Pandemic aside, this past year has been the most difficult of my entire life. This summer, I spent a month and a half in the U.S. with my family because two of my relatives had terminal cancer and I hadn’t seen them since November 2019. One passed away a week after I left last time and my mom just passed away October 4, 2021. Luckily I got to say goodbye, but I’d be lying to you if I said I was doing well. This is not a doom and gloom post, though. I’m not going there.
Grief healing: One week since my mom died
It’s barely been a week since my mom died and I’d like to share a few things with you about my mom and also a few small things that have brought me comfort during what is without a doubt the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced.
Ahh, so where to begin. I’m going to write what I’m feeling right now and go light on the edit because I don’t think I can bring myself to re-read this post. Let’s go.
First, my mom was an amazing mom. Full stop. I’m not just saying that because that’s what you say when loved ones die. Our relationship has gotten stronger believe it or not since I moved to France. My parents retired early and I’ve called them nearly every single day for the past few years when I’d walk Dagny in the afternoon. Now I’ll just be calling my dad…
My parents are everything to me, and while it brings me peace to know my mom is no longer suffering, the permanence of it all is what I am struggling with. No more text messages. No more memories together. Our story together stops here.
I’ll save the hardest parts for another day if I’m strong enough to ever write about them.
Right now my head is somewhere else. I am not present. My dad and I have been so absentminded and doing silly things, which isn’t like us at all. My dad put his shorts on backwards. We drove right past the funeral home knowing exactly where it was. I lost my phone and it was ticked into my sports bra the whole time. Stuff like that. Thank goodness my head is attached to my body because if not, I’m sure I would have left it somewhere.
People say time lessens grief and I hope that is true. Giving things time has helped in other areas of my life when there’s been conflict and pain. I tend to feel it all… as an HSP. But I’m so scared of feeling less close to my mom as time goes on and memories fade. I’m scared that as friends and family move on, I’ll be paralyzed by grief and stuck here. Replaying the last few days over and over in my mind on loop until those memories fade.
My anticipatory grief started months ago and I told myself then with the support of Tom, my family and friends that to get through this, I’d have to train myself to focus on gratitude — definitely not my default and something I’ve had to work at over the years which is coming in handy now.
I am so incredibly grateful that I had such a loving mom who I had a great relationship with above all. I’m so grateful I got to spend quality time with my parents over the summer. I’m so lucky I got to say goodbye and that I have a job that allowed me to be here. Again.
I’m focusing on gratitude because if I let myself wander over to the dark side, I’m afraid I won’t make it out. If I dwell on the fact (I’m very good at dwelling on things) that my mom wasn’t even elderly and didn’t get to live a long life, and that cancer robbed her of growing old with my dad… That I lost my mom in my 30s… That my life will never be on the same…
If all of that overtakes me and becomes the focus of my grief, I don’t know if that’s a hole I’d ever be able to climb out of, not to mention that my mom wouldn’t want me in that hole. So I’m using every ounce of energy I have left to focus on the good and my appreciation for what I have.
Ninety-nine of you reading have never met my mom, so what was she like? Well, her name was Chris and she was so strong and the most giving and patient person I’ve ever known.
When I was 12 I think it was, after a full day of work, my mom took a bunch of friends and me to a Tori Amos concert and she actually fell asleep in the middle of the super loud concert. That’s how tired she was from work but she made the concert a priority. My point is, my mom always put my brother and me first.
She was never too busy. Never too tired. Never quick to anger.
As Tom put it, my mom was the most caring, moderate, diplomatic person he’s ever met. She was never too reactive, never had a bad thing to say about anyone, and always saw the good in people. Until the very end, my mom was positive and had faith. It was incredible really and 100% authentically her. It made the end almost bearable. Attitude is everything. She never gave up and it’s a lesson to live by.
Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll be able to share more about my mom or this grief journey on the blog or anywhere. I’m taking it day by day for now, so please be patient with me if you’ve sent me an email or commented on YouTube or anywhere. Everything is so overwhelming and I’m doing the best I can.
I have content scheduled on YouTube since I work a month in advance, so there won’t be any break there, but I’ll be slow to getting around to the comments. If I see something negative and rude over there, I know it’ll break me right now and I’m already nearly broken. Maybe I’ll take a little break in a few weeks and take some time away with Tom and Dagny but I just don’t know. Right now it feels good to be writing in this space and sharing this with all of you.
I know it’s only been a week, but there have been a few things that have really lifted me up when I didn’t think it was possible. If you’re going through your own grief right now, I hope something here might bring you a little bit of comfort and healing:
Taking it one day at a time. I’m prone to becoming overwhelmed in general so right now, all I can manage is to keep my focus on the day ahead. Or at least the hour or the task at hand. Looking beyond the day is unbearable. Even typing this, I feel my heart squeezing and beating so hard. Knowing I will never see my mom again is too much to process and although I know she’s gone, I can’t look past today.
A memory journal. Little by little I’m creating a memory journal where I list as many memories of my mom as possible from each period of my life. No matter how big or small, I want a written record in physical form that I can look back at when I want to feel close to my mom and smile. As I recall a memory, I add it to that section of the notebook. Something I’m scared of that I touched on above is forgetting memories as time goes on and losing some of my mom in a sense. A memory journal should help keep the memories alive.
Hearing from the Oui In France community. Reading people’s kind words has meant everything to me. Just knowing there are people out there who care has lifted me up a little bit, so thank you for that if you saw my community post on YouTube or my Insta stories or newsletter. You guys have been great. I appreciate every word even if I am not able to reply.
The cremation diamond process. The night before my mom died, I knew I wanted to honor her with a piece of cremation jewelry that I could wear every day to feel close to her. I came across a company called Eterneva that specializes in creating a unique diamond made from your loved one’s ashes or hair (pets too).
Within a minute of browsing their website, I knew I wanted to create a diamond in this personalized, meaningful way. It’ll be made into a piece of jewelry that I will wear with me always to keep my mom close. ￼Knowing I’d be doing this gave me a little bit of comfort in the moment and will continue to do so along the way. It’s a 7-10 month process and I plan to share more about turning my mom’s ashes into a diamond at a later date, so let me know if you’d like to hear more.
Staying busy. A couple of days before my mom passed away up until now, I’ve had family around and it was a nice distraction and a way to connect. Now it’s just my dad and me. It was a blessing to have had people around us in the immediate aftermath even if it was a bit chaotic and sad at times. We shared memories of my mom and just had others to talk to who understood.
Sticking to my routine. I’m a creature of habit and my routine makes me feel comforted and in control. With so much uncertainty and so many things out of our control, being in control of what I eat, when I wake up and go to bed, and what I do makes me feel a little more calm. I’ve done my best to eat, sleep and exercise. I’ve stuck to my skincare routine with my favorite device.
My Peloton game is still going strong (and what I need to keep going) although I’ve been listening to my body and doing shorter, easier workouts. My dad even got a bike a couple of weeks before my mom passed away. She was a huge fan of my dad starting a fitness routine at age 68 for the first time in his life. She was so proud of him and so am I. Follow him on the leaderboard. He’s CaptainWinky.
Having people in my life who are willing to just listen. Not fix. Not give advice. Not make it about them and their own experience with grief. The people in my life who are there and able to just listen, not looking for anything in return, have been amazing.
A beautifully framed picture. My friend Carolina who I’ve known since middle school is an amazing photographer. A couple of months ago, she did a virtual photo shoot with my parents and the image above is one of my favorites. As a gift to my dad, brother and myself, I asked Carolina to mat and frame the photo like she would for wedding-quality prints and it turned out gorgeous. It symbolizes my parents’ love for each other. Their 46th wedding anniversary would have been this year.
Having an outlet. Right now in addition to the memory journal, I think it’s important for me to keep a private grief journal and also feel what I’m feeling. Part of that is sharing what I’m comfortable with on my blog so that’s what I’m doing. My mom was a huge supporter of Oui In France and she’d be happy that I’m using this space to help process and share my feelings.
I wanted to keep you in the loop since many of you have followed me for years. Even before hitting publish here, I’ve taken some comfort in sharing a bit about my mom with you.
What’s not helpful? Right now, looking at pictures beyond one or two is unbearable. It’s also so hard to think clearly and think about the future. I’m scared that now people have moved on with their lives and my dad, brother and me will be stuck here in this weird place.
One lesson I’ve learned in the past week is to be even more mindful of what I say to people who have just lost someone. I know what has felt good on the receiving end and what has made me even more sad or upset. Anyway, maybe I’ll do another post on that. Stopping her for now.
I love all of you so much and I really appreciate your support and understanding more than ever right now.
If you’ve lost someone, my heart goes out to you. I found the comments on this post about grief over at Cup of Jo really comforting.￼
P.S. If you emailed me by hitting reply on my newsletter at some point in the past 6 or so months and never got a reply, I’m so sorry. When I switched servers a little while ago, my email autoresponder for my unmonitored inbox that my newsletter comes from didn’t automatically transfer over. So I realized yesterday (terrible timing to find hundreds of emails that need replies) that your emails have been sitting in a black hole. : :: FACEPALM :: : The autoresponder is back on so people know it’s an unmonitored inbox, but please save ouiinfrance at gmail dot com if you ever want to get in touch.