Reflections on Grief and Healing
Reflections on Grief and Healing
As a kid, I saw my mother as the axel of our family. She was the one at the center, connecting the independent spokes, that would have just as well gone their own separate ways.
I observed her as the sister her siblings turned to for support, as the mother and wife continuously caught between two people she loved. For years, she struggled to facilitate the tenuous relationship my stepfather and I had, much to her detriment. She was the person who bonded the fractures and kept our family moving forward.
When my mother passed away in 2014, our family wheel became unhinged. Within two weeks, I had moved out of the home I had shared with my mother and stepfather, taking with me the belongings I could fit in my car. One of my aunts wrote from Mexico, saying she would not be attending the funeral; she had “made her peace” from afar.
I was furious, disappointed, broken and lost.
It felt like the castle my mother had spent a lifetime building was dissipating before my eyes. I was urgent to pick up the pieces and build a fortress— to become radically self-sufficient so I would never have to feel so broken again. I channeled all of my energy into school. I made straight As, I volunteered, studied and worked tirelessly to distract myself.
Though there we many friends and family who stuck close to me during this time, I couldn’t fully accept or recognize their support. Getting too close to anyone invited the inevitability of ultimately loosing them, and of loosing myself further. So, I assumed a distorted image of adulthood and perfectionism to prove control, if only to myself.
Upholding an illusion of independence was my way of coping with the void created by my mother’s absence. During this time, I truly convinced myself that I was alone. I believed that love was to be earned, not unconditional nor inherent. It was a sad and lonely place to reside.
But by grace, nothing remains the same forever. Whether we acknowledge the shifts or not, seasons change, and the light rises again to illuminate what was once obscured.
With time, I came to recognize that my walls had been an essential part of the healing process; they provided me a sense of stability and protection when I needed it the most. And yet, in time, I found that the same fortress I had built for protection was causing me to suffer more than help me heal.
Three and a half years later, and I am beginning to tear down the walls of separation by becoming acutely aware of the pain and where it resides.
The pain is inside, and yet there is a tendency to externalize and project pain onto other people. Projection is a form of self-protection that most of us humans like to do; it’s a way of avoiding pain, and yet, projection gone unchecked leads to a lot of unnecessary suffering, conflict, and confusion.
Here is an example: My aunt recently moved back to the States and I decided to hold a homecoming dinner for her. An hour before my family is to arrive, all of this emotional stuff starts creeping in. I feel the anxiety coming on and I begin formulating a storyline. It goes something like, “your family is disappointed in you because you do not fulfill their expectations; you will need to be on the defense tonight” blah blah blah.
Yikes, is that really true?
It literally took me writing all this shit down to recognize the thoughts as another rendition of the self-sufficiency story— a projection to quell my own insecurities about love and worthiness. :O
In disproving these stories, I got to see my family with fresh eyes, as they really were— loving, supportive, and proud. They were not the independent spokes of an unhinged wheel, but rather my blood, connected and inspired to thrive despite life’s trauma and hardships.
What a relief it was to drop the storyline!
Seeking the truth gives us the opportunity to put our pain in the past. Every moment we have the ability to achieve peace; we are always just one storyline away from accessing the love that is abundant.