Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
This is my mantra today, and what I sincerely hope will get me through a day I am trying to pretend is like any other but couldn't be any further from.
One year ago today I lost my mother.
Last week I received condolence cards from the hospice center and from the funeral home, complete with numbers I can call should I need help with the sudden grief attack most next-of-kin experience on the first anniversary of a loved one's death. I know it was meant to give comfort, but instead it scared me--just how bad does this day get for people that the onslaught of "Hey, maybe try not to cry yourself into a coma" warnings arrive via mail from complete strangers a week before the date?
Guess I'm going to find out.
I thought of calling in sick to work and spending the day mourning in my room with chocolate and wine, but I have learned by this point that staying busy is best. My worst days this year have been those rare uncluttered days where I have way too much time to feel sorry for myself. So I will work, and I will take the kid to swim, and I will cook and clean and try not to dwell on where I was this time one year ago.
As if I don't already live those moments every time I hear one of my mother's favorite songs, which I played for her the day she died, when I spent the morning and afternoon holding lone vigil at her side. Or see a beautiful sunset like the one I was watching from my kitchen window when I got the call that she had breathed her last.
I've been through all possible emotions this year. Sadness, of course, but also a fierce and sometimes all-consuming anger. And guilt. And regret. And self-pity. And, on good days, serenity. Peace. It never lasts long, but when I feel it, it's like a long drink of cool water after a desert mile.
Barely a day goes by that I don't think of her or miss her. And though everything I've learned through grief counseling tells me that the first year is the worst and is when most of the heavy healing takes place, I know my grief will always be there. It's not going to go away today as though someone flipped a switch.
If only it were that easy.
In my darkest hours, I come back to the realization she had just days before she died about how she herself had been a victim of grief and depression. How she had spent days talking herself out of leaving home to see friends or run errands because she didn't feel up to it, or the weather wasn't great, or any myriad of little excuses that masked the battle she had with debilitating sadness through most of her adult life. She wanted those days back to drive with the windows down, visit friends, hug her granddaughter, laugh. In the end, all she wanted was to live. Really live. Not just survive.
I do not honor her memory today if I allow the pain of this anniversary to consume me.
So I will work. And I will find some time to play. And I will live this day the way she would have wanted me to: less grief, more joy.
I will open the car windows. I will say "yes" to the offered glass of wine. I will not just look, but see. I will not just hear, but listen.
I will feel her love still, even if she is no longer here with me.
I miss her every day. Today, perhaps, more than most. But it's just one day.
The journey goes on.