Beauty From Ashes
Grief is a powerful and different kind of depression and can be really hard to identify and make sense of. You’ve probably heard of the common ‘Five stages of Grief.’ It points out denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance as the most identified and common stages of emotion.
These are not clear phases that happen in order, or emotions you can feel and tick off a checklist. When we bypass and brush these feelings under the rug, we miss out on learning what we’re made of and just how strong we can be. We miss out on pleasantly surprising ourselves with the outcome.
When I lost my beautiful mama Jenny from this world, I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. We had known it was impending, but nothing could have prepared me for what would come. I remember the day she left us like yesterday; the sun was shining way too brightly, the sky the brightest shade of blue, the temperature was a perfect 22°C and the birds were singing their joyful song. All I wanted to do was scream.
I wanted to yell at everyone to STOP what they were doing and feel what I was feeling. Stop whistling the song on the radio, stop driving your car, stop drinking coffee and realise that my hero’s life has just ended. I wanted the streets to close, the shops to shut and the TV stations to broadcast this news. I wanted a marching band down the main street of town. I wanted EVERYONE to know what had just happened. How could someone who meant so much, someone who contributed to this world, every single day of her life, leave without anyone knowing? It was unjust.
Grief is gross. It’s muggy and heavy and stings your throat when you try and swallow. It’s the constant burning in my eyes. Wanting to sleep for days but being petrified of the nightmares that would come. The constant distraction and terrible life choices I made during that haze.
While I was grieving, I became someone that hurt others with my words and actions. I didn’t mean to, but at the time I didn’t really notice because I was drowning. I felt like I had no grounding and lost my sense of direction. I couldn’t understand how this has happened; all my unanswered questions rattled my faith. I was not prepared for how grief would affect me or my family. But somehow we all travelled through it, one day at a time, and one foot in front of the other. I can honestly say I learned a lot of priceless lessons about others and myself during that time.
My emotional pain threshold was pushed to limits I never knew existed. I definitely worked my way through the ‘Grief cycle’ but it wasn’t in the nice neat order on the pictures you get in the Google search. Some days I reached acceptance, some days I’d wake up after dreaming mum was in the kitchen and I went into denial again; some days I’d pray and ask God to bring her back. I saw a counsellor for nearly 2 years; it was a hard but empowering time for me. I learned so much about love, forgiveness and trust. I started trusting people with my thoughts and emotions and listening to their loving replies. I read books, and prayed and listened to music that made me cry, and every day the weight got lighter and the memories happier.
This December it will mark 5 years since my beautiful mama passed from this world into eternity. I still don’t understand why some people die and some don’t. Our world is broken and it doesn’t work like it should. But I find hope in knowing there is a loving God whose heart breaks for our loss and pain. I’ve learned how to heal and how to let go; but also how to remember. And mostly, I’ve learnt how to push through the haze and enjoy life.
I’ll never forget mum saying to me, “Anna, if you stop living when I’m gone, that’s a waste of two lives.” She knew how tempting it would be for me to check out. To just coast from day to day, lugging this huge weight behind me and using it as a reason to not engage.
Grief is so surprising; I don’t think you can ever escape it. It’s cheeky and sneaks up on you when you least expect it. But it becomes less overwhelming and more comforting; from a sharp pain, to a dull ache. Now, grief reminds me of the wonderful, passionate woman my mum was, and reminds me to treasure each day as the gift it is.
I was blessed to have a strong relationship with my mum, but for others reading this, you might not be able to say the same about your loss. Your story could be very different to mine; maybe you suffered pain at the hand or sight of a person, now gone, but still experiencing grief in some form. You are allowed to feel what you are feeling. In order for us all to move forward in life we need to feel, recognise and place emotions. Talk about it. Meet with a friend. Talk to a professional. You need community around you in this time.
Whether this is your own journey of grief or you’re supporting a friend who has lost a loved one, you will make it through the heaviness and they will be okay. Just listen, hug them and watch for when to suggest they talk to a professional. And lastly just know; there’s no time limit; I’ve just recently put out a photo of my mum. 5 years later and I’m finally ready to see her smiling face on the walls again.