Special occasions are said to be most difficult during the first year. They are hard; you don’t know how to go about anything, you don’t know how it will feel, you miss them. So much.
The second year was almost more difficult for me though. It’s the second year when you discover they are really gone, and always will be. The second year I thought okay, she’s missing things now! That was the hard part.
The third go round feels different still. But, as far as I can tell, it brings with it a much greater amount of peace. You learn how to make them a part of things while they are absent. You understand a little bit more fully that they are here, and that happy occasions don’t deserve to be sad occasions forever.
On this, my “third” birthday, I wake up feeling happy and alive. Hopeful. She’s closer now than in the past two years, this can only mean bright things for years still to come.
Traveling exposes the seemingly manmade quality of time. It’s as though boarding a plane lands you in an alternate universe where hands travel around clocks in moments and experiences rather than scheduled increments. Only when you call home are you grounded again – remembering what two-o’clock or the weekend felt like. And stumbling jet-legged off the plane upon your return, it seems like you’ve been away for an eternity, yet you have the bizarre feeling that you were just there.
In the way that two months doesn’t really mean anything to a traveller, two years ago is a fairly insignificant detail in talking about losing my mom. It was like getting onto an airplane – my watch has been doing its own thing for awhile now. It feels like I’ve been here forever, and it feels like I talked to her just yesterday.
It’s so tempting to demand things of time.
I’ve realized, however, that there are dramatic ebbs and flows to healing – it does not lay itself out in chronological order. It seems as though I’ve been twenty different people with as many different timelines in the last two years (like I’m starring in an episode of the United States of Tara). But that’s because there are way more than twenty parts of my mind and spirit that each need their turn to understand what has happened. We mistakenly tend to think of ourselves as singular beings and we allot our timeframes accordingly. We also tend to abide by the timelines of others – which is especially straining when it appears the clock has struck “everyone is moving on and you should too.” We do each other a favour, as both hurting people and friends, to understand that everyone is uniquely put together with an infinitely different number of spirit-pieces, each one deserving to have its own time and space to heal.
Whatever I skip now will find its way back to me and whatever I force will naturally resist my prompting. I am learning that I should never be discouraged to feel like I’ve travelled back in time, or that something I’ve conquered long ago is standing in front of me again. We are never moving backwards, we are simply in a continual process of healing and “maintenance” that is often cyclical and chaotic – it’s the nature of the beast. Maintenance is generally a long-term kind of thing, right? The thing is, grief never really ends – it just changes. Life and joy can definitely be restored, but a life-long dose of patience is required (by all) to ride the ebbs and flows that will always exist.
Lyrics from a song I love by Mumford & Sons say:
There will come a time you’ll see
with no more tears
and love will not break your heart
but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see
what you find there,
with grace in your heart
and flowers in your hair.
Give it time; be gracious with yourself and others. Refuse to believe you are traveling backwards. You will see that beautiful things still remain over each and every hill.