I wanted to write this particular blog for two reasons. One is as a memory of my loving mum who died almost 6 years ago. And the second is to share my process of grieving, what I've learned from it and how it's helped my inner growth with hope that my story may also help others who are going through a similar process.
Like most of you out there I have had a fair share of loss in my life, such as, for example, my home town being destroyed in a civil war, my best male friend being executed in the very same war and more. I tried to cope with it, go through it in the best way I knew how. In the past, more often then not, I tried to avoid the pain. I tried to rationalise it and I would get busy with life which, of course, is never too short of opportunities to keep you busy.
From all those previous experiences I have learned that we can never avoid pain, it always catches up with you in the end, and sometimes, in the meantime it affect your health as well. I've also learned that the only way to heal is through pain. Still, until my mum's death I had somehow always tried to postpone the process of grieving and of course experiencing pain, sadness and mourning that go with it, hoping that it would go away or heal with time. It never does. I've learned that the only way to heal pain to actively engage with it. This grieving process that I am about to share with you was the first time that I really allowed myself to fully feel whatever I felt in the moment I experienced it. I even consciously made sure I created the space in me and time for the process, for my grieving to unravel in the way it needed to.
On the 11th of February this year it will be exactly 6 years since that early morning when I received a call from my dad telling me that my mum died. Her death was sudden, unexpected and a shock, mum was only 66 years old. Only the day before my mum and I had spoken on the phone, laughed, joked and finished the conversation with ‘I love you’ and I sent her blow kisses through the receiver in the same way I had always done with her before ending a call. One may label blow kisses as childish, yet for me it represented the level of playfulness, warmth, intimacy, and love I was able to share with her. Would I have changed anything, if I had known that this was to be our last conversation? No, not a thing.
Still, just like that from one day to the next my loving Mama was not here any more. In those first weeks the thought of 'never again' was the hardest to bear for me. I understood it, but I still could not fully comprehended that I would never again be able to hug her, see her, or call her on the phone. There would be no more long Sunday morning telephone chats I so loved. I knew that this would be a process, of acceptance, of getting used to what is, of grieving. I also knew or rather felt that my mum was still with me. Somehow my mum’s presence and love was coming back to me albeit indirectly through the care and love of close friends and colleagues who were all there for me in the first month of my grieving process.
I also remember that in the first weeks I was questioning the fact that I had experienced only a few moments of real deep sadness since mum died. It was as if I was expecting something else, and indeed I was. On one side I thought that I was expected by others to feel differently, more sad, more depressed, and on the other side I was expecting that I should have been experiencing greater pain or greater sadness. In other words I was worried that I was not really grieving, as if it was not quite right or enough to feel enormous love in my heart, and to feel peaceful and OK. Even though I knew that grieving was a process (after all I was a trained counsellor), still I had an idea of what grieving should have looked like. Well, I am happy to say that through my own process I have learned that there is no prescribed rule. Grieving is different for every individual, because we are all different, and because each person we grieve for is different from all others we grieved for before, and because with each of these individuals we created a very unique relationship. Hence, every time we grieve for someone we grieve in a unique way.
One thing that was different for me this time in my grieving process for my Mama was the awareness of my thoughts, feelings and needs in the present moment. I was consciously practising regularly ‘tuning-in’ with myself to check what went on inside me and what feelings were lurking under the surface needing to come out.
At the same time a big part of the grieving process was the understanding that the acceptance of my mum's death, was also a process which was unfolding in stages at its own pace. First came the shock of hearing that mum died, and the funeral, then the idea that she was not alive any more, yet I was still holding on her spirit and I was even feeling her presence, especially when I was still in my home town after the funeral. Then in the second month after her death it really truly dawned on me that Mama was no longer with us. To start with I understood the mental concept, but I did not truly accept it until several weeks after she died, and even then I was not able to completely accept it. It is like the awareness of it was happening in stages. The part of acceptance that I experienced in the first few weeks was a very reasoned, cognitive understanding of my Mum's death. This is a necessary part of the process yet it really is only the first step towards the full acceptance. And then the time came when the realization of loss was starting to hit my whole being and the whole being was just finding it hard to believe and accept. This realization was hurting not only emotionally, but physically as well.
I did not need to worry any longer about not experiencing the deep sadness. The time came when I was ready to cry and it was painful, leaving me without breath. I cried while cycling to work, I cried under the shower and I experienced feeling helpless, like a small child and alone. Even though there were many good friends ready to support me in my process, only I, alone, could meet and experience the depth of my pain. When this pain started coming out it felt excruciating. However, I was not trying to avoid it I just let it come up, I let it all out. Only a few times I screamed from pain, but mostly I just felt deep, deep sadness and a deep need to let tears roll.
The one of my biggest growth point from this grieving process has been the realization that because I did not fear the pain and I trusted my ability to deal with the amount of pain I did let my self ‘wallow’ in it and I was able to slowly go deeper. The deeper I went the greater the need became to go even deeper in and through the pain until I touched the point where I felt a shift, the pain started feeling warm. I dared to meet my pain and go through it without any guarantee of how long this journey would be and what I would find at the other end. Well, without even knowing whether there was the other end. Indeed, there was the other end, and what I found there was a deep all encompassing love. I felt peaceful.
This happened sometime at the end of the summer, approximately six months after my mum died.
It was an amazing experience and it had an enormous impact on my growth. Through my own experience I learned that the only way to deal with whatever feelings we have is to live them to the full. Irrespective of how hard and painful at times it may be, just live them moment by moment, just let them be, without resistance without putting any time limit, or a judgment/label (good or bad, positive or negative) or an expectation on it. Felling your pain and mourning your loss is not only necessary, if you wish to live a full healthy life, but it is definitely worth it. At the end you will come to peace with the death of the loved one and you will also rediscover the love that connect you with that person which will, therefore, stay with you forever.
Trust in your nature and let yourself feel whatever is alive in you in this moment...
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