The Root IS The Problem

Last week, I whined about all the difficulties roots have been causing in my life lately.  Removing them seems to have been the solution to all kinds of problems.  My experiences led me to opine that perhaps roots are the problem.

My mother died about eighteen months ago.  She was my rock and my root in this life.  She grounded me and helped me grow.  Since she died, I have definitely felt a certain rootlessness.  Somehow, I have not been sure how to be me now that she is no longer around.  I have been processing my emotions fairly efficiently, but this is one feeling I have been avoiding.

In essence, I have been avoiding my own roots.  It has been too painful to go down that particular hole.  When I do certain activities, I desperately distract myself from thinking of my mother.  I don’t often reminisce much about our lives together when she was well.  There are some items of hers that she had with her at the skilled nursing facility which I hid away in a box.  I could not bear the thought of looking at them.  It is a strange sensation to avoid any aspect of my mother because I was so rooted to her.  I would think that it would always be better to remember than not, even when the memories fill me with an adrift sort of sadness and purposelessness.  Still, there are certain experiences that I avoid because they remind me that I don’t know how to grow without my roots.  And my roots fill me with pain when I dig too deeply into them. 

Despite how “well” I have been mourning my mother, there is one part of me that just seems stuck in mid-air by grief.  I think it has to do with permanence.  If I can avoid thinking about this last vestige… this last root… of sorrow, it feels like my mother could still come back to me.  Of course I know she will not, but part of me unconsciously pretends she is just on a trip or something and will return to the relationship we had before her stroke.

The other night, I had a dream.  I was in the middle of a large room, filled with many people.  I think it was some sort of celebration.  I seemed to be in the thick of whatever was going on in the room.  I was cooking and answering questions for people who needed help.  Everyone seemed to be coming to me for direction.  I kept asking people, “is my mother here yet?”  They always replied she was not there and I kept going with my tasks.  I felt like I was in a whirlwind of mental and physical activity, but I still seemed to slow down periodically to ask, “is my mother here yet?”  Finally, I stopped what I was doing.  The whole room seemed to get quiet and everyone turned to me.  I stared straight ahead, at no one and everyone, and said, “She’s never going to be here again, is she?”  That is the last thing I remember about the dream, except that I woke up crying deeply and viscerally.  I’ve been exhausted ever since. 

The next day, I opened the box of items I brought home from the skilled nursing facility.  I had forgotten what was in there.  Mostly, they were photos that were on the wall by her bed.  It was a weird sensation to look at them and remember our roots.  I remembered the very different people we were when those pictures were taken, both before and after my mom got sick.  I felt cracked… but not catastrophic.  Even thinking about it now, I feel my gut sinking and my spirit sliding through a dark, heavy place.  Still, I do have a spirit and it is moving.

One of the pictures I found was particularly poignant.  It was a wonderful photo of me, my mother, and Tinker Bell at the Magic Kingdom soon after we moved to Florida.  Looking at that photo, I remembered the day.  I remembered the fun we had.  I remembered laughing and loving.  I remembered that I was my mother’s Tinker Bell always.  I remembered the roots.  Right after she died, I could not look at that picture.  Today, I bought a frame and hung it on the wall. 

This episode caused me to reflect on the rootlessness I have been feeling.  In some ways, I think not knowing how to grow into me without my mother here is all in my mind.  If I am honest, even though exploring the roots has been painful, I have been growing.  My life is bigger than it used to be.  My life is richer than ever and my heart is expanding all the time.  There are lots of reasons for that.  One of those reasons is that helping me grow joyously is my mother’s legacy to me.  I may have been avoiding thinking of those roots, but they have always been there.

I started out this post with the premise that the roots are the problem.  I don’t think that is right, after all.  Roots may be messy and may need management, but they are miraculous as long as they keep growing. 

What part have your “roots” played in your life?  Are you a stronger person because your roots are strong or are you a stronger person because you had to overcome your roots?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a growing day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

My beautiful mother, me, and Tinker Bell at the Magic Kingdom in happier times. I was always her Tinker Bell and she was always my “second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”

Good Grief

It has now been a year since my mother died. I’ve tried to be healthy in my mourning.  I’ve seen a bereavement counselor a few times.  I’ve tried to focus on the wonderful gift that my mother was. In general, I’ve done very well.  I’ve been sad, but functional.  I’ve been mournful, but also hopeful.  I feel that I honor and celebrate my mother every day by the way I live my life.  Still, there is a facet of my grief has been stubborn and uncooperative.  It holds on relentlessly.  On the other hand, the grief isn’t nearly as sharp or as devastating as I thought it would be.

During the months of my mother’s illness, part of my daily terror had to do with how I could possibly withstand the shattering blow that I would doubtlessly experience when she died.  I was so sad and in so much pain while she was still alive, I couldn’t see how I would be able to handle her death.  I read the hospice information about anticipatory grief.  I think I might have been the poster child for the condition.  The research said that many people traveling with a loved one during a long illness do experience the grief of loss long before the final ending.  They may experience the exact same grief cycle as most people do when a loved one actually dies.  I absolutely understood that and I knew I was experiencing it.  The bitch of the matter, though, is that experiencing anticipatory grief in no way guarantees that the mourner will be any less shattered when the death does occur. I dreaded and resented having to experience the rawness of grief in duplicate.

When it finally happened, I found that my grief, though profound and prominent, did not feel as raw and septic as I feared it would. I think there are many reasons for that.

At first, I thought the reason that my mom’s death did not devastate me more was because of the long road we traveled together during her illness.  I started grieving long before she left me alone in this world.  After her stroke, her decline was so treacherous and unforgiving, I lost her step by step and piece by piece. As her brain gradually crumbled in the last year of her life, my heart crumbled along with it.  By the time she died, my heart wasn’t shattered because there was nothing left of it to shatter.

It was also hard not to feel some relief that my mother was finally whole and healthy and happy again in God’s dwelling place.  The foundation of my life is a belief system that encourages me to rejoice that my mother is living more abundantly in Heaven and is waiting there for me to join her.  I do find some joy in that notion.  That belief does take some of the pain out of the grief now, but it still does not prevent me from missing my mom every day in this life.

I think I also came to understand, in my mother’s last days, that I wasn’t losing everything I thought I was losing.  A blog reader once left a comment that said, during the end of life, everything burns away except love.  This was absolutely my experience.  In my mother’s illness, there were many times when she would look past me or away from me as if I wasn’t there. There were also occasions, though, when she would look into my eyes with such intensity and meaning that I could feel her loving me to my very soul.  That love, maybe the biggest and best part of her, will never die.  She loved me with a love that I can never lose.

I am sure that all of these reasons played a part in my milder mourning experience.  There is something else, though.  I had a model for grieving.  My mother gave me that.

When my father died, everyone worried about my mother.  She was always an emotional person who loved extravagantly.  She felt with the people she loved.  She rejoiced easily and cried easily.  People sometimes took that heart on her sleeve as a mark of fragility.  Not so.  When my father died, she did everything she could to mourn in a healthy way.  She cherished her memories of my father. She continued doing activities they enjoyed together.  She helped herself and her children heal by loving us and letting us love her.   She joined an online support group for widows and widowers.  She kept working at a job she enjoyed with people who uplifted her.  She mourned him deeply and permanently. I don’t think there was a Thanksgiving after his death when my mother didn’t cry when we gave thanks for the people we loved who were no longer with us. Still, in the midst of that mourning, there was a renaissance.  My mother moved towards a life of her own crafting. She set her own priorities.  She pursued her own interests. She indulged her gift for happiness. She set out on a path of continual learning and grew in every way.  She reveled in her independence.   She turned her grief into something good.

In my mourning for my mother, I think I have been experiencing my own renaissance- almost without even realizing it.  Without thinking too much about it, I find that my experience with my mother’s end of life journey has prompted me to nurture my own life.  I’ve identified several attributes in my own personality that may be holding me back from experiencing as much joy as possible in life.  Almost unconsciously, I’ve been examining those personal barriers and experimenting with strategies for knocking them out of my way.

Good grief may be the last gift my mom gave me.

What have you learned through the process of grieving a loved one?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a blessed day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂