Giving Myself Permission to Grieve My Mother
I clearly remember the morning in school when I announced, “my mommy passed away and she’s in shamayim.” The room was still. No one smiled. I was six years old and I realized something was not right. I remember thinking that this was not something to share publicly. People wouldn’t understand.
My mother passed away young leaving a large family, the youngest being toddlers, my brother and I.
As I was growing up the realization of my loss went through moments of transformation. As I matured it turned into a refrain that would say “it’s best if you don’t pay attention to the sadness too much.” When the grief would rear its ugly head I would rationalize that I didn’t deserve to go there, and shouldn’t look at that scary grief monster because I couldn’t remember the loss. I would redirect my sadness to my older siblings. I felt that since they had memories they had a right to mourn.
Since I didn’t remember I thought that I didn’t deserve to grieve my mother. I would cope with not remembering by telling myself that an absence of memories disqualifies sadness. That it was fine if I ignored the sadness because that grief could never belong to me.
As I got older I started to acknowledge my personal loss and peel back the layers of pain.
I spoke to people who knew my mother and I related to the things I heard about her. My mother was a devoted wife, mother, teacher, and fun-loving person. She was musical, kept a clean and neat home, and loved to drink coffee. I connected to her from a distance. I told myself that there were things that we had in common, so therefore I must be connected to her even if I couldn’t remember her. It was proof that I came from this person and I had lost her. The summer before I turned 36 things started to shift. I stumbled across an article about children who lost a parent at a very young age and have no memories of them. The article explained that although children like me don’t have memories, our loss is very real. I sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks and kept saying to myself “this is me, this is me.” This was my story and my grief was very real. I sat there as I let the awareness seep in. I really truly suffered a loss. At that moment I was given permission to feel, to remember, to grieve.
Thus began my journey of somatic experiencing and healing. I found support that guided me to allow myself to connect to the child inside who had suffered a loss. I learned that I am forever connected to my mother. No matter what I can consciously recollect, my body remembers the love and pain, my heart remembers her presence in my life, and her spirit lives on through me, through my family, and all the children who are named for her, including my own daughter.
My process of healing continued and that space, I discovered that she was always a part of me. She held me in her body for nine months. She nurtured me for the first 16 months of my life.
I wonder, does she know me now? She is a part of me, yet how does one connect to someone who has passed on? Can she hear me and see me? Does she worry for me? Does she really know me? The process of accepting this all was a true struggle.
Finally facing my grief gave me a whole new level of compassion for others and helped me relate to all those who have lost and mourned their loved ones. While doing the work, I had to face each new day with a new feeling of pain, crying for the child inside who didn’t remember, who had no memories. It was intense and difficult and a huge release all at the same time.
In my darkest painful moments, I have learned to surrender to Hashem. I know that He has brought me to this space and He can see me through it.
I learned that I might not remember the moments of my mother caring for me, laughing with me, hugging, and kissing me but she is and always will be with me. It’s OK to feel the pain and the loss.
Sometimes it will visit me even at times when I don’t want it to.
I can welcome it in, and sit with it.
I can hold space for the pain and be a witness to it.
I can create space for the pain and at the same time feel joy and happiness for the life I have and am so humbly grateful for.
If I close my eyes tight and just sit with the feelings– I can see a distant memory.
A picture of my mother smiling down on me telling me I’m right there with you.
So I make new memories of her and all the ways that she has imprinted on who I am.
Now, I own all my feelings.