Grief Has No Statute of Limitations

As summer looms in the not so far off distance, we are coming up on the four-year anniversary of my mother’s passing.

Four years.

A lot can happen in four years, and a lot has.

I’ve started and grown into my teaching career.

I’ve welcomed my daughter, who will be two in May, into the world.

I’ve celebrated my five-year wedding anniversary.

I’ve celebrated numerous family birthday, holidays, and special events.

Four years.

1,460 days.

Yet, I still miss my mother just as much today as I did the day she passed.

I still yearn to pick up the phone and call her ( if I’m being honest, I still have moments when my phone rings, and my heart catches, because for a brief second I allow myself to entertain the idea that it might be her).

I still somewhat crazily drive past her house from time to time.

I think about her when I go grocery shopping, or when I open my fridge in the morning.

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I think about her when I’m driving in my car, when Grace falls asleep in my arms, when there’s a craft fair or a garden show to go to, when my daughter does something for the first time, or when she does something that cracks me up. I think about her when I plant flowers in the spring, when I’ve had a rough day at work, when I’ve read a good book, or when a new T.V. series comes on that I think she would like.

I think about my mother all the time.

What I have learned about grief in the years since my mother has passed, is that grief has no statute of limitations. Grief has no expiration date.

Rather than coming and going in five clean stages, grief comes in waves; sometimes those waves act as little reminders, sometimes they test your ability to see the horizon, and sometimes they knock you flat on your ass.

Right now, those waves are lapping at the shoreline, but my butt was firmly planted in the sand a few weeks ago, my head underwater.

I’m not sure what triggered it. Perhaps the fact that the holidays were safely behind us, the decorative tubs back in their designated spots in the garage. It may have been that after months of getting through the hub bub of the holidays, my brain and my heart finally had enough down time to register the hurt of my mother’s absence. It could have been my birthday in January that was my tipping point. Whatever it was, I was low.

Sit on the couch, cooking nothing but frozen food or ordering carry out, unable to read or watch t.v. LOW.

To be honest, I was somewhat beside myself. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve traversed through the grief hallways of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; sometimes quickly turning one hallway to find myself in another; at times, seemingly walking two halls at once. But this was the first time I have found myself completely stuck down the hallway of depression, with no door  or exit in sight.

So, do you know what I did?

(If you’re waiting for me to say that I went on long introspective walks to get fresh air and to think, you may want to turn back now. This post is too honest and just plain not pretty enough for that:) )

I embraced it. I let myself sit on my couch. I let us eat frozen pizza. I let Ken make dinner. I watched Micky Mouse with my daughter, and I completely gave up on moving her into her own bed (for the time being-we’re there now). I let grading happen at the school for a few weeks (thankfully I was essay free for a while). I cried in the car. I let myself be sad and miss my mom. I embraced my grief, in a way I hadn’t before.  Cooking could wait.  A clean house could wait.  Being social could wait.  I let myself be sad for a while, which is something I really haven’t allowed myself to do.

And eventually, the cloud lifted. Breathing came easier. I could think about my mom again and laugh and not be overcome with sadness. I’m sure there will come a time when I’ll be back in a similar position. It could be seven months down the road or seven years, because as I’ve learned that’s how grief works. It doesn’t wrap itself up neatly in a year. It comes and goes.

It has no time limit.

No expiration date.

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