Grief is a bad moon, a sleeper wave. It’s like having an inner combatant, a saboteur who, at the slightest change in the sunlight, or at the first notes of a jingle for a dog food commercial, will flick the memory switch, bringing tears to your eyes.
I wasn’t prepared for the fact that grief is so unpredictable. It wasn’t just sadness, and it wasn’t linear. Somehow I’d thought that the first days would be the worst and then it would get steadily better – like getting over the flu. That’s not how it was.
But there is a discomfort that surrounds grief. It makes even the most well-intentioned people unsure of what to say. And so many of the freshly bereaved end up feeling even more alone.
Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me.
It’s all too easy when talking about female gymnasts to fall into the trap of infantilizing them, spending more time worrying more about female vulnerability than we do celebrating female strength.
One word I had throughout the first year and a half of my mother’s death was ‘unmoored.’ I felt that I had no anchor, that I had no home in the world.
I think about my mother every day. But usually the thoughts are fleeting – she crosses my mind like a spring cardinal that flies past the edge of your eye: startling, luminous, lovely… gone.
To mourn is to wonder at the strangeness that grief is not written all over your face in bruised hieroglyphics. And it’s also to feel, quite powerfully, that you’re not allowed to descend into the deepest fathom of your grief – that to do so would be taboo somehow.
This is part of the complexity of grief: A piece of you recognizes it is an extreme state, an altered state, yet a large part of you is entirely subject to its demands.
My mother died of metastatic colorectal cancer shortly before three P.M. on Christmas Day of 2008. I don’t know the exact time of her death, because none of us thought to look at a clock for a while after she stopped breathing.