The phrase ‘first time…” can be a little deceiving I think. When mentioned here it is the furthest thing from a sentimental feeling! As I go through many ‘first time….’ experiences, however big or small, I’ve started to notice a pattern that I didn’t expect. The first time experience isn’t only a brutal reality check of the present or a look to the future with the thought “so this is what it is going to be like without Bernadette”, it’s also a reliving the past. Today I had a few of those experiences in a row and was surprised at how my mind relived not only the last time event, but thinking “what did I miss” that I could have caught that might have made the outcome different. If I’d only been more vigilant and trusted my gut maybe things would be different and Bernadette would still be with us. It brings back scattered painful memories, new regrets, and the thoughts of ‘if only I knew this would be the last time I would have done it differently’ kind of torture. And then my mind has to come back to the present and live the present painful moment. It’s almost a vicious circle. And it happens at the slightest ‘first time’ moment, especially if I’m already struggling or if I’m tired, or I don’t have the energy to control my thoughts. I guess that’s one reason “they” say that grief is ‘work’. There really are so many things to ‘work’ through and times to have to work through it.
Yesterday in the mail I received a tiny tear cup or tear catcher from my aunt in Australia. She wrote, “… at this time when the world around you all has moved on and thinks that you have to, it can be a quiet reminder that it is OK to grieve for as long as you need to.” That phrase, ‘the world around you has moved on and thinks that you have to” is a very pointed phrase. I can totally understand that the world around us will moved on. Bernadette wasn’t a big part of their lives and they will move on in relation to how much she affected them. And it’s as it should be and that’s okay. Given that she was a painfully shy six-year-old I can’t imagine she had that much impact on anyone other than her own family and close circle of friends. But for us who knew her the best and were the closest to her, moving on is a struggle that words can’t explain. So to receive those words from my aunt was like someone putting a warm blanket around us that acknowledged without words the bitter cold struggle it is for our whole family. Someone understood. And sometimes that’s all it takes to offer great comfort – to know that someone understands. Marc used to use the words “psychological air”. My aunt’s card and gift was ‘psychological air’.
It came too at a time when I’d literally just returned home after enjoying an hour of psychological air as I met with my friend and talked and listened to her struggles as she tries to ‘move on’. Though I don’t think we mothers ever really ‘move on’. I think it’s more like we’re pushed forward whether we want to or not. Standing still isn’t an option, it’s either backwards or forwards and if we’re lucky enough to have loving and patient family and friends, we’re gently moved forward but we do so with a broken heart and a mind filled with precious (and sometimes torturous) memories that make our progress difficult. With the grace of God we can do it without kicking and screaming and more with baby steps toward surrender. Not to say that I’ve come to that point, I’m definitely still kicking and screaming and nowhere near acceptance, but I also know that it will come with time and a whole ocean of grace. Right now I’m just getting use to that tight feeling on my cheeks because if I put moisturizer on every time I cried I’d go through a bottle a week and that gets expensive.
You, Bernadette and your family are often in my thoughts and my prayers. Love to all