About two months after my mom passed, someone told me the grief gets harder after the first year. “How?” I thought, “How could this get worse?” There was a twinge whenever I would think of my mom and I would repeat in my head the visual memories: her hospice bed, her last breath, holding her hand. Seriously, how could it get worse?
But, after ten years since my mom’s cancer diagnosis and more than one and a half years since she’s passed, it has. I used to laugh until I cried with my mom, but now it’s just crying sans laughter. I can’t remember the last time I felt truly content. Even in the happy moments, big exciting life moments, there’s a voice in my head: “I wish I could tell mom.” And I detest how that consumes the good things. And it feels like so many people have moved on, still carrying my mom’s memory, but the pain isn’t as raw for them.
For me, it’s never been as fierce. My heart hurts. My memories hurt. And so few people understand this.
Recently, I reread the eulogy I gave at my mom’s funeral and I read through all the Facebook messages and comments people had left for my family. At the time, that eulogy was for everyone else. The funeral was about putting one foot in front of the other, and, for me, there was no time to process. I kept going without a chance to breathe. At first, I just bounced along because that’s what I expected from myself. Now that I’ve had the time to feel grief to the extent I have, I feel like I hit a wall of pain and grief and now every new step, someone is missing. And I feel it.
My mom had opened up to me about days when she would cry on the bathroom floor. I just don’t know how she still could light up a room with everything she was going through. I am dealing with a fraction of what she did and yet I feel like Eeyore when I want to be Tigger.
But, its ok because when you’re world has been shaken to its core, there’s no roadmap and you get to feel all the feelings at your own pace. Because we all have $#!t to deal with.
In the eulogy, I said:
“She taught us how to face the biggest challenges of our lives with grace, dignity, humor, and love. She taught us how to find the silver linings in the most horrific things that can happen to us. She taught us to be open and honest with one another, to not make illness and death taboo, and to absolutely not sugarcoat. Her laugh, her smile, the sparkle in those bright green eyes, she showed us how to live.”
So Mom, not a day goes by that I don’t feel the emptiness of you not being here. Not a day goes by that you don’t come to mind. Not a day goes by that I wish I could talk to you. I know there’s going to be immense challenges ahead of me, not just this one, but I will face them with grace, dignity, humor, and love. I’m still searching for a silver lining. I’m learning to be honest with this emptiness I feel and I hear your laugh and I see your smile and I can still feel myself holding your hand. I’m Susan Rosen’s daughter and I’m going to pick myself up because that’s how you raised me.