No one has grieved harder than me.
Those are the words that just came off my keyboard. And then, a second later, I thought about grieving parents. And that grief isn’t a contest. It just isn’t. We all grieve as hard as we need to and as long as we need to. That’s truth.
Mom’s been gone 20 years now. 20 years! An eternity, I was going to write, and a second later I thought, “We’re all living in eternity.”
Yeah, there’s no winning when you 1) work in grief and 2) work in afterlife stuff.
My mother’s death was huge for me. The biggest thing that had ever happened to me, and the most mysterious.
So in that last year of her life I traveled thousands of miles every month to spend a week or two at her hospital bedside and as I walked into the hospital every day of every visit, an essay was writing itself in my head. I took everything around me in. And then finally, after she died, this piece came out of me.
It sat around for month, years even, and then, a few years later, was accepted for publication in a literary magazine affiliated with a medical school.
Mom’s death catapulted me into a search for the answer to this question: “Where did she go?” and that led me on a spiritual journey that hasn’t stopped. A story for another day.
I read once that the death of the mother is the first sorry wept without her. How true that is.
For today, though, the day before what would’ve been her 94th birthday, I’m sharing this piece in her memory.
20 years. That’s how long it’s been since my mother left this earth.
I still grieve. She no longer crosses my mind every single day, but most days, yes, thoughts of her come up and I grieve her loss. Her way too early death.
Her friends thought she was a saint–most of them, anyway, but the truth is, she’d never have made mother of the year. She had her issues and lots of them. There were traumatic times she should have stepped up to protect her children and didn’t and there were times she shouldn’t have stepped in when she did and consequences were paid. She paid them and so did others.
Once, walking through a mall with my brother on one of my visits (long ago, when I had an actual relationship with him) a complete stranger stopped me.
“Are you Carol Cassara?” she asked. “You should be ashamed of yourself for how you treated your mother.”
Immediately, I knew my mother had spun something really terrible she’d done so that her culpability disappeared. In a way I felt like laughing–this complete stranger had no clue about what had really happened. In another way I felt like crying because I could see my mother was unable to look at what she’d done, maybe out of shame or embarrassment. I even understood why she’d done this awful thing. I got it because I got her.
I tell this story to underscore that love can be complicated. But the truth is:
Love is love.
Even with all her flaws, I loved her and I always felt protective of her. I spent the last year of her life flying back and forth from Florida to my upstate NY home town to be with her at the hospital. One or two weeks a month, work be damned.
“It’s always a party when you come,” she once told me from her hospital bed. Even as a write this the tears come because I still remember those long days at her bedside. Sometimes she was on a ventilator. Other times she was totally with it. I didn’t accept that she was dying. She was only 74. It was an early death.
So when I sat down with my Guided Journal through Grief, which, by the way, I have worked through for most of the significant people in my life who have died, and saw this question, I was stricken.
“What didn’t she get to finish?”
She didn’t get to finish her life. She didn’t get to see her beloved only grandson graduate from law school or even high school. She didn’t get to see Michael and me remarry, something she had always longed for. She didn’t get to enjoy her golden years.
The list is long. Some people don’t get to finish what they started and she was one of them. She didn’t get to finish her life.
She didn’t get to be happy. Because despite what people in her life thought, she was an unhappy woman with a very sad life. A life that had gone bad. A life she didn’t know how to live.
On the positive side, she didn’t live to see some of the most shameful of family behavior. But she did live to see some of it and she was the cause of some of it, something she regretted in the end. Nor did she live to see my father deteriorate with dementia.
But still, I know she would have rather been here than not.
Oh, life is so complicated, isn’t it? Death is easy in comparison.
Can you feel my emotion? Because it’s all over this screen.
One of the gifts the Guided Journal through Grief has brought me is the ability to work through some of these heavy issues. To see them in a new light. And no, it wouldn’t have been better to keep it all buried. Ask any therapist: stuffing our feelings is absolutely the worst thing we can do.
The healthy thing to do is to work through these complex emotions. When we’re ready. Which is why it’s a beautiful gift to give ourselves. And a beautiful gift to give someone we love.
You can find it right here.
FALL UPDATE! Summer is really over–already! and you’ve probably got an entire list of things to do–especially if you’ve got kids. So maybe we can help make it a bit easier with our one-stop-shopping guide:
SPECIAL BIRTHDAYS AND EVENTS
Some special and affordable gifts:
If someone you adore is having a birthday or just needs their spirits boosted: consider “You’re My Person” candles–you can now add that cute pendant to any of our candles for just $5. For a maid of honor?? Sister? BFF? Cute cute cute!
OR add the cute metal Happy Birthday Cake & Candles Pendant–which is larger– to any gift for $6. Thread it through the ribbon for your gift wrap for an adorable look. It’s also a fun stand-alone gift when you just want “a little something!”
Find all the pendants under the gift tab.
If you’d like your kitchen to smell sugar-lemon fresh this fall/winter, try one of our limited edition Lemon Drop Kitchen Candles. The lemony-sweet fragrance and pretty flower petals make it a super gift at super pricing: introductory price for the 4 oz. Lemon Drop Kitchen Candle is $11 per candle (four for only $40!), and customers say they burn for a very long time. I do love these.
Summer Cocktail Candles would be a lovely reminder of summer—-in yummy fragrances like Pina Colada, Sparkling Sangria, Pink Lemonade or Tropical Coconut Mango and in 10 oz. frosted glass containers of pink, blue, yellow and green. How about a bridesmaid gift?
People who receive them respond, “They’re gorgeous!”
It’s always tough to be sick. Or to be grieving. How well I know this. Our gentle, supportive gift packages for healing and/or grief start at $19.99.
Or buy just the helpful affirmation decks for only $14.95 or the guided journals for $15.95. Check the tabs Healing Toolkit or Grief for details or to see more.
Today I’m bringing you my edition of our weekly Baby Boomer roundup from my blog at A Healing Spirit. To my own readers here, this is a weekly compilation of blog posts by active Baby Boomers busy living life. I think you’ll find a nugget or two of useful info!
Summer Boomer style looks like any other season–with thoughts and activities both practical and deep.. So let’s start:
Here’s something: I have been here and just can’t pull the trigger: Rebecca Olkowski with BabyBoomster.com is struggling with whether she should bite the bullet and go for silver hair. It’s becoming a trend with young women but not all of us older women are ready for it. Her dyed hair is sprouting gray and she’s wondering if it’s worth the effort to maintain it. Here’s her story.
Tom Sightings had to go two thousand miles from home to get some advice about money. But his post Do You Argue About Money?
offers an approach that extends well beyond money issues and could be helpful for any kind of communication with a friend or loved one.
Speaking of money, On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about the hidden fees that most Americans pay regularly. They include bank overdraft fees, resort fees, add-on fees for online purchases, baggage fees, reservation fees, and many more. See Robison’s article “Do You Pay Hidden Fees?” for details.
Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting spent the past week in the great outdoors, on blue waters sailing along the coast of Maine and enjoying gourmet cuisine. Poor internet connection prevented an on-going tale of her adventure, but when once again on land she summarized her six-day adventure on the windjammer Angelique here.
What do you see when you look at a hole in the ground? Jennifer, at Unfold and Begin, feels that how you see a problem reflects your creativity. But there’s hope. In her current post, Jennifer shares how you can rebuild your creative muscles through different practices.
And today I remind myself and readers that friendships, like gardens, must be tended to, and I suggest some ways to do that in How to Cultivate Your Friendship Garden.
Have a beautiful week, everyone!
Someone asked a question about grief and loss at a recent Krishna Das workshop, and this was his response.
So many of us say these words. But do we really believe it at a gut level?
Do we “get” that we are eternal souls that do not die? And that our grief is actually for the shell that encases the soul, and that the soul does go on?
How many of us have had experiences with those who have left their bodies? Signs and communications?
And yet, most of us must still be reminded that nobody dies. Not really.
Today would be a good day to really take that in. Meditate on it. Feel it.
And believe it. Because we don’t die.
Grief is a universal. We all must travel the path one day and sometimes it can hit so hard we can barely breathe. I know this from personal experience and I also know that there are some good resources available today. Here are 10 of them..
There is no better workbook for processing grief than A Guided Journal through Grief, found here. It’s not only my opinion but the feedback I get from those who use it. Every page holds a prompt or simple activity to help work through the thoughts and feelings that accompany loss. Because sometimes we can’t talk about it. Or think loved ones are tired of hearing it.
But sometimes, you do want to read how others have managed their way through this universal process. Or get some expert advice.
Here’s a reading list of books that can be helpful. I suggest you read a bit about the book and what other readers have to say before you buy them.
This classic by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is still so relevant and her work on grief is still the most significant:
The wisdom of Ram Dass is always comforting. Few know he worked with the dying for many years. His new book with Mirabai Bush is so helpful to those who grieve and also those contemplating their own mortality.
About a son’s suicide. The Silence of Mornings. By Daisy Hickman
Joan Didion’s book about her loss is gut-wrenching and not for the faint of heart. I think she’s one of the best writers of our era and she brings that talent to bear on her grief.
It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay validates our grief. Because sometimes people want us to get over it sooner than we can.
Another classic: C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed
Final Gifts is about patients at the end of life. I think it’s beautiful, compassionate and practical.
The End is just the Beginning by Arlene Churn is geared toward the grief of African Americans, and historical rituals and customs that can help.
The death of a parent is a rite of passage, almost. Who are we if we are not someone’s child? These essays and stories can help. The Late Orphan Project by Anne Born
And finally, for a daily comforting meditation on grief, I offer a deck of 50 compact Transforming and Releasing Grief Cards, to help focus your thoughts in supportive ways. Find them in beautiful hard copy here. They are also available as an online subscription delivered daily to your email address. See those here.
Also you can find my gentle condolence gift packages here.
*This post contains affiliate links.