It's February 24th, which means that it's the 19th anniversary of my mother's death.
Year after year, February throws me into a tizzy and leaves me feeling sad. I've shared before the idea that grief is like the seasons - ever changing, but always present. While I know this and believe it, February continues to hit me like a tonne of bricks every year.
My mom isn't buried in a cemetery, nor do I have a place to visit her in any way, so each year my blog has become a forum for me to honour her memory and reflect on each new season of grief. This is where I'm at today.
It's ok to not be ok.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Most of us are guilty of reassuring people that we're ok. I myself found myself telling my therapist that I was "mostly ok" -- and that's totally fine if it's true. But it's also really ok if it's not. And it's also ok to admit it.
In this glossy, social media-driven world it's easy to view one another's lives as polished, easy, ideal or even perfect. But you never really know what's happening behind the photo or what their expression looks like in between camera clicks.
I encourage you to truly ask those around you how they are and adequately prepare yourself for a real and true answer. It's not always sunshine, rainbows and unicorns -- and that's really ok.
And in those darker days, I encourage you to reach out. Ask for help if you need/want it. Practice self care that helps you to feel safe. And do your best to find a glimpse of light in the darkness, just to make the day a tiny bit easier.
Feelings are valid, whatever they are
In past years I've gotten down on myself for anticipating February 24th or just feeling upset as soon as the calendar turned to February. I've worried about being "too upset" or "getting myself worked up". I've been working to remember that my feelings are valid and normal and it's totally ok to feel what I'm feeling. Getting anxious over "getting too upset" doesn't serve anyone, especially me.
Grief is such a difficult thing - it comes in waves and sometimes hits you when you least expect it. There are so many things that have triggered my grief - other deaths, special occasions, difficult life changes, happy life changes, photos, memories, conversations -- the list goes on and on.
I've found myself feeling sad over the last few weeks and doing my best to practice self care, but I've had moments where I've been paralyzed by grief. I've started and ended workouts really quickly, cancelled plans and put myself in bed to manage my emotions. I've been having some really helpful conversations with my therapist and being honest with where I'm at day to day, hour to hour.
I read this quote last night in Brené Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection "owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do", which rang especially true.
Showing or expressing feelings is not a sign of weakness. It's not a competition to try and be better or stronger. Feelings are valid - whatever they are.
19 years later, it's still important for me to honour my mom
I moved into my new apartment on January 1st and I've been enjoying making it my own and creating little projects for myself. One of the things that makes me really happy is that there are lots of pictures of my mom throughout my space. I look up in most rooms and she's there.
My mom wasn't a huge fan of having her photo taken, so each of these photos feels like a pretty special gift. Having these photos, talking about her, sharing my thoughts through social media helps me to feel closer to her.
I'm afraid of next year
It blows my mind that 19 years have passed since I've had any contact or a conversation with my mom. I have no frame of reference for what it would be like to have her in my life. I'm an entirely different, grown up person from 13 year old me.
If I'm being totally honest, next year's anniversary scares me a lot. Two decades. 7300 days. Her physical presence in my life feels like more than a lifetime ago. 20 years feels like it has added significance somehow.
Today I will feel what I need to feel. I will continue to practice good self care, surround myself with wonderful people who I love, take time and space to feel safe and remind myself that whatever my feelings are today, they're valid, real and significant.
"As far as I can see, grief will never truly end. It may become softer over time, more gentle, and some days will feel sharp. But grief will last as long as love does -- forever. It's simply the way the absence of your loved one manifests in your heart. A deep longing, accompanied by the deepest love. Some days, the heavy fog may return, and the next day, it may recede, once again. It's all an ebb and flow, a constant dance of sorrow and joy, pain and sweet love." - Scribbles & Crumbs