Sadness is On Me

Most people enjoy April 1 because of April Fool’s Day. I used to think it was at cool day because it was my Gramma’s birthday. Now, it’s not a day about jokes or celebrations; it’s a day of grief.

You see, three years ago, my mom fell in my garage and fractured her skull. By the end of the day, she was no longer responsive. The second CT scan several hours after the first showed the brain bleed had not stopped. Mom had a health directive. She made it clear she did not want to live in a diminished capacity, so I invoked her directive. The hospital staff thought she’d die during the night, but she didn’t. She hung on for 5 more days. I swear it’s because one grandchild has a birthday on April 2nd, and another on April 4th, and there was no way she’d die on, or between, their birthdays. She waited and died the morning of April 6th.

For me, April 1 is a harder date than the 6th. I lost my mom on the 1st. It was the last day she spoke. The last day she looked at me. The last day she was truly with us. I was with her the morning she died. I watched, and heard, her last breath.

That first year, I likened grief to the waves of the ocean. Sometimes, the waves were small and lapped at the shores of my mind. The waves would increase in intensity until they’d crashed against me and I’d be reduced to body-shaking sobs. There were times I swear I was losing my mind with grief. I never understood its power until I lost Mom.

The waves have become calmer over the years. I think of Mom often. She’s been visiting in my dreams and leaving me dimes. Yesterday, however, I experienced a tsunami. I cried all day. Sometimes, it was subtle. My eyes leaked. Other times, I had gut-wrenching sobs. I really missed my mom.

Why does grief make people feel so uncomfortable? Friends sent virtual hugs. My partner rationalized why I was feeling so low. My son gave me a hug. No one offered to simply sit with me in grief, to simply be.

I felt very alone. I felt overwhelmed. I felt that no one understood just how raw it was for me again. I sat with it myself. I didn’t try to “jolly” myself out of it. I felt the feels.

I guess the Irish saying is true. Yesterday, sadness was on me for awhile. Today, it’s gratitude. I’m thankful for the years I had with Mom and know that she will always be part of me.

Community

Beach at Yasodhara ashram.

Community Support

What’s next for me? I have been thinking about what I want to do and how I plan to contribute. 

My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other day. His thinking is that you contribute to society by going to work,don’t complain to outsiders, pay your taxes, obey the rules and mind your own business if you can. He isn’t wrong. 

I have had a chance in my life to see a variety of communities as I travel, work, live in and explore different cultures. I would be curious to see how this pandemic has influenced the communities I adored.

What does it mean to be part of a community? What does it mean to support or be supported by those within a community? Where are you going with this you might be asking?

Here are two examples to help me explain what I mean:

Scenario One:

You have many projects on the go and numerous obligations/commitments that you are currently juggling.Your mom passes away. You are devastated. You contact work and they agree to let you take a couple of weeks off. You are reminded that there are services available to help you and even are sent a link to conveniently take advantage of them. You are also reminded to input your time off in the HR system and if you can make notes on your current projects so that someone else can pick them up if time permits. Sorry for your loss, we are here for you. We have noticed a slip in your productivity lately but we can talk about that when you come back. 

Scenario Two:

I have just come out of a class at the ashram and looked at my phone. My husband texted me that he has been admitted to the hospital with COVID and shows an image of his wrist with a hospital band on it. I don’t have a vehicle with me and no means of leaving the ashram. I am upset. The teacher of the class comes out of the building at that moment and sees me upset. She asked what’s wrong and I told her. She insisted we sit on the steps. She asked me if I have phoned the hospital yet? I haven’t so I do that first. The hospital says my husband was discharged earlier. I phoned home and got no answer. The whole time the teacher is silently sitting beside me with her hand on my shoulder. I turn to her and say that I will be “ok” and she can go. She insists that she will stay until we have a resolution. After contacting my kids and relatives that can go check on my husband, I find out that he was admitted but not for COVID. He had cut himself while trimming a tree and got stitches. I finally got of hold of him and he apologized for the joke. He was making a joke. During the whole ordeal I was experiencing I felt supported by the teacher. She didn’t leave and kept prompting me as to what to do next. Offering encouragement and suggestions and even reminding that even If I did have a means of transportation I couldn’t see him as he would be isolated. She helped me to realize and work through the situation. I had two weeks left in my stay which was good. At home, I would have been isolated from my husband for 14 days. She followed up later and texted me the next day to make sure I was still ok. She let others know that I needed extra support and connected me with them. I was in crisis mode not able to help myself or think through the most practical ways to cope with the stress. I didn’t need to as I had community support to help me.

I realized for the first time in my life what community support entails. I am very independent to a fault and asked very little of others to help me. It’s a learned behavior which has really not been very helpful to say the least. Can you see the difference in what it means to be supported by a community here? I know the scenarios are not the same. Work is work and you really shouldn’t expect anyone to offer that kind of experience in a professional setting. I am curious then, why do we have slogans like “We are in this together?” We are a company that supports mental health? Our foundation is built on trust, empathy and compassion. Hmmmmmmm.

My mother was the 5th person to die in my life in under 4 years. The trauma built up in my mind, body and spirit was overwhelming. Some days it still is. How long does it take to stop griefing? How much time should one take off of work to work through the pain? There isn’t a right answer here. What I have noticed is that it takes time. The more you try to suppress your grief the more time it will take to unravel the impact. You can store it in dark places or “cracks” in your foundation. Just know that It won’t go away permanently. It will probably reappear when you least want it to.

I find myself gathering pockets of community support now that I understand the value it can offer me. I can find it by staying connected to the ashram. I can find it by reaching out to friends and family. I find it often in this community of bloggers, the wonderful ladies I blog with and comments from strangers that I have helped them in some way.  It doesn’t have to be work related though I would challenge you to question the next co-worker or leader that says to you “ I/we am/are here for you”. What do they mean by “here”?

I am reminded of day 2 in quarantine at the ashram. I was told “You have to learn how to trust” and with that “You have to ask for what you need”. Words of wisdom when it comes to understanding of community and being immersed in warmth of genuine support. I don’t blame the corporation for not understanding my state of mental health nor have any expectations of companys to build a genuine state of community support. It would be hard to juggle productivity, profits and being human feelings.

PS. It has taken 7 months to get this far in unravelling my emotions and how much the death of loved ones has contributed to my “coma” state of existence over the last several years. We live in a society of instant resolution to our pain. We numb up with substances and mindless stimulation. It takes courage and discipline to feel raw emotions and work through them until they no longer paralyze you. It’s worth it though. The work is worth it and community support is worth finding and cultivating.

Namaste

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