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Navigating Grief & Mother's Day

Navigating Grief & Mother's Day

     On October 29, 2021, my mom took her last breath while I, her two other daughters, one grandchild, and one son-in-law held her hands.  One day prior, she had been rushed to the hospital while having a heart attack that landed her in the ICU; and then, she was just…gone.  I’ve experienced loss before, most notably my brother from a car accident, and my father from colon cancer.  Death visited quickly for one, and slowly drained the life from the other.  Each of these were in different stages of my own life and none was easier or harder than the others.  Death, grief, and loss is all incredibly layered and hard. 

      When these holidays that celebrate the person we’re missing arise, things become complicated.  I always think about you fellow friends out there that are also navigating these choppy waters.  The waves of grief come and go, and after years of trying to stand still and strong while they slam into my weary body, I’ve found some things that have helped.  And so, dear friend, I am sharing them with you to hopefully provide a little bit of peace, love, or a moment of breath.  Nothing is universal, so take what you need and leave the rest behind.


  1. Ride the waves, don’t try to stand up while they hit.  I mean this to say that when grief hits, don’t fight it, allow yourself to feel it.  Give yourself some time to cry, scream into a pillow, or punch your mattress.  According to Harvard Health Blog, crying, but specifically crying emotional tears, is actually healthy.  They say that it's the “emotional tears (which flush stress hormones and other toxins out of our system), that potentially offers the most health benefits. Researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins.” (Newhouse 2021)
  2. Lean in to traditions.  Keeping up a tradition that you shared with your loved one can be comforting.  If this feels too fresh, try creating a new tradition that they would have loved or something that you feel honors them.  The important thing with this is to remember that it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture.  It can be as simple as making a playlist of their favorite songs and dancing or cooking while listening to it; or writing them a letter with what has been going on with you that you would normally share with them.
  3. Share stories.  My family and I find it really cathartic to get together over zoom on my mom’s birthday (we’re all over the country) and share stories of her that make us smile, laugh, or cry.  Speaking about her helps us know she will not be forgotten and that we still love her and think of her every day.  You could even ask friends and family to share their favorite moment of your loved one either privately or over social media.  Stories heal.  
  4. Find solace in (or completely ditch) sayings you’ve heard about loss.  I have heard a LOT of different opinions and sentiments from people over the years as I lost loved ones.  Some of it was complete garbage that at some point, angered me.  For those, I decided to completely release them and not let the perceived unhelpfulness of them weigh me down.  I try to remember that these usually come from people with wonderful intentions who really are just at a loss of what they could possibly say to you.  With that being said, I have also been told some things that have hit me differently and actually helped with what I was feeling.  Here are a couple of those helpful sayings:
    1.  Grief is love with no place to go.  This made me feel like it was ok to grieve.  That it wasn’t this negative thing.  It had a purpose, and that purpose was to show the immense love I had for my people.
    2. For this blog, I asked my friend Katie (who also happens to be a Psychologist with her own practice, Stewart Psychological - shout out Dr. Katie!  Find her practice here - https://www.stewartpsychological.com/ ) if she had anything she wanted to share.  What she said resonated so hard with me and I couldn’t wait to share with you.  She said “I think it is important to acknowledge that grief is like a well…when we go to the well, all of our losses are there.  So, when we grieve, we are typically grieving everything, not just the specific loss we may have just experienced or been thinking of/reminded of.  That’s why it can feel so overwhelming and why grace and self-compassion are so important!”  Mic drop from Dr. Katie.
    3. Grief and joy can coexist.  This helped me so very much because there were times when I was experiencing something that was a joyous occasion, but I felt the stabbing pain of grief along with it.  At the time, I felt guilty over this, thinking maybe I wasn’t able to be happy anymore.  But the reality is, these feelings can share a space and coexist pretty naturally, and THAT’S OK.
  5. Find community and support.  Since I experienced my first big loss at such a young age, for several years, I felt very alone.  It was as if no one else on earth knew how I felt.  Once I found people who had shared experiences, I felt like I could breathe a little easier.  Going to therapy also helped with this as my feelings were validated by a professional; and let’s be honest, that felt pretty good! Look for resources that resonate with you and your experience.  I personally am a huge proponent of therapy.  There are a lot of different methods and resources out there for everyone.  For mothers who have lost a child, Dr. Katie recommends Mirabai Starr.  She shares her experience with Bereaved Mothers’ Day here - https://www.wildheart.space/bereavedmothersday 
  6. Give yourself Grace.  It’s hard.  Like so hard.  No one has all of the answers so be gentle with yourself as you attempt to navigate this seemingly impossible part of life.

     We’re all going through this particular life for the first time, at the same time so be patient with yourself and others.  Do what feels right for you and don’t worry about what others say.  Everyone grieves differently and this is YOUR journey, and yours alone.  My heart is with you and I wish you healing, peace, love, and light.

Xo,

Sarah


References:

Newhouse, L (2021, March 1) “Is Crying Good For You” Harvard Health Blog https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-crying-good-for-you-2021030122020#:~:text=It's%20the%20third%20category%2C%20emotional,opioids%2C%20also%20known%20as%20endorphins.


Stewart Psychological - https://www.stewartpsychological.com/


Bereaved Mothers Day - https://www.wildheart.space/bereavedmothersday

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