It's Been a Month
It's Been a Month
By Pat Schwiebert, R.N.
So this is what grief feels like at one month since my mother’s death.
I just got home from a work trip, so I’m tired. I’m cleaning out my mother’s room so we can paint it to get ready for Ann and Bruce to occupy her room. Norm is supposed to move in tomorrow, but forgot to tell me he had to do it today. His room isn’t ready. I’m irritated. And I must have shown my irritation because one of my housemates asked if maybe I wasn’t ready for someone else to be in my mother’s room.
What does life have to do with grief? It’s just a room—a room I have been looking at every time I walk up the stairs—a room that holds four years of memories That door to her room is a trigger for me. Her door was always a signal—a reminder of what she expected from me. If it was open, she was expecting me to stop in whenever I was within 20 feet of her door. If it was closed, she was asleep. If it was open just a crack and she had already fallen asleep that meant I was supposed to wake her to let her know that I was home and then kiss her good night.
I have other things demanding my attention, but I seem to lack the energy, interest and ability to do them. I have no creative energy. I didn’t cry as much this last week. But just standing in her room with a few remaining hearing aid batteries and an old pair of shoes that she always tucked under her chair brings tears to my eyes. My mother was a minimalist to say the least. She had a few shirts, two pairs of tennis shoes, 7 photo albums, 3 big paintings of her Great Danes and a writing desk that has facilitated fifty years of correspondence. I find myself clutching her laundry and tenderly stroking her box of ashes that I am not yet ready to spread in the yard.
I’m tough and I know I can do this. It makes sense that the room be used for someone who needs it. I’m practical like she was. (There were years when I didn’t want to be at all like her). She would have wanted it that way. After all, it’s been a month.
This past month has been hard. My nights have been filled with dreams of her. My days were filled with walking through land mines where at any moment I could be thrown back into deep grief. I know the “keep busy” suggestion well. And it does work. But sometimes having to keep busy also makes me mad, because I don’t want to be released from my thoughts of her. She’s teaching me a lot right now, and I want to be a good daughter and listen to her.
I see her more clearly now that she’s dead. It’s like climbing a mountain. You can’t see the mountain when you are up close. Its fullness is revealed only when you are looking at it from the distant plain. The little irritants that drove me up the wall when my mother was alive are not in my face anymore. I am able to see her whole life as one amazing picture.
And that thing called forgiveness comes as sweet gift. No longer do I feel any anger of hurt or disappointment at the things she did or didn’t do to me. I admit I still have to practice forgiveness on myself. I wish I were more patient. I wish I were more patient. I wish I could have made her happy. I wish I could have made her happy.
Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color. w .s. merwin