Good Grief and Gratitude

“Grief never ends…
But it changes.
It’s a passage, not a place to stay.
Grief is NOT a sign of weakness,
Nor a lack of faith..
It is the price of love.”
– Unknown

Growing up I loved to read the Sunday funny papers in the newspaper with “Peanuts” and the character, Charlie Brown. I remember him always saying “Good Grief” when something didn’t work out for him. Back then I did not really get it. Today with a recent death in my family, I am learning first hand the FULL meaning of what Good Grief is.

Through out my lifetime, I have learned that other cultures other than our own in the USA honor their loved ones who have died with alters to that loved one. I like the fact that people from Mexico make altars to their loved ones on what we call Halloween. I also like the way Buddhists make altars to their loved ones who have died. I find this honoring of our parents and forefathers comforting and a beautiful ritual.

I have made a small altar for my mother which includes stones and a shell that she had found on the beach near where she lived the last 12 years of her life. Those small stones remind me how she could take something simple and make it artful and beautiful. Her photo hangs on a wall nearby in my small apartment. I am learning to embrace my grief whenever it grabs me and be grateful that I had a lovely mother, who I can miss and grieve, even as I write this blog. I am making her a presence in my life, and, yet, I know she is gone.

Since she died in late October, it is as if I am learning who my mother was more every day. I was with many family members clearing out the apartment where she had been living the last 12 years of her life, and got to know her better, by what she had around her. I am understanding her deep grounding in faith, that I was only sort of aware of. In her dying process, she fully revealed how much she loved her entire family. Her love helped to sustain all of us. She came from a generation that did not reveal so much about how they felt.

Since I stayed with my family for nearly 4 weeks before we were able to have a memorial service, during those weeks speaking with family members about how they felt and sharing stories, and then in the early morning hours when I was awoken by a flood of tears, I gained more clarity about my life, as well as my mother’s life. This is the GIFT of GRIEF, if you are willing to go there. I may be as tired as hell, but my life makes even more sense now.

According to Dr, Glen Davidson, “If we don’t grieve, we become chronically disoriented.” And he also said, “Tears carry away the toxins that are produced during emotional shock.”

I have found grief through my lifetime to be cleansing. However, when I was younger, I did not allow myself to feel the depth of my pain or loss. I am certain that because I did NOT fully process what I felt, that that kept me stuck in whatever loss I was experiencing at the time even longer. This time around, I am breathing through, crying through, feeling through all the pain that I am experiencing. I am not denying or avoiding it. What I am noticing is that I am becoming more and more grateful for the mother I had and the life I am living.

The graphic for this blog is a painting by my daughter, Celine Alvarez.

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