Grief is an odd thing.
It sneaks up on you when you’re least expecting it.
It’s nonlinear, doesn’t follow a pattern or a timeline. It doesn’t have an expiration date or a ‘use by’ sticker. There isn’t a ration ticket involved, or a quota of how much grief you absolutely have to use. Grief is its own thing, individual and unique.
And everyone has an opinion on how you should experience it.
People mean well. They offer up advice, tell you about their experiences, promise it will get better with time. I’m gracious with them, take their comments with a thankful smile. I’m grateful there are so many people who care about me or knew my mom that want to share their thoughts, prayers, and condolences
Personally, I’ve found the most comfort in my friends’ who have been there. In the hours immediately following my mother’s passing, they were the ones that made the most sense to me. They didn’t say they were “thinking of me” or “sending prayers.” They said “you know what? It really sucks, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” They encouraged me to “do what you need to do – not what anyone else tells you to do.”
They had recommendations, of course, offered tentatively and with compassion. Get an article of her clothing so you and your sister can cut a piece off and sew it into your wedding dresses. Grab one of her blankets so you can wrap your babies in it. Pour a glass of wine, get the ice cream you never eat, and just cry.
I did all of those things and binged the new season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix while I was at it.
My siblings and I are perfect examples of people who grieve differently, even when grieving for the same person. My brother needed to be out and about, doing stuff and staying social. My sister needed to be back at school, immersed in her finals and figuring out her next move. Me? I needed routine – back to work, back to the studio, back to the gym.
What I’ve found is that my moments of grief aren’t necessarily over the “big” things. To be sure, I got emotional watching Say Yes To The Dress this past weekend, watching the bride fight with her mother over a dress. I was sure that would be my mother and I. We had very different senses of style (and thoughts on the appropriate prices for dresses), so I am certain we would have ended up in an argument over my wedding dress.
Then there was the moment of walking into Kirkland’s and seeing display after display of “Perfect Mother’s Day Gifts!” I’d seen other displays, have been getting emails from stores telling me they have just the gift for Mom, but something about that particular display made my eyes burn as I realized I wouldn’t be buying a gift for my mom this year.
No, the moments of grief around the “big” things are there, but it’s the small moments where I find grief . I didn’t realize how many times a day I texted my mom until I couldn’t anymore. And rarely were those text “important.” It would be over something I saw on Facebook, or a re-run of Two and A Half Men or Friends. I would tell her what I was cooking – and she’d reply “I wouldn’t like that” because again, very different opinions on food.
On Saturday, I picked up two new balls for Knox (my pup, for those new around here). New balls are the last thing he needs – he’s got at least a dozen floating around my apartment. But he’s lost a couple outside lately and he’s really cute and they’re $2.00 each, so he got two new ones (in colors he didn’t already have, obviously). He was SO happy – and SO hyper – but all I could think of is what my mom would say.
“That’s the last thing little stinky butt needs.He’s so spoiled.”
I never asked why she called him stinky butt. His breath smells awful, but the rest of him? Well, he usually smells like Febreeze or carpet freshener because he runs into the stream when I’m spraying or shaking. He’s hyper, remember?
While my brother shares photos and memories of her on Facebook, I find her popping into my head at random times. Last week, walking Knox by the pond. While washing my face late at night. Sitting in traffic, blasting the new Taylor Swift song.
Sometimes I wonder “Am I doing this right?”
Am I grieving the loss of my mother the right way?
I’m not wearing black every day, like they did in the “olden days.” I think of scenes from Gone with the Wind when they’re wearing mourning clothes, or scandalous moments on old TV shows when they say “but he’s only been dead two years!” when a widow goes on a date. Am I not grieving correctly because I’m back to training for my next meet? Growing my personal training business? Studying for my Precision Nutrition certification? Teaching barre classes? Going on dates? Meeting up with friends?
The list goes on.
I’m grieving, but I’m grieving in the way I need to grieve – in small, unexpected moments, moments of wanting to tell my mom about the minor fender bender I was in this morning (not my fault, no one injured, car barely damaged) or that her favorite episode of Friends (the one with Ross and the tanning booth) is on.
Grief is unique.
Remember that, when you’re grieving, or trying to help a grieving friend. There is no “right” way or “wrong” way to grieve. There is only your way to grieve. For me, that was and is Netflix, . Ice cream. Wine. Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. Heavy snatches. Writing programs. Building barre playlists. Studying the Krebs cycle.
When its your turn to grieve, grieve uniquely.
And when its your turn to be the comforter, let them grieve uniquely, too.