Notes on losing Donna ~ My beautiful mother and very best mate ♥
First up I just want to apologise to all those who have reached out but I couldn’t really let in.
To the few I did, thank you for receiving me and my pain.
Grief feels extremely isolating but in truth it isn’t. All I needed to do was ask*, but I think a big part of me wanted to isolate myself in a way because in some ways I felt closer to mum when I was fully in my grief.
Remembering her, missing her, hurting, even though it felt miserable, in a way, it also felt good. To honour the life and love that we shared as mother and daughter. Our bond was really incredibly strong. Going through equal trauma has a way of deepening everything. Even though it is tragic, of course, it connects you.
*A bit of a side note here. Women. We got to ask for the shit we need. I know it feels good sometimes to get angry and expect people to know what we want. But they don’t, and I’ve learned it isn’t really fair on anyone to assume that they do (know what we want). Especially dudes, they need a fucking clearly highlighted road map. Not that they don’t care, I think it’s more that guys tend to want to fix everything and that can be tricky when it comes to grief cos obviously aint no fixing gonna happen! It can be hard for them to just sit still and listen, be in the space of pain and sadness without being physically capable of doing anything to help. Let them know that just being there helps, listening really helps. (more on this later)
In all transparency and vulnerability I have been really guilty of this. Thinking along the lines of: “They should know I’m here all alone, how hard is it to pop in for a god damn coffee?!”
But it isn’t that simple.
People really don’t know how to handle grief until it happens to them. And I have been on the flip side of this too. You don’t know what to say, or whether they just need their space and want to be alone.
So spell it out for them.
Try something along the lines of.. “Hey I’ve been feeling really lonely lately, I would love to see you! Come round for a coffee when you can xx”.
Honestly it makes people feel good to know they’re needed. And the fact that you did have to spell it out for them does not diminish how much better you will feel when you see them. ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. Huge lesson for me!
There were those around me who were pushing me to move on after only six weeks, now this, I could not understand.
They just wanted me to be back to my happy self, I get that. And it isn’t a bad thing, it comes from a place of love, I get that too.
But, it also comes from a place of fear and discomfort and that’s the part that isn’t really fair.
Grief is unquantifiable.
And even though sadness, pain, regret, guilt and all the other myriad of emotions that encompass grief can be discomforting to watch, trying to shut them down in another because they make you uncomfortable actually isn’t okay.
“Don’t be sad”
“She would want you to be happy”
“She wouldn’t want you to be this way”
And my all time favourite..
“That’s life”. Please for the love of god, do NOT say this to someone who is only 6 weeks into losing their best friend!
Statements like these feel to the person like you are minimising their loss. They can actually do more harm than good and make the person you are trying to comfort feel worse.
And I am not judging you (well maybe a little if you said that’s a part of life).
Trust me, deep down we know this okay. Of course we do. We live, we die. We get it. But this isn’t the time for dismissive comments like this designed to shut a person’s grieving down. And I know this might sound like a bit of a rant and perhaps it is. But if you are blessed enough to have someone in your life that feels so comfortable with you that they are willing to be open and honest and share their deepest pain and the muck that resides in their heart with you, you should really see it as an honour and a privilege. I know I do. It takes a lot of courage to open up and tell someone the utter truth of what they feel. So be courageous with them in turn, hold space for them, love them, because they obviously love the shit out of you, or they wouldn’t be sitting beside you sharing it all with you.
Now if you’re reading this and feeling like oh shit, I’ve said those things to someone, please don’t panic, and definitely don’t feel bad about yourself. Grief is hard. I know. I’ve been on both sides now and I can assure you I fumbled with my friends grief, not knowing the right words, not knowing how to show up for her, and feeling guilty about it. Wanting to be there but feeling inadequate to handle it. It doesn’t mean I loved her any less. And I promise you, deep down, they know this. But they would prefer if you tried. Because they’re fumbling too! They don’t know what they’re doing or how to move through grief. They feel like they’re being judged and have expectations on them as well. Just grab their hand and tell them you love them. That’s everything right there.
As humans we tend to catastrophize ourselves into atrophy when it comes to grief. “ What if I say the wrong thing, what if I upset her more, what if I don’t know what to say at all?”
But it is simple. And it is something I bang on about a lot, as you would know if you’ve been reading my words for a while now – And if you have I just want to take a moment to say thank you. I see you. And my heart is grateful for you. –
LISTENING. Really listen. Most of the time you don’t have to say shit! If someone knows you are actually hearing them, and again not shutting them down or trying to silence them because of your discomfort, they will feel loads better.
They will feel heard.
All anyone wants to feel in their life is heard.
If you struggle with this then put yourself in the other person’s grief filled position..
If you lost your best friend, someone you hung out with everyday, the person who knew you the best, loved you unconditionally, the person you cared for, whom you watched change, who you knew you were losing but never left their side, no matter how hard or confronting, even when you knew you couldn’t do a goddamn thing to stop it, who eventually surrendered after putting up one hell of a fight and lost their battle with cancer..
Would you feel capable after 6 weeks to get back out into the world as yourself??
Get out of your head and into your heart.
Of course you wouldn’t.
In fact right now you know how ridiculous that actually sounds.
That a loss like that could be dealt with and squared a way in a couple of months.
Not only will that unequivocally NEVER happen, it will be with the person their entire life.
A loss like that will ultimately change you.
And we, as a society, myself included, need a lesson in getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
This bizarre suck it up and get your shit together mentality is so brutally wrong.
A beautiful friend told me recently that the Maori culture give themselves a year to grieve. A whole beautiful, traumatic, incredibly healing year.
To be sad.
To honour their loved one.
To remember them and live in those memories.
To feel all the overwhelming emotions, and to certainly not squash them down.
To try and tackle the insurmountable notion of living life without them.
To cry at all the mothers day paraphernalia hitting her in the heart as she tries to do the groceries.
To miss her in every single breath.