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What It Means for Me to Grieve Out Loud

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I am staring at the computer screen with my fingers intertwined in front of me. Staring. I’ve been having problems with first steps lately, so while I was staring at lots of blank, white internet drafting space, I reminded myself that this is a place where I am coming to be honest and unapologetic. I don’t know if there is any other way to document the bizarre and ever-evolving process that is grief. A good place to start might be to tell you why I’m grieving.

My mother is dead. This, of course, is probably not shocking to read. Mothers are supposed to die before their children, mine just happened to die before most other mothers I know. At 4 on a Tuesday afternoon, I kissed my 61-year-old mother goodbye and headed home to my family. Sometime in the following half-hour an aneurysm in her brain ruptured. That was eight months ago.

For the first six months, I was in shock. I was numb, I was very busy. I invited the sadness in, but felt it bouncing back off of me. I consulted Dr. Google about what exactly was wrong with me. If the lord of the internets ever divulges my Google search history, I will shrivel into a teeny tiny ball of bright red embarrassment. And I don’t embarrass easily, so that’s saying a lot. Two weeks after my mom died, I Googled “my mom is dead,” “my mom died suddenly” and “my mom is dead now what.”

When my first child was born, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I talked to Dr. Google a lot back then. What I was really looking for was a user manual. Something like “you’ve had a baby, now take the following simple steps to guarantee absolute success.” When I found myself back in a place where I had no idea what to do or how to do it, I apparently went in search of the dead mom user manual. “So your mom is dead… Here is the best way to get to wherever you are going from here.”

Maybe Dr. Google could explain why I hadn’t cried during my mother’s funeral, but three days later when I saw a woman my age with her young child (who was like my young children) and her mother (who was young and beautiful like my mother), I completely lost my shit in the water/dog food aisle of Whole Foods. Side note: if you are going to fall to pieces somewhere, Whole Foods is not a bad option. They have wine, ready-made food and they are all about a healthy mind-body cleansing experience.

The spoiler alert goes like this: there is not an instructional way to grieve. I have tried so hard to open myself up to grief in a healthy way, and it was grief that wouldn’t come. Shock can be a beautiful thing. Shock can be a safe place to fall. Then, after a while, shock starts to wear off. When shock wears off, you might find yourself… right here.

My mother has been dead for seven months and 26 days, but it feels like she died a week ago. When it doesn’t feel like a week ago, it feels like she might have gone on a trip and I haven’t seen her in a while, but eventually she’ll be back. But the shock is wearing off. The shock that has held me together and kept me whole. So here I am. Sorting this out in a very public way. Hoping to add to the minuscule amount of public information about personal grief.

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Originally published: June 22, 2017
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