To A Good Mourning

“How are you doing?” -Almost everyone I have never met, with a look of pity on their face.

This is the number one question I’ve been asked since my Mom passed last month. I have become aware that I shake my head while saying ‘fine’, or whatever lie rolls off my tongue, to complete strangers who’ve injected themselves into my life at a pivotal point.

I do believe that in many ways I am fine. I’ve learned to shoulder, shift, and carry the grief I was born with; it’s a huge part of this intergenerational trauma that’s always haunted my emotional, physical, mental, social, and spiritual being. I’ll occasionally break the awkward interactions with honesty and let the intruder know that I’m experiencing memory loss, massive amounts of clumsiness, that my usual aloof and numb state is becoming a concern associated with my PTSD and disassociation, but it’s really okay because I’m seeing a therapist for that. They’ll be taken aback, stammer out a quick reply, sharing that they hope I’m “seeing someone” for that, when they could explore their own grief and be confident in saying that these things are normal. And as much as I hate to slap normalcy on anything, these reactions are very “normal” or “typical”. And normal doesn’t mean easy, quick, painless, but it does mean that someone else might have similar experience with the same things I’m feeling. It means that I’m not completely alone. It means I might find comfort in knowing that someone else has been where I’m at, or is there with me, in their own private hell, right now. My grief won’t be a spittin’ image to anyone else’s, but my grief might have some things in common with someone else’s. I can pretty much pick my poison when it comes to defining grief; there are dictionary definitions, hospice center definitions, text book definitions, accurate quotes, millions of descriptors that breathe life into dealings with Grief, similar to the way we bring Death to life. Grief becomes a living, breathing entity who stalks you and shows up, always uninvited and always outstaying it’s welcome.

I keep reminding myself that struggling with my grief does not mean that I’m not handling things well, it doesn’t mean that I’m failing this grand grief and loss test. It does means that I need to slow down and be easy on myself. It means there’s something more there that I need to explore, and perhaps my reactions to grief are being ignored and my body is trying to find ways to let me know that on a subconscious level I need to process my grief.

After many sleepless nights I have decided that I want to keep an ongoing public journal of just how I am doing (with my grief). I was thinking about this last night as I fed my 2 month old daughter, how this will keep me accountable to myself, to my healing, my mom would welcome this, it might connect me with others who are experiencing/have experienced something similar, it might help someone else, and it will keep boundaries on people’s access to me as I grieve. I’m not sure how often I will post updates, at least weekly, if I’m having a harder time, or I’m busy there might be a surge in posts, or decline. I will keep this pattern up for a year, the first year of my Mom’s passing. I will include things that have been helpful to me, possible links to resources I learn about, anything I can share that might help someone else, and most importantly I will share my struggles and hardships on this journey. I will welcome comments, replies, interactions, tips, and sharing.

As I come to a closing point on this first post I will share that it’s important to remember that Grief is most commonly associated with death and dying, but can and should be applied to many different types of life loss. Said losses can include relationships ending, job loss/employment, illnesses, and other life changes. Other’s grief shouldn’t be trivialized. Grief may trigger other mental health diagnoses or preexisting conditions you’re dealing with, and should be included in medical and psychological reports and evaluations. Common reactions to grief can be emotional expressions, physical & mental/cognitive symptoms, social effects, and can have an impact on your spiritual beliefs and perspective. Grief is commonly broken down to “stages” and there are notable authors, experts, and researchers on Grief and Loss, so it’s good to become an expert on your grief, even if you use their framework, theories, research.

It will be important to note that I have C-PTSD, I have a 2 month old baby (so I’m in my postpartum healing period) as well as 2 older children, I have cancer, and high blood pressure that hasn’t resolved itself from preeclampsia that lead to the late-term premature delivery of my daughter. I have a background in mental health work and advocacy, I’m a Mortician/Funeral Director by trade, with a death positivity perspective. Also important to note I’m an enrolled and active citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. I’m currently living in Virginia, having moved here two years ago to be with my mother, as well as decided to return to school (again) while here. This means that I’m physically away from my entire support system, aside from my immediate family and a couple of friends. My mother and I lived together for a year before we both moved, and we lived in neighboring towns. She was also in the midst of moving across the country when she was suddenly hospitalized after being taken to an emergency room. She had been doing very well in her recovery and we even had some time with her while she was awake and were making plans for her discharge and rehabilitation. My brothers and I chose to respect and honor her life, wishes, and physical being by taking her off of life support after we learned she would not recover from the damage that occurred during the cerebral vasospasms that are common after cerebral aneurysms. I believe that these things influence my grief processing. I’m also working with the hospice grief counselor, and have been treating my C-PTSD through neurofeedback treatments, and will be seeking a new therapist due to recent insurance and employment changes.

I hope that if you choose to follow my journey of healing and grief processing that you share and grow with me. Cheers, to a good mourning.

4 thoughts on “To A Good Mourning

  1. My dear Daughter,
    I too, am still in grief over the passing of several people whom I loved dearly, Dawn Marie passed so suddenly in March of 2013, with my own mother following closely behind her a scant 7 months later, and then my brother passing just 2 years ago now. He was the only other one who experienced what Viet Nam was like and other combat experiences I endured. I have PTSD also, COPD, ACHF (acute congestive heart failure), possible prostate cancer, they will know for sure January 28, 2019, after they do their biopsy. They couldn’t do a biopsy right away as I was being treated for pulmonary embolisms, too numerous to count in my lungs when they did the CT scan. I have another CT scan with contrast dye scheduled this coming Monday, January 21, and my biopsy on January 28. My cardiologist had to take me off Plavix, a blood thinner, and then when they discovered I had embolisms, I was placed on Eliquis, another blood thinner, so it has been a hectic time to deal with the grief of the passing of those aforementioned dear ones.
    I have no magic answers for you except to share what I am going through and to urge you to hang in there. It does become manageable in time, but it never passes, and shouldn’t. It is one of the ways I cherish their memories. I have also become a deeply religious person, as my mother was. Before she died, she asked me to go back into the ministry that I was trained for and I assured her I would eventually. Well, my re-acceptance of Jesus Christ into my life again has helped me tremendously, but different strokes for different folks, is what I say too. Some folks have been critical of my walking away from my Mide beliefs, but I don’t allow that to bother me, as it is me walking this path of grief and joy, sadness and grief sometimes, joyous remembrances type of grief other times. It is both and I find myself embracing both, because, as I said, it grounds me and I love them all over again, remembering them. I love you Sarah and remember you sometimes as the little girl that was first born to your mother and I.
    I shall write more later as I feel the urge to and please stay in touch. Above all, never cease to write as it is a form of expressive therapy. I treasure the writing I can do for self expression with my language and teachings I still do regarding our culture. Just because I accepted Jesus, doesn’t mean I forgot everything I ever knew, or all the training I went through as a Mide medicine man/Holy Man. In fact, the Lord has reminded me to never forget that part of my life, for it shaped much of who I am now.
    Bama mine embyegeyan,
    Nin se Neaseno.

    • I love you, Dad. I appreciate, respect, and value all of your walks in life. As always I will keep you in my prayers and continue to work my way towards moving home to you all. Thank you for the knowledge you’re sharing with us.

  2. I’m sorry you have had so much to deal with, to suffer through. Death is not easy. I’m the oldest of my family. I remember most of what happened.
    Ironically, I couldn’t cry at mom’s funeral ( she had two, one in France, one in Salisbury NC, where we’re in from. Mom had to be cremated. The red tape to transport her body was horrific. I was the one who collected her urn, sealed in a cardboard box.
    Dad’s funeral was simpler. A service at the grave, in pouring rain. Mushy feet and a small group came to the service. We visit Chestnut Hill often. We take our dog to walk there. I pass by and remember.

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