It started with a telephone call at 7 am in morning. I was getting dressed for work and also watching one of the morning shows. Little did I know when I picked up the telephone my life would change in an instant. Four words on the other end of the telephone changed my world forever, “She didn’t make it.” My mother had died.
She was a great parent, but she was also an excellent friend, even more, she was my person. I longed to hear her voice again, and just wanted to engage in one of our heart-to-heart conversations. I wanted more time with the one I loved.
I didn’t understand grief. I stayed functional paying bills, watching television, and doing mundane day-to-day stuff, but really I was out of control. I felt guilty crying like a baby because as an older adult I thought perhaps I should have had more maturity in dealing with death. I wasn’t logical angry one minute and depressed the other. My emotions bubbled up in me like a pot of boiling water. How long could I keep up this façade of being all right?
I had always practiced some type of self-care in my life. I lit eucalyptus peppermint candles to relieve stress and sprayed lavender oil on my pillows at night to help me sleep. I enjoyed a good massage and meditated frequently. Yet, I needed a different type of self-help, beyond what is usually associated with self-care practices, frankly, I needed counseling.
I had been conditioned to believe that grief is something that one gets over in time. Someone dies, you hurt for a while and then you stop hurting enough to deal with the person dying. You do this intuitively and you do it all by yourself. Yet, when I had to pull over to the side of the road because I couldn’t see for my tears blurring my vision while I drove, I knew something had to be done. Did I care enough about myself to speak to someone about what I was feeling?
I remember the first session, the therapist barely closed her door, before I started bawling. I was a wreck. I intentionally let myself be vulnerable because I wanted to heal. Self-care for me under therapy meant no holding back and no putting up walls. I faced pain head-on. As time progressed, in my sessions, I learned how to manage my new reality and I knew I was getting better when the dull ache inside of me subsided.
Around my first Mother’s Day without my mother, my therapist asked me to write mom a note. I tied the message of love to balloons and let them into the air. As the balloons drifted away, I felt at peace. I can say I have returned to my well-being. Grief is hard, but with the right self-care tools like therapy you can navigate loss successfully since I did it myself, I know it’s true.