I love that moment upon waking up, the moment when you are neither awake or asleep. That brief moment when, for a split second, all is well. I love it, and also dread it, because I know what follows.
It hits with a violent and crushing blow, assaulting my soul, and suddenly I can’t breathe.
It is a pattern that happened most mornings since May 25th 2015, the day mum died. In those early days, the words ‘my mum died’ used to play over and over in my mind, as if the subconscious chanting of those words would at some point become my reality, and I would accept that she had died.
It makes no sense, I knew she had died. I was stroking her hair when she breathed that last whisper of breath. But the magnitude of her death, and the complete devastation it left in its wake was almost unbearable. I say ‘almost’, because I am still here, somehow I have managed to bear the unbearable. How do you cope without someone who has been in your life for 46 years? How do you accept that they are gone forever? How do you live with the utter despair, sorrow, and gut wrenching pain? There are no words to describe how it feels, if you have lost a parent perhaps you understand.
I wish I could tell you that I have all the answers. I do not. All I have is my own story, my own messy journey through the complexities of grief.
The day after mums funeral, I recall someone asking me ‘have you cried yet?’ In fact, in the three weeks between mums death and her funeral, I had hardly cried at all. Naively, I thought I was coping quite well with the whole grief thing. In reality, I wasn’t coping at all. I was numb. Most of the time I felt as if I was watching a movie, like I was an outsider looking at myself from afar. As if it wasn’t really my life. I think it’s because the reality was just too horrific to grasp.
Although I’m sure it hadn’t been their intention, the question ‘have you cried yet?’ felt flippant, as if the monumental circumstances that I found myself in, could be fixed with ‘a bit of a cry’. Oh if only that were so.
Yes, tears are part of grieving, but they are only one outlet. One weepy outburst does not fix the unfixable.
There had been many tears in the 4 years prior to her death. The grief began long before she died. Such was the damage in her brain, that bit by bit, the mum that I knew started to leave. Each time a little more distant. It was 4 years of utter heartbreak, 4 years of silent tears, 4 years of grieving alone. I thought I had done much of my grieving before she died, I was wrong.
Somehow, after mum died, the preceding years melted away, and I found myself grieving for the mum I had before she ever got sick. The question ‘have you cried yet’, was jarring to my soul. It was simply a reminder of all those tears I had cried alone, when mum was sick, all the pain that had gone unnoticed by most, all the sheer agony of seeing mum so very poorly, but holding back my emotions because mum just wasn’t capable of understanding anymore. It was a desperately lonely time.
In the months following her death, I would often walk my dog with a dear friend of mine. A friend who had become like a sister. She was not afraid of my grief, neither did she try to fix me. She simply walked with me. We would often rest on a bench at the top of a hill. That bench became the crying bench. On numerous occasions the flood gates of my heart would open on that bench, and my lovely friend would listen as my grief poured out, over and over again. You see, grief doesn’t happen neatly, you don’t work through each part until you get to the end. It’s a bit like a washing
machine, you go round and round over the same thing, until finally, at some point, you reach acceptance. But only acceptance for that one area, then it happens again, and again, and again, on each area of grief. There is no easy route out of it, you have to just stay on the road, and endure. I wish everyone could have a friend like mine. A friend who would listen over and over to the same conversation, a friend to walk with me through the horror of my grief, a friend who like Jesus, wept with me.
Yes, even Jesus wept, such was His compassion for His friends. He knew how it felt to grieve.
Now, one year on, mums death can still deliver a crippling blow. It is the sudden realisation that I can’t call her for a chat, or after major surgery recently, I simply wanted to hear her voice. The child in me wanted my mum to make everything better. The one who could always wipe away my tears is not here, and my heart longs for her. Where do you turn when the person who wiped those tears, is the person for whom you grieve?
I love that verse in Psalms that says, ‘You (God) keep track of all my sadness. You have collected all my tears in a bottle, you have recorded every one of them’. Ps 56:8.
I love that our tears are precious to God, even in our darkest moments, not one tear falls unseen.
It’s reassuring knowing that even in the loneliest of times, none of our tears go unnoticed, not one of them is wasted.
There is healing in your tears, and there is no hurry, or time limit on the amount of tears you need to weep for your loss. Again, weeping is only one part of grieving.
I still visit the crying bench. Sometimes I walk there with my dog, sometimes I visit the bench within the confines of my mind and the safety of my home. The tears still come, sometimes as a flood, sometimes with a gentleness. The tears will always be there, because I will always grieve for my mum. I am not stuck in my grief, it’s just that I will love her forever, and miss her forever, and because of that I will grieve forever. Perhaps not with the same rawness, but it will always be there.
As Washington Irving said.
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.