Grief-ism (greef-izum)

Grief-ism is a word I use to describe the many odd, strange, weird and seemingly unreasonable, irrational things that bereaved mothers do.  I needed to give it a name.  People might question or judge a bereaved mother as being emotionally or even mentally unstable with some of the things we do to preserve the memory of our deceased child(ren).  Coming upon the anniversary of my daughter Chelsi’s suicide amps up my grief-isms.  

You might ask “Why would you continue to pay for a cell phone number when your child has been gone almost 5 years??”   I personally have needed to keep it active because I still text my daughter.  It’s been kind of like a depository for my aching, undeliverable messages that linger in my mind and heart…. It’s a Grief-ism.

I tattooed half of my left arm to memorialize Chelsi on my physical body.   Each year I send a birthday card with her name on it, stamped and with no address or return address so it doesn’t come back to me.  I celebrate her birthday with her favorite cookie cake.  I’ll buy almost anything with a sunflower on it.  Each year since she’s been gone I order a personalized Chelsi Christmas ornament.  I want.. I need her to be remembered.  

I wear her shirts, spray my pillow with her perfume, and regularly sniff the bandanas she used to wear on her head like Rosie the Riveter in the “We Can Do It” poster.  This kind of crazy is very personal.  I use to question my own behavior (and sanity) but decided to accept it because it beats the alternative.  If I didn’t express my grief in whatever way was calling in the moment, I may have gone mad.

As a bereaved mother, I’ve struggled with having a foot in two worlds.  My human motherly self can be filled with anguish at such loss, yet my spiritual self sees everything including Chelsi’s death, in Divine and Perfect Order.  My human motherly self yearns for my daughter’s physical presence, while my spiritual self knows without doubt, that Chelsi is delighted to be free of her human-ness.  It has been an internal tug-o-war.  But something is shifting.

Last night I had a huge “ah ha moment”.  I realized that the many things I do to keep Chelsi’s memory “alive” have all been to keep her close to me ~ to soothe my heart.  But the fact is, the more human things (grief-isms) I do, the bigger the wall between my human self and her Soul-self.  This keeps us more separated.  So while I desperately want to connect with her spirit, I know it can never be as direct as I would like it to be if I continue to do these human, earthly things.  

I have never considered this kind of letting go.   It took time to get to this place and it will likely take time to relinquish my grief-isms.  But it’s time to start because more than anything I want connection.  I want Chelsi to be able to fully express her Soul-self without the weight of my keeping bits and pieces of her tethered to the Earth.  She wants this too.   I can now feel how this also weighs me down.

I’ve received some wonderful and amazing heavenly messages from Chelsi since her passing on June 4, 2016.  She has had to work hard to get them to me.  This letting go process will open the channels for clearer, more direct connection and I’m looking forward to more of that!

If you know a bereaved mother and would like to help, here are a few things that can soothe her broken heart….

  • Say their child’s name.  
  • Acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries of their passing, Mother’s Day, etc.
  • Ask about their child.
  • Reminisce with them about happy times with their child.
  • Don’t change the subject when she’s talking about her transitioned child.
  • Conversations about their child should always be loving and never critical.
  • Remember this mother’s energy has literally shattered and it takes a lot of time and work to bring these pieces back.  
  • Sometimes saying nothing is what’s needed. 
  • Her short term memory is likely challenged.  Avoid saying things like “Don’t you remember?”.  No she really doesn’t.  
  • Encourage the bereaved mom to be gentle with themselves.
  • She may not be able to sort through her child’s belongings for a very long time.  It’s one of the hardest things we have to do and it has to be done when the bereaved mother is ready.  It takes a ton of energy to work through this.  She may welcome a loving, helping hand or she may need to go it alone.  She gets to decide.  In the meantime, don’t throw away so much as an old sock unless the bereaved mother okays it.  
  • Letting go is hard and has to be done on the bereaved mother’s terms.
  • Most of all, be patient and kind and accepting of her grief-isms.  No judging!

I imagine I’ll continue to miss Chelsi holding my hand when we walk down the street together.  I’ll still miss exchanging hot dog hugs and singing to our road trip playlists.   But the freedom we’ll both experience is what both Soul-selves so want!

To every human that has been kind to me along the way, I am grateful more than you realize.  To every bereaved mother, the big tears we cry are for the profound sorrow we all feel for each other as we navigate life minus our child.  I am here for you if you ever need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen.

With so much Love,