The wave of grief


I’m not sure what set me off.

A few days ago on our way to Columbus to see our daughter, we drove past a sign for Deer Creek State Park and a memory intruded. When our children were young, our daughter just a toddler in a stroller, we had a little weekend get-away at Deer Creek with my parents.  What I remember most is aided by the video I took of Mark playing baseball with our two young sons while Anna and I watched nearby. My mom came out to join us.

This was a rare memory, my mom participating at some level in family outdoor activities. So many times she was left behind, or inside, with my sister Annie.

It makes me feel bad now to think about it, and all the things Mom missed out on, the fact that she was outside early in the morning with us there at Deer Creek providing evidence that she wanted to spend the time with us and enjoy the moment with us.

It just makes me feel bad.

I know there have been many consequences of having grown up with a severely disabled sister like Annie. I didn’t know that I would feel the implications of that for perhaps the rest of my life.

Just when I think I’ve surfaced for good from my grief at having lost Mom and Dad in January, just when I think I am able to move on, I see a little roadside sign; a memory is stirred; the grief pays an unwelcome visit, and I am overcome. It imprisons me like weights strapped to my limbs sapping my strength and my energy.

Since the very beginning of this sorrow, I have been flip-flopping. Initially I felt I could never write again. My mother was my best supporter. Her belief in me drove me on.  I can’t write anymore, I thought. Then, no. I’ll write still. I’ll write for my mother still.

I’m going to work like mad to finish my dad’s book, I think.

No. I’m done with it. I’ll put it away for now. Maybe forever.

I work like a crazy person scanning photographs and memorabilia that covers my dining room table and spills out of boxes.  Then I think it is a pointless activity and the once-perceived-as-treasures sit untended collecting dust.

I gain a burst of energy with the warming days and greening trees, and I make a list of all the spring-cleaning projects I intend to do. It gets lost amid other lists and unfinished plans.

I am plagued by poignant scenes from the last weeks and days of their lives: peeking in the door to see Mom lying curled up on her bed beside my dad who says nothing and offers no comfort. Lifting Mom to her feet with our arms around and clinging to each other.

These things kill me.

Mom trying to respond to my “I love you,” while struggling for breath, eyes closed, her seemingly unconscious state belied by her effort to speak.  The memory haunts me.

I’m not sure what set me off. But now I can only wait for the wave to pass, and try again to go on.


You can follow my personal journey through grief here. If you are also grieving the loss of a loved one, I hope it brings you comfort to know that you are not alone as you move on through grief.

31 thoughts on “The wave of grief”

  1. Christine,

    I feel your pain and know that it is hard to fill the emptiness that you feel. I know it is easy to say it will get better, but hard to believe it. I lost my wife 15 years ago today (April 19) when she was 40 years old. Some days are good and some aren’t. I know how you say little things make you sad and set you off. Try to remember the happy times and hope that they are now in a better place. You know that they wouldn’t want you to feel so sad and would want you to revel in the things that make this world such a wonderful place to be for the brief time that we have.

    1. You’ve said all the right things, Bill, making me know (if there could have possibly ever been any doubt) that you truly speak from experience. Thinking of you today.

  2. Hugs to you I can’t imagine the pain you are feeling right now. Let it out. If you feel like writing, write, If you don’t, don’t. The important thing is not to rush yourself, but to allow yourself to feel what you need to.

    1. Thanks, Susan. I know you also have walked this path. You and other blogging friends who have supported and continue to support me, have made a big difference. Thank you for taking the time to reach out.

  3. ah sweetie, grief does that, doesn’t it? Reaches out and grabs us at unsuspecting moments and leaves us wrung dry and aching. There are so many pat answers that be given and many of them true but none that help. One day, one breath at a time, the good memories will begin to keep you warm. We go on. we go on. I continue to hold you in my heart and prayers.

    1. Thanks, Joss. I’m really doing much better now. I think that’s why it hits me so hard when it surfaces again. I’ll take the prayers. Thanks.

  4. Allow yourself to feel the grief for as long as you need to, its simply a reflection of the love your family had for each other. Meanwhile, I hope you keep writing, for your mother, for your father, for Annie, but most of all for yourself and the people who love your words.

  5. It’s the little things that pull us right back to it, isn’t it?

    They do say it’s the first year that’s the most difficult, and you lost both of them in such a short time.

    1. Yes. And the further I venture from home, the more something strikes me with a memory I haven’t dealt with yet. I am expecting this first year to be tough. I am surprised we are already almost through April. I’m kind of dreading December and the holidays. And am really ready to have Mother’s Day and May altogether behind me. My mom’s birthday was May 15th.

      1. I had one of those little things the other day, after my mother’s death. Passing by a store that had a sign out front: “Mother’s Day Specials”.

      2. Yes. I really will be happy when we get past this Mother’s Day with all the advertisements. It’s nearly a constant assault. It doesn’t help that my mom’s birthday was May 15th, so the whole Mother’s Day celebration was always wrapped around her birthday. A double whammy.

        Thinking of you, William.

  6. Having lost my daughter Oct 2011 and my mom Aug last year, I understand how one moment we can see the world and live our day, then catch a glimpse of something that triggers memories and the grief pours over us like a waterfall. Today is my daughter’s birthday and it has been a hard day; last year I thought of her with hardly a drop of grief. They will always be with us and we will go through these rollercoaster of emotions, but the joy of knowing that one day we will be together again makes it all okay.
    Take each day as it comes, write when you feel like it; don’t write if you don’t. Here’s my shoulder if you need it.

    1. My heart goes out to you, Teresa, because as sad and difficult as it has been to lose my parents, through it all I’ve realized that this is the natural course of events. Most people lose their parents. Not so for a cherished daughter or child.

      I hope the rest of the day will pass uneventfully and tomorrow will be a new day.

      I keep hearing “they will always be with us” from readers who have experienced loss. It is a great comfort to me.

      Thanks for the shoulder. We can cry together.

  7. Your mom and I had many conversations about how wonderful your writing is. She was so proud of you and all of your siblings. I personally, would love to read a book about your dad. He was such a great man. I will never forget when I went to go see your mom at Hospice, I made a comment to her about what a great job she did raising her kids. I was, of course, referring to the vigil that you all took during her illness. She looked at me and said “I hope so.” She was one amazing lady. I will always remember all of our conversations, but cherish that last visit with her at Hospice. Thoughts and prayers are with you!

    1. Thank you Paula. It is always a thrill to hear someone relay a memory they have about Mom or Dad. It feels a bit like finding a new piece of them that I didn’t know existed.

      I don’t know if you ever saw Dad’s leather photo album from Germany. At least that’s what I always thought of it as. It actually contained photos of Mom back here at home too. And it turns out that Mom actually put the photos into the album. I suppose I should have known that, or at least guessed it based on the their relative strengths at organization.

      Anyway, Dad wrote little captions on the backs of most of the photos. I’ve been scanning the photos and typing the captions into a doc. It’s been fascinating and brings a whole new dimension to my memories of him.

      It’s always good to hear from you, Paula. I hope all is well.

      1. I know the album well. Spent a lot of time going through those with your mom and dad, when he was still verbal. He could tell you every little detail regarding those photos. Some days he couldn’t remember exactly what he had for dinner the night before, but he sure remembered those pictures well, from 50+ years ago. 🙂

  8. Grief comes in waves and eventually may even feel more like an incoming tide and leave as suddenly but it will always be there. It will change, be different and never be the same and with time will not come as often but it will always be there. I’ve learned over the years to ride those waves until calmer waters come. Take care. You are in my heart.

  9. Every time you remember something like that it brings your Mom or Dad to life. Cherish the memories and embrace that little place in your soul that smiles. They would want that.
    Try not to feel bad they wouldn’t want that for you. They loved you. Write! Finish the book it’s important for you DO NOT GIVE UP! We’re here to cheer you on. 🙂

    1. Thanks. I agree that they would want me to cherish the memories and not feel bad. I try to remember that in my low moments, but sometimes I forget. Thanks for reminding me.

  10. It’s so hard to lose a parent. It’s worth the time and energy required to preserve the items that you have. My mother died many years ago. I miss her–but the memories are very mellow now. I enjoy looking at the old photos and memorabilia, and remembering the old stories.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Sheryl. I look forward to the day when the memories are mellow. Thanks for sharing your experience with me.

  11. Mother’s Day was a tough one for me. I stopped in Hallmark for something else and saw Mother’s Day cards…and the tears began again. It’s amazing how many little, unsuspected things trigger the emotions. It does get better. It says so much about your mother that she chose to care for Annie at home.

    1. Yeh. I’m really, really dreading Mother’s Day. Already I’m getting a lot of ads for it in my e-mail. Mom’s birthday was May 15th, so Mother’s Day was closely linked to her birthday, and always a scramble as to how to celebrate both and not short change her.

      I got into the routine of planting flowers for her on Mother’s Day. I think their house will be sold by then this year.

  12. God bless you, Christine, and comfort you. Your writing is a gift, as you so beautifully put into words what many of us feel but cannot begin to express.

  13. Hi Christine .. I’m not surprised you’re in and out of grief – it’s after our parents that we think some things through .. and perhaps realisations come to the fore, that hadn’t bubbled up before ..

    With thoughts – Hilary


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