I imagined that when my mom passed away, I would be filled with the grief of what could have been, that could not happen on earth. In the fleeting moments after learning of her death, that was exactly what happened. Walking with care, my colleague delivered me to my principal as I sobbed down the hall, “I didn’t get to tell her that I forgive her. I wanted to tell her.”
For years I have held onto feelings that have burdened my heart and soul, have impacted relationships, and how I have shown up in life for myself and for others. My mother did, too. I have felt, for a long time, as if I was living a dual life. There was the person I was trying so hard to be, and the person whose heavy burdens I couldn’t reveal to the world.
Everyone knew my mother as a kind, sweet and generous soul. Mom loved deeply, but the weight of her cross was at times, too much for her to carry. She knew that the cross was too heavy for others to bear, so she often kept the weight of the world to herself. She defaulted to regulating her feelings in the ways she knew how. Without giving details, this caused strain in relationships and in her own health.
In the weeks leading up to mom’s death, the work of forgiveness within me began in full force. Time for reflection, meditation, and a plan to tell her was on my heart and in the works. At one point, early in October, mom called each of her children, telling us she just wanted us to know how much she loved us. When we all came together after those calls, it was strange to us, but now I wonder if she knew that her time was near and that the calls were a final attempt to invite us to accept her love and love her back.
Mom didn’t know, or rather, didn’t allow herself to believe that she was loved. She was loved. Mom was loved by her family, her friends, coworkers, and those she cared for as they transitioned into end-of-life in-home personal care. The loving words shared by the numerous visitors to pay respect at her funeral showed all of us who were present that she was loved. Her funeral was full of grief, yes, but also a celebration of her life, spirit, and faith.
Like many of us do, Mom allowed her thoughts – negative thoughts – to control and take over her feelings and actions. Early on in life, she learned how to regulate those thoughts and feelings with behaviors that were both healthy and detrimental to her well-being.
How many of us do the same?
My hand is raised high in the air. I, too, allowed myself to hold onto thoughts and feelings from years ago that have burdened my heart and hindered the relationships that should have brought joy. I struggled just like my mother, and our relationship was strained because we both brought our burdens to the relationship instead of doing the hard work to resolve, take control, and lean into love with the ones we love.
In the days since my mother’s passing, I have felt a strong desire to connect with her, invite her spirit to visit and let me know that she is finally at peace. One night, after settling into bed, I closed my eyes, did some deep breathing, and allowed my thoughts to be. I quietly thought, “Mom, I invite you here with me.” I waited and focused on my breathwork. The number 9 appeared in the blankness of my mind’s eye, then quickly disappeared. Was it a figment of my imagination? Did I tap into my intuition? Was my mind in protection mode, giving me what I wanted? Was it a sign of comfort that I was desperately seeking? I do not know.
November 9th was the day of my mother’s funeral. I expected a day full of tears, icky tissues, ending with a headache and feeling drained from all of the crying and emotions. The day brought an experience that was just the opposite.
I did cry. I had my moments. More importantly, I was at peace. My emotional burdens were lifted and released. I was free of all of the hurt that I had clung to over the years. I was comforted that I knew, with faithfulness, that my mom had also been released from the pain she so tightly held onto for what seemed like an eternity.
What happens next?
There’s a lot of work yet to be done. Internal work. The first step, the one that I longed for all of my life, happened. I forgave my mother. I forgave myself. I gave myself permission to be free of the thoughts, feelings, what could have been, what was, and what I have carried on my heart for years. How did it happen? Trust. Faith. Something magical. All I know is that my mother and I feel loved, and we are free.
How do you handle grief?
How do you lean into the hard work?