaching out to someone whose pain you identify with - that right there is a real act of kindness. The voice you don’t really expect, simply saying “I understand and I’m sorry”, don’t ever be afraid to be that. No matter what response you get, you should know that it is impactful and the exact right kind of good this world needs. I am not much of a “witness” type of Christian, but I must state unequivocally to you that leaning into your faith, whatever that may be, will serve you well. I am always, VERY CLEARLY, a work in progress, but my faith is one of the things that literally carried me through days that felt like black holes. Knowing that you are small is both terrifying and comforting, but ultimately helps you place your grief in the vastness of the universe.

These things are real. They are actually useful. They’re not platitudes, though you will have days when they feel that way. I am here to tell you that grief is a long game. I know that I will not be able to fully grieve the loss of my mother at this specific point in my life. But I know that I have to do my best to live the life she wanted (and wants) for me. She would want it for you too. Cling to the good. Do not give space to the things which no longer or never served you. Move forward and know that tomorrow is another day, another opportunity. Don’t spend a second on the petty. Not one second. Just be kind and be good and keep it moving. Ride the wave, don’t fight it. 


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