If you ask me how my life has been the last couple of years, I probably wouldn’t say it has been full of grief. It would be one of the first things to cross my mind but I wouldn’t say it. I would probably divert to being a mom and looking after a household, which is true but it’s only half of my world.
The grief and everything it brings – I’ve put aside in the back pocket of my mind.
It wasn’t until I started listening to the audiobook Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, that I felt how much grief I still carry in me.
In the first chapter of her book, Cheryl talks about her mother and describes their relationship, their life before and after she got cancer. Not long after, I started breathing heavily and sobbing quietly.
My mum died from cancer 6 years ago and I realised how raw that feeling still is in me. Now only that – I never knew how to grieve. I never knew what to do with this feeling and how to express it. Not sure if I even know now. I’m only understanding now that I never fully processed it.
The only thing I know is that when my mum died I didn’t know what to do with myself. I silently suffered and listened to Black by Pearl Jam every day for a long time after. I didn’t talk much about it and didn’t want compassion. I justified her death to myself and my family with the consolation that “she didn’t suffer long”.
Deep inside I was raging and roaring but there was nobody to listen. I shut myself off to my own pain.
Isn’t that what we all do when we don’t know what to do with the pain? Of course it is. It’s a survival instinct, a self-defense mechanism. When we cannot understand and process something, we feel threatened and we take flight. And because we can’t actually run from our pain inside – we stuff it somewhere and we pile other crap on top of it.
If only I knew this, or somebody have told me this… But I do understand now, and I understand that this grief is still there and wants to be released. Badly.
I got so emotional over the book that it struck me – I haven’t properly grieved my mum’s death. Furthermore – I haven’t fully realised and grieved the fact that I never really had a mother. Or rather – a real relationship with my mother, a motherly relationship.
All of my life I never really felt I had a mother.
I didn’t have a good relationship with my mum when I was younger. When I was 10 she went over to work in another country for 5 years, coming only once to visit. The times before that – I barely remember. Only after I came to Ireland in my 20’s, we started building up little bits of what we’ve lost in the early years. And that’s when she got sick and a few years later – she died, and I wasn’t even there.
But I want to say that I knew my mother loved me. I believe that she simply didn’t know much love in her own life. She was sad and depressed herself, feeling powerless and lost.
And still I know she loved me. But she didn’t love herself. She didn’t love her life. And I know it because this is how I feel today, too. And I also believe she carried that from her mother, my granny, who didn’t know much self-love too.
When I was listening to Wild, I realised that this is my grief. Not knowing much love for myself, never learning to love myself by example, never been shown what it means.
Not me, not my mother, not my sister either. None of us really knew the meaning and the feeling of self-love.
My mother and my sister both died from breast cancer.
I know it’s up to me to break this pattern that was carried over the generations and let our souls free from the chains of this karma. I need to break this cycle. Easy said than done.
But the fact that I’m writing this means I’m processing the grief and I’m releasing it. The grief of losing both my mum and sister, and from the fact that we didn’t experience the full quality of genuine mother-daughter relationship.
I also see how this affects my relationship with my son. I hold an act before him almost the entire time. Of course, he wouldn’t be able to fully grasp it if I told him his granny and auntie from my side are dead. But he does grasp what is not being told, or that something is being held. I feel like I pretend in front of him that everything is just fine. When on my inside it is a turbulent storm. And it pains me – I honestly don’t know how to handle this one.
And you know what – it’s not just my son that I’m not sharing my grief with. It’s everyone I know.
To be honest, I’m tired of pretending but at the same time I don’t know how else to be. It certainly isn’t easy to rewire yourself but awareness is the first step.
Did you have a loving relationship with your mother? Or have you felt abandoned? How do you feel if you are a mother as well?