Usually, my goal in writing on various subjects in Desert Health® is to mentor, teach, and provide support. This article on loss is coming from a unique perspective, more of a personal view, since my mother passed away April 15 of this year.
As I walk through the steps of grief and loss, my hope is that you, the reader, know that my journey is our journey which makes this editorial all the more bittersweet.
Even though one expects the inevitable, it is a difficult transition from death back to life. People who offered, “Oh, she lived a long life,” or “When it’s our time, it’s our time” meant well, but it just hit home that no matter what is voiced, there are rare times when words suffice to comfort or console. Grief and loss are such a personal journey, and navigating the loss can be rocky at best. Still, when words miss the mark, close relationships are key in providing a safe space to “just be you” while reflecting, remembering and missing.
The following are a few thoughts for you, dear readers, as I move through this process myself:
Give yourself time. Rushing back into usual daily life and enveloping yourself in busy mode can prohibit one from declaring that “this is my time to grieve this loss.” In the book, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, Rabbi Maurice Lamm speaks about specified times for grieving. In Judaism, the first week is called shiva (Sheva in Hebrew means seven). During that week, the mourner is given guidelines on the modicum of behavior. At the funeral service, a garment of clothing is torn, giving the mourner “emotional permission” to cry out and to grieve in any way that is appropriate for the mourner. After sitting shiva then follows “shloshim,” or thirty days. After that, one year and then the “yartzeit” or annual anniversary of the death with respect paid to the deceased with a light that stays on for that month of the death each year thereafter in the synagogue.
Feel ALL your feelings. No relationship is perfect and many end imperfectly and unresolved. The answer is then to feel what you feel when you feel it, and to think in the same manner. The path towards resolution is to admit that you are as perfectly imperfect as your loved one was, which can lessen expectations. Picture an ocean wave. That ebb and flow are our thoughts and memories. Let them flow.
Gratitude and appreciation. Realize that through the haze of grief and loss you can allow yourself time to develop a sense of gratitude and appreciation for lessons learned from that relationship, as your life moves on without that special presence in it.
So, Mom, this article is dedicated to you. We had quite a ride and my legacy will be to impart your strength, courage, optimism, and no-nonsense wisdom to my loved ones, family, and community. That way, you’ll live in my heart forever.
Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC # 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.