Today was a glorious sunshine day - one of the hottest days of the year so far. It was a joy to be out enjoying blue skies and the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. I felt carefree and light. Today was an easy to be part of kind of day. As I walked in town, I passed a group of people huddled together. It was as if they were seeking warmth from the closeness of each other. And actually they were. Their black outfits gave away their purpose and a young woman elegantly dressed was holding on tightly to a bunch of beautiful deep red roses. Beyond them I saw the hearse and besides the coffin inside, the words Nana inscribed in white flowers. My own lightness faded for a moment. I was sad. Today these people, complete strangers to me, would feel the weight of sadness that comes from losing someone close to you. Tonight, a daughter will be missing her mum and a grandchild her precious Nana as well as anyone else connected to Nana.
But why should I feel sad. I have no connection to these people and yet I did feel it. I felt it because I know what it is like to lose someone close to you. I know the weight that can come from that loss. I know the sadness of waking each day with the knowledge that someone you love is gone and you'll never experience all the things you loved about them again. Thankfully I had no regrets, no guilt or other negatives associated with my own mother's death but I did hold on far too tightly when she was gone even though I thought I'd let her go. In the months after, I thought it would be good to be strong. It wasn't. I thought it was good not to show my vulnerability. It wasn't. Others tried to help and support me - I told them I was fine. Often I wasn't. I tried to resist grief, but grief had other thoughts. It took me by the hand and said I will have my time with you whether you like it or not. That was the bit I hadn't understood. Somehow I thought that I could bypass grief, by simply carrying on but that's not how it works or not in my experience.
After my mother's death I also experienced another form of loss. I lost sight of who I was, what I stood for and why I was here, so not only had I lost her, but I'd lost myself too along the way. At times, it felt like I was stranded in a small rowing boat on the ocean. Whichever direction I looked, all I could see was water and I had no idea which way I should paddle - which way would lead me to dry land and rescue. But there was no beacon, no rescue party, no map - there was just me in this little rowing boat, going round and round in circles. That was hard. In many ways I felt like I was grieving for me too and the person I'd once been. I wanted the old me back, but once again life had other plans, it wanted me to learn and grow from these experiences. It needed me to realise that I was my own rescue party and that with a change of perspective, I could be in a luxury yacht with crew and a full navigation system. Initially, once again I resisted. I'd become attached to the little rowing boat. Sometimes I still fall back into that boat but now at least I ensure it's got an on-board motor.
So what does it all mean? I could speculate but I can only share how it affected me. Loss is something we generally all have to deal with and it is a very personal experience. The loss of my mother has led me to explore new paths and be open to new experiences and emotions. I have walked along with grief hand in hand. It is not an easy journey but it was a necessary one.