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Tuesday , May 22, 2018

The Gift of Grief

TIME does not heal all wounds. The painful loss of a loved one may be less raw with each passing day, but it has a way of resurfacing, especially on important occasions. My mom has been gone for a decade this month. But somehow, when I close my eyes, it feels as if losing her just happened yesterday. She collapsed a day after her birthday and a mere 30 days after her own mother died; with brain aneurysm ultimately claiming her life. The sad part is: she was very healthy and had her annual physical four days prior, where she was given a clean bill of health. Death is really a treacherous thief!

In the early days following her passing, my family and I were all unsure how we could survive this devastating and sudden loss. The cloud of grief was just thick and immense. But eventually, we all realized that mommy doesn’t want us to sit in perpetual sadness, thinking of what could have been. She herself had always emphasized that life in itself is already the greatest gift, with everything else as just a bonus.

Mommy lived this truth day-in and day-out by living a productive life. For us, the remaining ones, to live in misery would be a disgrace to her memory. But the thing about grief is that it has a way of lingering. It can even be fickle and unpredictable! Most days, it lies dormant under the business of everyday activities. Then, little triggers appear reminding us, especially me, that it’s there—a sad story in my FB feed, a milestone birthday, a fave song of mommy, or a fight with my daughter, which makes me wish I can turn to mom for advice.

Other times, though rarely these days, the triggers are so immense it can knock me down and bring me to tears. The pain of the loss is just so palpable, I can almost feel it pricking my heart and leaving my insides in turmoil. However, I can’t complain because I have learned so much from grief, and these lessons may be hurtful but are a necessary part of the healing process. Ironic how all of us can find gifts in the deepest and darkest places of despair! Here are a few quiet gifts from grief:

There is grace even in situations where there is great pain and suffering

Mommy was the first ever dead body I had to view in the mortuary, before she was placed in the coffin. Her make-up and clothes had to be approved by family. I also had to choose the attire and accessories in her closet, which had her faint scent. I remember crumbling in pain onto a heap on the floor as I sifted through her things. I thought I couldn’t get through it. Somehow, one of the rosaries she always used went tumbling into my lap, and I knew somehow that it was a sign. Mommy had always told me that it is in suffering that we feel closest to God. And even in her death, she was right!

Help comes even when you don’t ask

Family and friends will come even if you don’t ask for their help. In my mom’s wake, we saw relatives coming from faraway places each day until her interment to show their support. We may all experience pain differently and no one can completely understand any person’s pain perfectly because we all experience it through our own personal lens; but, the beautiful thing about humans is empathy. Love and compassion will certainly carry us all through the darkest of hours.

Death reveals many facets of the person

I always saw my mom in her mother and grandmother mode. The thing about eulogies is I learned many things about her that she never told us herself. For instance, several of her students came to thank her for helping them with tuition money. One of her assistants talked about mom’s funny side; how she often joked with them even if they had deadlines to beat. One of them even shared that when they had to travel, mom would always open the overhead bin on the plane to put all the bags because she was taller. Never mind that she was the boss! I will treasure those little stories forever.

Grief has no time table

There is no set timetable for a person to overcome sadness Grief ebbs and flows like the tides. Some days, I can see a wave coming and I brace myself for the impact. Other days, I get literally sucked in by an undertow as if my sorrow is controlled by some force to be reckoned with. Eventually, the waters recede and the waves aren’t that high; and I am left with the realization that I can swim and now go with the flow.

Losing someone leaves a new normal

Losing a person you love changes things…it may even change you. Even if you become ok, it is never quite the same as before. Losing someone is akin to losing a limb, I guess. You eventually function without it, though you always know that it is not there. Death often leaves you to go on and find what some people call as a new normal. So let the tears flow, it's human to cry, but the important thing here is YOU MOVE ON and life itself goes on. Life is a gift and we should all make the most of the moments we have with the loved ones who are still with us.

For all of us who have lost a parent or a close loved one, indeed life does go on. We are forever stronger for having endured the pain. Most of all, we will always be strong for having experienced love. The love from our dear departed ones never leaves us; just us nothing or no one is ever completely gone when they live on in our hearts.
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