I had mentally prepared for this, even rehearsed it, but that did not inoculate me from the pain and shock.
I have experienced grief before, but I think grieving for my dad was somehow easier because it was a less complex relationship. Our first and most formative attachment, the relationship with our mothers is complicated by biological survival, childhood feelings, and a lifetime of experiences and expectations. While I choose to focus on things I can control, her loss was painful in triggering many things: how well did I know her, and how much did I truly appreciate the demands of motherhood to all her children?
Plus, if you are brutally honest with yourself, death always makes you examine your own mortality— and no amount of planks or botox can change how you feel about that.
I happened to have the flu at the time of the news, so I felt physically sick in addition to feeling emotionally bankrupt and cognitively blank. With literally no way to run and nowhere to hide, I spent three days of hell looking for something to make sense.
Feeling like I had just had an emotional stroke, I reached out to my oldest friend, who said, “Listen, this is going to hurt really bad, but you’re not going to die.” Even though there was a misguided and confused part of me that would have welcomed that.
His re-assurance was helpful and I think it is important in the difficult times to talk to people with whom you have a long history, who can listen and be there in a psychologically safe manner, and nudge you in the right direction.
I feel fortunate to have talked to my mom before she died. We had an honest conversation in which I was able to tell her that I was proud of her and that she was my role model for strength, grace, and stubbornness. I don’t feel there was anything left unsaid. She told me, “God takes you back when no one else wants you.” I’m grateful to have her words as perspective. Your deity of choice will take you back when you have lost your beauty, your charm, your memories, and your status, and all you have left is your soul and your character.
I reluctantly decided I have a choice to make. How do I move forward? How do I honour her? How do I let this experience change me?
They say ‘life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you.’ I believe that pain can be generative with the power for transformation. With the luxury of time, it can be a reset button for where you want to go and how you want to transform your life. You have the choice to become more bitter and jaded, or more compassionate and understanding. I can even slightly appreciate the circumstances of those awful three days, as a divine storm of sorts, that forced me to face the pain and accelerated my process.
But there are layers of grief and at times I find myself angry. Angry at how much she suffered in her life; angry at the struggle that we all must face at times in our lives. I acknowledge those feelings and accept that it is okay to have them, but I also feel that they are not ultimately useful and to hold onto them would be the easy way out.
My goal is forgiveness. As that is not something that comes easily, I have set the following steps in that process to work towards:
- Transcend resentment, spite, and regret. You cannot rewrite the past.
- Know that you can condemn an act without disapproving the person. It is unfair to define a person by a single circumstance.
- Understand that we are all doing the best we can with what we have.
Given the complexity of life and ourselves, though it may feel good to blame someone else, without access to another person’s choices, experiences, or decisions, it is unfair to lay blame. We are operating within a complex emotional landscape with fragile memories and it is unreasonable to expect that we are even equipped to pass judgement on others, or even ourselves. Through deconstructing the foundation of our judgements, I think forgiveness becomes more accessible.
The river of life is such that it keeps flowing whether you are ready or not. You can see it as a powerful certainty or an unfair injustice, but the more that you are willing and able to go with the flow of it and take it as it comes, the less likely it is to pass you by. I think that it is important to know, though, that when you need a break, you can always take a rest on the shore; just be sure to find a nice spot to camp where you can truly pause and find your appreciation for the river once again.
I hope you can find something helpful in this story if you find yourself in a similar situation. I don’t think grief has a blueprint; it is an individual and multi-factorial experience. It is another of life’s adversities which we must confront, with the hope of not just living, but thriving and contributing.
Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.