There is this thing that happens when grief visits. It may be subtle, or it may arrive through a rage of memories. Even if you find yourself controlling your emotions, you cannot avoid it. Sure, you can drink it away, gamble it, sex it, feed it, but ultimately it will sit in your heart until you address it.
A few days ago, after an excruciating emotional week dealing with my nine-year old daughter who has been emotionally struggling, I went to the supermarket. I was rolling the cart, listening to music through my earbuds. I turned right in front of the frozen section and there was an entire placement of Little Debbie products.
I froze. I don’t know why. I don’t buy them. I don’t eat them any longer. But I stood there in some kind of suspended animation. I stared at the boxes and then a part of me left.
I was younger, mothering six children basically alone. We were sitting by our pool eating the snacks. The kids all finished and jumped back into the water. I felt my body leaning forward as if I was there about to get in as well. Then I returned to the grocery aisle, tears leaking and racing, just as if I wet my face with the pool water.
I was glad there wasn’t anyone around. I mourned for my six adult children. I ached for my two little ones who were at their father’s. I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t move so I clenched the handle of the cart and began to use it as a walker.
I thought that I was dealing with the stressors of the week okayish. I wasn’t! I felt alone, isolated, and truly in a place of despair. I am great in crisis. It’s the aftermath that consumes me for a few days.
I paid and got to the car. I sat in it without turning it on for a good while allowing the heat to wake me from the sorrow. I let it out: the frustration, the shame, the worthlessness, and every single other emotion that was ready to join the pity party.
It wasn’t a pity party. I had to stop myself from labeling it. I had to pull the visor and look at myself in the mirror, cleaning the mascara with my hands.
“You are not okay, Millie.” I whispered to her. “It is okay not to be okay. What’s not okay is pretending. Go home and rest. This will pass. It always passes.”
I gathered myself, turning on the car and driving down the country road home. After I put the groceries away, I sat on my sofa watching the candles burning nearby. I began to meditate for a good hour, returning to the present moment.
That grief… that ache that catches us off guard… is the Divine calling to return to our soul’s essence. We make up stories, excuses, and retell old things with different views to suit the present moment. Nostalgia is dangerous that way. The further the distance from an event, the most likely the reality changes.
I have been a mother since I was twenty years old. I would like to say that it gets easier. I don’t know. Sometimes, yes. Other times it feels as if I am consumed by guilt for not doing enough, or shame for detaching so that the children learn on their own valuable lessons. On the other side of those emotions is forgiveness. I forgive myself for not knowing better, doing more, and/or not being enough when they needed me.
All eight of my kiddos are like Little Debbie’s. They are soft, scrumptious, and bring comfort to my heart. On this Mother’s Day may you have found yourself in the center of being honored for all that you do, who you are, and what you bring into their lives. You bring love. You bring hope. You bring life.
I love you.