In the three years since my mom died, our relationship has morphed many times.
Lately, I picture my mom at the beginning and the end of each yoga class I teach. She is there. Present. Letting me know that I am not alone. She is always smiling.
But three years ago, at the beginning of the end, there was an eerie silence. An ocean of sadness that was impossible to fill. A pain so deep that it turned everything it touched into ice.
To say that the passing of my mother was the single most painful and most transformative experience in my life would be an understatement.
We spent more than 30 stressful days in the hospital together, and when she died, I went on autopilot.
Authorize the corpse to be moved. Done.
Organize a short, straight-to-the-point funeral. Done.
Arrange cremation. Done.
Talk to lawyers. Done.
Go over 70 years of material existence in one afternoon and condense them into a Ziploc bag. Done.
Head to the airport the next morning and fly away as fast as possible from anything that reminded me of her. Done.
Forget that I had a beginning, a mother, and a past. Done.
I lost all sense of time, space, connection, identity. I couldn’t take care of myself. At times, I didn’t want to live. I lost all sense of purpose. My emotional pendulum swung from one extreme to the other with no rhyme or reason while I watched my world collapse.
Grief is not a gradual, systematic process. It comes and goes like a boyfriend or a girlfriend who doesn’t really care that much about you and disappears without telling you what they’re up to.
Grief is like a loud neighbor who doesn’t give a damn about your comfort and plays their loud, ugly music whenever they feel like it.
Grief might ring up its buddies depression, anxiety, and addiction, and invite them all over to your place for a party. You must be alert.
I wish I could say the process gets easier, and, in an odd way, it does. But not without a headlong dive into the mystery and sacredness of life itself.
Loss makes you take a hard look at who you were, who you are, and who you want to be.
Grief and loss are a process with uncertain beginnings and endings. They will mold you by fire. You won’t be the same.
Your relationships will change because you have been reborn into a new layer of existential understanding that life and death can’t survive without each other. At some point in the process, you will surmise that the worst has passed because irrelevant things will no longer cause so much stress in your life.
You will live your life with less fear and with more joy and appreciation.
Death is not accepted in our society. We avoid the subject, and try to move past it quickly when we are forced to confront it. We are trained to hide death in hospitals and hide our tears behind closed doors. We must change that.
I developed such a deep sense of respect for the grieving process that I became an end-of-life doula and a hospice volunteer. I hope to be able to help others going through this difficult chapter in their lives.
My mom was my greatest love and teacher. Looking back, I can see that her passing left me with not only an unbearable void but also an unbelievable gift—a sense of direction and a purpose.
We must learn to honor each phase of life, including the loss of loved ones. We must respect divine timing. We must make friends with the grieving process and perhaps come to see it as the unique gift that it can be.