Allowing the River of Grief To Carry Me From Wreckage To Transformation

On April 22 2010, Doris E. (Breed) Hoyle, affectionately known as “Deb,” passed away after a long decline. I had always called her Mommy.

Grief certainly is a mysterious thing. I thought I understood how grief progressed after I lost my father in 2003, but the course it has taken this time has been totally different and frankly, confounding. At first I believed that after the first 6 months, grief would finally begin to come to the surface and the tears would come. Two years later, the tears have been but a small measure; grief is manifesting itself in ways I never imagined.

I hardly shed a tear when my mother first died. I attributed that to being in “battle mode”; our family had worked day and night for the last six years to keep our mother comfortable and in her own home. She descended slowly into dementia and her body grew increasingly frail. The last eighteen months before her death were especially difficult, careening from one crisis to the next. When I hear of others going through this, I pause now before giving advice. There is no way to predict, or to prepare for what will happen, and acceptance comes only in the middle of it all.

Now, two years later, I’m still not shedding a lot of tears. But I visit the cemetery frequently and drive past the old homestead even though it’s been sold to a new family. My sister and I explored her family history, visiting her family cemetery and driving past her childhood home. I have lately been going through her photo albums and school yearbooks and reading her diaries..

Expressions of grief have come in many forms and always at unexpected moments. Tears can come in a sudden wave while watching a movie, passing as quickly as they came. The anticipation of her anniversary brings dread. Mother’s Day is the most difficult. Some of us still observe the family tradition of visiting Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA each Mother’s Day to observe the spring bird migration and gorgeous flowers. These outings are glorious but they make me feel lonely for her company.

At the same time though, grief has been an amazing and transforming experience. I knew when my mother died that a large part of me would die with her. When it was announced that she would be going into hospice, I fought internally against it. My life was put on hold for 2 years after my father died and I didn’t want that to happen again, Or at least, I didn’t want to have to try to bring any of it back. I could feel a part of me literally being sucked out while my mother lay dying. I had no choice but to accept it.

Yet a funny thing happened when I did accept it – a new life rose up out of the ashes. My faith has grown deeper with a greater awareness of my need for Christ on a moment-to-moment basis.  I have taken up reading for the first time since my childhood and find my thinking and general view of the world expanding. Reading has led to another childhood interest, writing, and as a result, my creative life is experiencing a renaissance. I’ve accepted the death of many things in my life and in turn have discovered joy and freedom as well as sadness. It reminds me of the scripture from John 12:24: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

I can’t help thinking that my mother is interceding for me in heaven. As one who was so curious about life and stimulated by learning, I know she’d be proud of my newfound love for these things. It’s hard not being able to share directly with her all the wonderful blessings I’ve experienced but I sense she knows anyway.

I miss Mommy terribly but she is not far away. My head and heart are full of her, and her genes are in my body. I know she is with God and I talk to her frequently. She has empowered me with her spirit and my life has gone through so many positive changes since she passed away. Ironically, I probably have the best sense of well-being that I’ve ever had in my 56 years. I only wish I could tell her in person but someday we will meet again. And she will be as beautiful as she was her happiest years, full of life and vigor, humor and love. I can hardly wait!

About the Author: Susan Bailey is a writer, blogging regularly about her favorite author, Louisa May Alcott. She can be found on Twitter at @LMAismypassion and on Facebook at Louisa May Alcott is My Passion. She has also launched a new blog, Be As One about bringing together the compartments of your life into a single flow.


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