Coming out on the other side of grief

I think I just graduated from grief counseling.

Or at least, I will not be going anymore, after going nearly every two weeks for the last six months. My counselor, Karen, and I agreed that I have come a long way in that time and that I don’t need come back. Which I guess means that I’m all better now? Not necessarily. It just means I’ve come out on the other side of grief, in one piece. Some things can never be fully restored, just like things will never go back to how they were before my mom got sick in February of 2007. But I’ve learned I can survive it.

You don’t get over a loss, you get through it. And you can either embrace the grief and let it take you over, or you can avoid it for two and a half years and shut down when it threatens to be brought up again and interrupt your life. I don’t recommend the latter strategy, personally. Six months ago I would scarcely allow myself to think of my mom. The rare blog posts I wrote about her were exhausting and draining and painful and ugly and torturous to write. Tears usually streaming down my face, I wrote instead of spoke; And I’d always feel a little better after I wrote them. I could talk about what happened to her but I couldn’t let myself get emotional, because once that door opened it was out of my control.

I can talk about her now. I can tell you I miss her but I can also tell you a funny story about her and laugh about it. I can admit she was a lousy cook without feeling like I’m besmirching her memory.

I decided to go to counseling after Brandon and I broke up. I was already a hot mess, and Brandon’s parting words were his suggestion I go. Instead of being offended, I promised I would. He and I had talked about couples counseling but by then I already knew we were beyond that and simply not right for one another. He was worried about my unwillingness to talk about my mom, preferring instead to break down and self destruct alone, in the middle of the night, while he slept. But on the other hand, he just kind of stopped asking about her after a while. We were both at fault when it came to our Great Communication Breakdown.

My dad went to a counselor in the months after my mom’s passing. I hated his counselor. I didn’t agree with anything she told him; she put him on a grieving time line and once it had been a year since my mom died she told him it was time to get rid of her stuff. I fought this tooth and nail and I couldn’t understand how my dad could do something like that. To my mom, to me. For a long time, my dad and I were on the same page. We would call each other and talk about her. We cried. We screamed at each other. We had more fights in the weeks after she died than we did in my four years of high school. We were not in a happy nor healthy place but by God, we were there together.

Then he got better. He moved forward and I stayed in the same place. There I stayed, for months.

I told him over breakfast back in March that I was going to go. He was incredulous as to why I needed to see a therapist and asked what was wrong. I told him I didn’t want to talk to him about it and that was why I was going to talk to someone else.

“Is it Mom?” he asked.

At the very mention of her I broke down, crying into my pancakes in one of Caldwell’s three restaurants.

“Then you should go,” he conceded.

My dad has been seeing a woman named Lee Ann for almost a year now. She is a wonderful, smart, kind person and she really seems to get my dad. He obviously still misses my mom but he hasn’t let her death keep him frozen in time, in grief. I did. I felt like I was betraying her by letting go, by accepting this loss and God forbid, moving on with my life. I felt like I had to go on missing her forever, or she’d be forgotten. She wouldn’t want that for any of us, and I really believe that now. Today I can take comfort in the belief that she would be proud of me and my choices. I try to think about honoring her every day with the words I say and the decisions I make and go on with life, knowing she’d be at peace with what’s transgressed since her passing.

She would be a wonderful, loving grandmother to my little niece and while it of course pains me to know Hannah will never meet her, I am am sure she’ll grow up hearing all about her. We can’t be afraid to talk about her just because it hurts; and I’m learning the more I talk, the less it does hurt.