“This is the Way I’m Coping Now”

I recently emailed my best friend about my concern for my laziness, increased appetite, anxiety, lack of motivation and sleeplessness. I lost my 84 year old mother on December 16, 2015. Intellectually, I know that this is a major shift in my life, and that I am going to have symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc. I know this all in my head, but the rest of me hasn’t quite caught up.

I have read about what people go through when they lose a parent, and I’ve talked with those who have lost a parent. I recognize the symptoms of grief, but I can’t quite settle in yet to that grief. I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve written thousands of words about how I feel, and yet I can’t quite live comfortably with it. Yet.

Last June, I had a lumpectomy for my DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, which is the non-invasive type of breast cancer). The cancer is gone and my follow-up mammogram was clear. But to this day, I am still numb in that whole area (this is very common). Sometimes I feel deep twinges in the area that remind me that my nerves are coming back to life. This is a lot like my grief; mostly numb, but with some pretty painful twinges.

So, back to my email to my friend. She replied, and kindly addressed my concerns, ending with the perfect statement I can repeat to myself whenever I need to: “this is the way I am coping now.” This means that, should I spend the whole day re-reading a book and eating cereal, that’s how I’m coping that day. If I get up at 2:00am and watch an old movie on TV, that’s how I’m coping that day. This is not an excuse to give up or wallow in self-pity; it is just how things are for now.

Well–that simple phrase immediately put everything in perspective for me. It has become my mantra when I start slipping off the rails; since I am not who I used to be, that is, a woman with a mother, I am still getting used to being a woman without a mother. I get it that I am finding my way through this, and in my journey I have and will make some wrong turns and even get lost from time to time.

But through all this I know that I will be all right. Love and loss are part of life, and for each life I lose along my way, I am better and richer for having had those precious hours and days and weeks and years. When you think about it, grief is a small price to pay for all that love. Elizabeth Barrett Browning says it well:

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.”

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