Walking Our Faith: It’s OK to grieve
I have a beautiful portrait of my mother which I used to hang on my bathroom wall next to the sink. Every morning and evening I would brush my teeth and look at that portrait. I often thought that if that portrait was all that I had left of her, I could not imagine life without her.
Last week I moved that portrait from the bathroom wall to my bedroom wall. Instead of imagining life without my mother, because that has become my reality, I now talk to Mom’s portrait. I tell her how much I miss her and how much I love her. And sometimes I just tell her how my day is going.
From speaking with others, I understand that talking to Mom in this way is OK. Maybe it’s even good for me. It’s certainly part of the grieving process.
In this column I have always written openly about my lifelong walk with depression. Of course, grief is different than depression. Still, because we all have faced the loss of a loved one or will at some point in our lives, I want to share how my grieving process is going.
It’s been six months since Mom died at home with me. I’ve reached a point where I don’t talk about her passing as much as I did immediately afterwards. I have been able to get on with most parts of my life, like attending concerts with friends, going to Mass, and walking my dogs around downtown Breckenridge. These are all good and healthy things.
But I also carry this know of pain, of missing Mom, which feels like a physical pain in the center of my chest. And it’s always there. Maybe that’s why speaking to her portrait in the morning before I leave and in the evening before I retire helps me to feel closer to her.
The reason I want to share this with you is because. I want you to know it’s OK to grieve. Losing a loved one, whether a parent, a partner, a child or even a beloved companion pet, might be the most painful experience you have in your life. Because it is singular in importance it should be treated with care and patience.
When you are in the grieving process you need to take good care of yourself — to eat healthy foods, rest, get outside to have fresh air and take walks (even if they are short ones). This includes talking to friends or perhaps even a professional who specializes in grief counseling.
Our grief may make us feel like turning inward — to replay our favorite moments with our beloved over and over again. But we must not allow ourselves to be completely cut off from the exterior world, because that is where our future lives. So, as we move through our grief, we must do so while performing this delicate dance of caring for our broken heart, realizing that part of caring for our beloved’s memory involves moving out into the world. Little by little.
You can do both. You can move forward with your life and still grieve the one that you have lost. You will not be diminishing their place in your heart by doing so. In fact, you will be honoring their love for you. By making sure that you become healthy and go forward to create a future that honors their memory.
There was someone I loved who grew old and ill
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do
except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.
— From “At the River Clarion” by Mary Oliver
P.S. I will continue to write and publish a weekly column on walking our faith after I move. I hope you’ll join me there: SuzanneElizabethAnderson.substack.com.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
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