Grief is a strange process. There are so many stages and they do not come in any particular order. Just when you think you've passed a stage or have built the strength to continue your life normally again, the floor drops out from under you and you are back in that dark, sad place again.
I don't know what brought this back on, but it hit me a couple of weeks ago. I think about my mom daily; anything from how she would respond to situations to the sayings she used often to just memories. The tears started slowly at first. Watery eyes when I would think of her. Then many tears for a couple of minutes before collecting myself again. But yesterday was a heart wrenching day. The tears came and there was no stopping them. Then the pressure in my chest. All I wanted to do was creep below a blanket and not come out. I needed a warm, dark, safe place.
As I sit here and write this I want so much to be as strong as my mom. She was the strongest person I know. It's strange to think I didn't see this before. I knew she was, but it didn't register while I had her with me. The strength she had when she was fighting to stay with us (Stage 4 breast cancer had her withering away) all while trying to protect her girls (daughters and granddaughter). My sister and I are adults and she was still being a mom and trying to shield us.
I have a memory that has been playing on repeat lately. After she received radiation, she had severe burns that were very painful. Her bandages needed to be changed and the pain ointment applied. I stepped out of her room so my dad could take care of this. Everyone knows I get light headed and dizzy with anything medical (ie. stitches, blood, wounds, etc...) so it's no surprise I stepped out. When he was done I went back in. Mom and I were talking for just a couple of minutes before she asked me to call my dad because she was in pain. He came back in and needed to readjust the ace bandage holding all the gauze and apply more ointment to an area. Watching her struggle, I couldn't leave. I didn't help my dad at all, but sat next to her holding her hand. I did not want to let her go.
I could tell she was in so much pain. The look on her face and winces let me know just how much. Tears began to form but I willed them not to fall. How could I be the one crying when I was not in the physical pain she was in? My dad finished and laid her back down to rest. I laid down next to her, my head right next to her shoulder and clutched her hand again. I could not hold the tears in any longer. They silently fell. But my mom knew.
"Don't cry. I'm fine. Now that your dad fixed the bandage it's not so bad." She told me. Instead of me comforting her, she was again protecting me. She was going through the worst thing in her life and she never wavered in her strength.
Looking back, I was crying for so many reasons. Not wanting her to be sick at all. The pain she was having to endure. The life she wasn't in control of. We ended up falling asleep that day, her and I holding hands. I will hold onto the memory for as long as I live.
My mom was amazing. She was so strong. I'm willing myself to channel some of the strength she had. I went to a growth conference last month and we had to choose a word we were working to become. My word is STRONG. Strong for myself. Strong for my family.
Right now, all I need is to let the tears fall. There is nothing else I can do, except remember her with all the love and respect I have. With time this stage will pass too.