Falling In Love for the First Time

One of the most tenacious demons I’ve had to face since my Mother’s death is my own self-hatred.  I’ve been prickly, “emo” (as my daughter would say), anxious, depressed…my body has started to morph into what hers looked like prior to her death.  Bloated, unlike she had ever been.  Physical complaints that no doctor can find a diagnosis for…I keep looking up words like, “empath” because I’ve seen this before, taking on symptoms of those I love as if it will relieve them (which it doesn’t – especially in my Mother’s case for obvious reasons).  I wasn’t ready for her to go.  No matter how ready she was, I wasn’t.  Not that it matters, because it’s what she wanted that is most important.  I just have this nagging sense that the things that were bothering her the most could have been resolved by specialists.  None of that matters now, but it nags at me.  I miss her so much every second of every day, even though I wasn’t the “good” daughter who called every day.  She was never out of my thoughts or heart.  Now I have to somehow fall in love with the daughter she left behind.  Filled with self-hatred and loathing of a type that sickens the heart and soul, I have to find a way back to love and compassion for myself.  She was my heroine.  She was my role model, even though I could never live up to her example.  She was my beginning and it’s hard to know how to live beyond her ending.

I think of my Grandmother Alice Proctor Hartley.  I want to know so much about my English relative and my Mother’s roots, but I resent having to pay what seem like exhorbitant costs for ancestry services.  I want to go to the old churches and look through their records, retrace the steps Alice took that led her to Frank Hartley and brought them to the United States.  I want to see my Mother grow up, watch her brother before the war takes him and know him as she did.  Francis Louis Hartley.  Gone to the insanity of war, a reflection of the insanity in my own psyche that fights against loving who I am.  Reading Terry Tempest Williams I am envious of her strong family roots, especially those between women in her family.  I want to find those roots in my own background and reclaim my Mother’s heritage.  Maybe it will help bring me back to myself, or help me to find things to love within my own devastated heart.  My sister’s try to help, my brother tries to help, but I need roots.  Nothing feels like it holds me to the ground and the poisonous weed of self-doubt and self-hatred jousts daily, moment by moment, with my healthy self.  The baby my Mother loved and nursed in the night, the little girl who my mother took to the beach and protected with her body in the night when the terrors came to try and claim me.  There is no one to hold me now when the terrors come, and that little girl is weeping for her Mother to wake-up and pull back the sheets one more time, so she can snuggle in next to her and feel what it is to be warm and loved.

How do you mourn?

I would love to hear feedback from anyone who happens to read my blog about the question that serves as it’s title.  Some losses are immediate and final – for example the death of a parent.  Other losses just go on and on, like looking at the sweet face of my middle child every day and not knowing how to mourn what has been taken from him by the roll of the genetic dice.  Finding something as simple as a pair of pants he can work with is like trying to climb Everest.  No kid wants to look like he’s wearing disability clothes and at the same time, my darling son is wise enough to realize that if the waist doesn’t have elastic (so he can pull them down), he’s not going to be unbuttoning metal buttons or even unzipping a metal zipper on a “rockin” pair of jeans.  Neither of us want it to be that way, but that’s the way it is.  I have sensitive children, whether through genetics or from them watching my own reactions to things that come up in life.  We’re working with sweatpants for now, and it’s better (obviously) than when my husband was paralyzed around 1972.  On a scale of 0-10 in mourning this is nowhere near a 10, but this is just one issue that we have to confront.  Watching the world fall apart (seemingly) gritting our teeth through another lay off (my husband’s 2nd in three years) is much more frightening and painful.  We’ll find a solution to the clothing issue, but the lay-off, the political climate that went from hope to despair over the course of the past four years, recovering from surgery, and coping with the isolation that no one tells you about when you get a diagnosis that makes your child “special”; those are deeper cuts to the fabric of the self.

Personality has a lot to do with mourning as well, some people are better at picking themselves up and moving forward.  Their feet don’t seem to get stuck in the tarry “gunk” that sucks some of us down.  I tend toward getting stuck through a combination of genetics and the way I was raised.  Because of that, I would love to read your stories of getting over and past ongoing mourning, the kind that is a wound that never completely heals.  The most basic comfort is still having my son to hug and hold, his humor that surprises and delights us, crying together over losses, uncountable moments we experience each day.  On dark days , your suggestions may help in ways you can’t know, nor can I, yet.  I hope others may be helped as well.  This feels like a hemorrhage of grief, that slows down at times, but is gushing again before I realize it.

May your pains be bearable; may the sun come out after rain and startle you with the beauty of a double rainbow, may good news outweigh bad, and may you feel whole; held safely by a universe unimaginable in its complexity, majesty and vast distances.