This week’s blog is a very personal blog. Many of you may know that my Mum, Lorraine, was killed in a MVA 8 years ago. The journey of grief and loss has at times felt strange. I continue to be surprised by the waves of emotion that can sometimes overwhelm me. 8 years on, the day to day is different, yet the emotions can still surprise me.
I have had the privilege of getting to know Jill Johnson Young who has created www.yourpaththroughgrief.com
As I get to know Jill, and learn about this program, I have become so incredibly grateful for Jill’s knowledge and insight.
This year I asked Jill if she could write me a guest blog post as a letter to me letting me know what I might expect from 8 years of grieving the loss of my Mum – this letter as you will read below is an incredible gift. Thank you, Jill.
The Grief and Loss Journey – a little further down the road…
Guest Post by Jill Johnson-Young
You are approaching the 8th year after your mum’s death. I am wondering if you are finding yourself in the place so many of us do- it seems so long, and yet here it is again, so very recent and fresh? How does it seem to be both long ago and recent? How come it still hurts sometimes? How can I be okay with it not hurting as much as it used to? You’ve told me bits about your loss, how unexpected it was, and how much of a hole your mum left in your life. Unexpected losses have the potential for becoming complicated in grief.
Fortunately, you’re the standout person- the one who talks about your mum comfortably. You’ve dealt with the “leftovers” the two of you didn’t have the opportunity to finish. That makes the lifelong changes associated with her loss, and recreating a relationship with her for the rest of your life a bit easier. Creating that new reality in a healthy way is the hallmark of recovery. So, what can you expect when you get to that 8th anniversary, and beyond? (In some circles, we call it a “deathiversary” – I kind of like that, because marking the loss as real is another healthy way to deal with loss).
In Grief Recovery, we talk about really recovering from the trauma of grief, and what that involves. The stuff left undone, the apologies left unsaid, the acknowledgements of that person’s place in our lives we wish we’d found time to share with them. The plans left undone. We work through those, and forgive both ourselves and our loved one for those things. We still miss our loved one, but we do not have undone stuff we regret and are sad about- we are done with those. That is what we mean by recovery from grief. Knowing you, and your relationship with so many therapists (that says something about you and your willingness to “do” feelings, by the way) you are done with those leftovers. You have spent your time since she died finishing them, so even with her sudden and tragic loss you have said your goodbye.
So, what might you expect in the coming weeks and on the day she died as you remember her?
· Some fleeting moments of sadness, sometimes intense grief waves, because her absence is a real thing, and matters to you. After 8 years, those should be few and far between.
· Being caught by surprise when you find yourself smiling about her and your memories, rather than being sad. I really hope that is the predominant theme to your day. “Gee, that was something mum would have said- did that really just come out of my mouth?” “That looks like something she would have enjoyed immensely. I’m glad I knew her well enough to cherish those things we shared.”
· Feeling a bit empty or lost when you remember her and realize those close to you now may not have any memory of her – and do not remember that today is the day she died.
· Reaching for ways to mark her loss, and continued place in your life, on that day. Do you go to the cemetery? A special place you shared? Have a special luncheon she would have enjoyed? Post on social media and hope others do not think you are actively grieving, but truly wishing they knew you just miss her and wish some others could remember and say her name sometimes? Order flowers for church in her favorite colors? Donate in her name?
More than anything I would guess you will enjoy remembering her. You will celebrate the Mum she was and how much you share with her. You’ll look at photos of her and the two of you, and marvel at how you are becoming more like her. And as the years progress the happy memories will be your first thoughts of her. Your good days will include a moment to think how happy she would be for you. Your difficult moments may include a thought of her standing by your side.
I wish you peace and the most special of memories as you approach that day, and a sense of her presence by your side as you walk through it.
All my best,
Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW
Certified Grief Recovery Facilitator, Co-Owner, and therapist
Jill is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and has years of experience as a hospice medical social worker and bereavement services counselor and director in Florida and California. She is certified by the Grief Recovery Program as a Grief Recovery Facilitator, and is in private practice in Riverside, California. Jill is also a survivor of multiple losses, and as a result believes in recovering from losses and finding a way to recreate a new life, while carrying the previous life into the new. Loss isn’t what defines us- what we do with it does.