Yesterday marked the third anniversary of my mom’s death. Three years living without my mom. Three years parenting without my mom. Three years of me coming to terms with being someone who lives with grief.
Here’s one of the secrets about grief: it changes, but never really disappears.
When someone who has loved you the longest dies, that’s when the shit hits the fan.
I remember the exact moment I found out she died.
My daughter and I were just about to leave our weekly playdate with Candace and her kids. We were going home for nap time and to wait for papa to come home so I could get some work done. I was super thankful to have spent the morning with another mama and her boys letting the kids get dirty, explore, run and fight it out. I was also ready to head home for some quiet time.
My phone, in my hand as usual, lit up and caught my attention. Too many notifications, I thought to myself as I casually looked down to see the transcribed voicemail from my brother.
In that moment, I felt a momentary spark of clarity about the direction of my life and then the shock of blinding pain as if I’d been cracked across my nose with a two by four.
My mom was dead.
What now? What do you do when the shit hits the fan?
The answer then as it is now: self-care.
That day, self-care looked like letting Candace feed me and my daughter lunch from her garden. I wasn’t really hungry – the shock turned quickly to numbness – but Candace reminded me what I already knew. I needed to feed and tend to myself so I could still get up in the morning to take care of my daughter.
I needed extra rest and sleep so I could get up in the morning. I needed quiet time and alone time so I could get up in the morning. I needed to be so tender with myself so I could get up in the morning. I needed to allow people to help me so I could get up in the morning. I needed to allow myself to feel the pain of losing my mom and be ok with whatever form grief took.
In short, I needed deep self-care.
Three years in and I will say I am still deeply moved with every anniversary, every birthday and every holiday.
That means each March, I set aside time to grieve however it shows up. Each 4th of July, I bake a treat so my little family can light candles and say nice things about my mom before we eat. The holidays bring forth their own set of feelings of loss.
Each of these times, I rely on self-care to get me through.
Now that I am a few years out from acute grief, I can feel it coming on – almost like a cold. And just like when I feel a cold coming on, I double down on my self-care.
What will you do when the shit hits the fan?