A New Season of Grief

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A friend recently shared the idea that grief is like the seasons - ever present, but always changing. I know I've mentioned this idea before, but it has deeply resonated with me this month as I approached the 18th anniversary of my mom's death.

Ashley and Debbie Gibson

February usually haunts me. It's the whole reason why I started the Life is Sweet series and performed 2 shows in my mom's honour. Those projects gave me a place to focus my energy and remember my mom in a cold, bleak, grey month that always felt like it was hanging over me like a dark cloud. In 18 years, I've figured out that I need to practice great self care in February, ask for help and give myself things to look forward to. 

I realized that this year was a different season for me about 2 weeks into February. 

I felt calmer. 
Sadness wasn't my predominant emotion.
I was in control of my feelings. 

As I've reflected on this change in my February demeanour, I've come to attribute it to a few things in my life right now:
  • I feel really happy and fulfilled in the work that I'm doing and in my relationships
  • I've been practicing good self care by working out each morning, nourishing my body with delicious food, drinking lots of water and getting a good amount of sleep
  • I've developed a daily practice of gratitude and spend a few minutes doing positive visualization each night
  • I'm going on a cruise in less than 3 weeks and I'm really excited for the downtime, time with Corbin and friends, sunshine and the opportunity to swim with dolphins
  • The weather in Toronto hasn't been entirely miserable this year - it was 10 degrees on Saturday!
Corbin said to me last week that he felt like this had been my best February since we had been together and I have to agree. I think it's actually been my best February in a very long time, maybe ever. Perhaps this is a new season? Maybe February doesn't have to hit me like a tonne of bricks every year? Right now I need to get through today. 

My amazing friends and family have been a huge support to me this month. My Nan called last week to ask me how I was doing because she "knows February is hard for me". I woke up to a text message from my sweet aunt sending her love. Corbin made plans to take me out for dinner tonight. A friend (who has known me since the 8th grade when my mom died) just messaged me as I was finishing this post to say that she was thinking of me. I expressed my gratitude for her thoughtful message and she said "I wouldn't let today go by without one". Other friends have sent their love and offered to support me in any way I needed. Asking for help can be really tough, especially when you're an independent, self-sufficient person, but I'm very blessed to have beautiful people in my life who have my back. 

Sometimes it feels like I'm grasping at thin air for a memory of my mom. I have photos, stories, anecdotes, some mementos and her journal, but I wish I had more. Over the years I realize how far away I truly am from her, and that time is only going to increase as I get older. 

Grief is always changing

This morning I pulled out my mom's journal and read a few pages. I stopped at the letter she added on the very last page for my brother and I in December of 1993:

To Ashley & Cory:

I always knew I wanted to be a mother even before I had you both. You're more than I ever dreamed. 
Each of you is a very special gift from God. I hope I've been the best mother I could be. I hope to always be a positive influence in your lives. 
I know the importance of your individuality and independence. 
I want the best for both of you always. 
I love you both with all my heart. 
I hope to be here with you both for a very long time. 

My love for you both forever. Love Mom

I could re-read that second last line over and over again. I wish I could tell her the impact her life and death has truly had on my life. 

This is what grief looks like for me today, February 24th, 2016. 

In 18 years I've come to learn that grief is always changing. Tomorrow, next month or next year could be entirely different. I don't know because I haven't gotten there yet; I do my best to figure it out along the way.

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