Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March: The end of my Journey through my Valley

This may be coming early in the month, we still have a week of March left but I've always been one to be a little earlier than most...its a fear of turning out like my wonderful, but always about five minutes late, Aunt.

I'm sure that I'm going to get a disgruntled phone call about that later.

Its no secret that this month is terribly difficult for me, the looming cloud of unhappy memories and the fact that most people painstakingly avoid the subject of my mother in order to preserve my heart are both catalysts in re-opening old wounds. In the past they have been wounds that I've tried to hide, wounds that I may as well have scrubbed with a dirty sponge because my actions were causing them to fester and spread. As the years went on, I found that it was becomming easier to deal with and I didn't have to really hide anymore. I didn't have to feel shame, that these feelings were real and not methods to get attention; I was on a journey through that deep valley called Grief.

Now, I don't want to be a plagiarist; the metaphor I just used is credited to a wonderful writer (and fabulous actress too I may add) who I just recently discovered, Alexandra Silber. I've never met her, I don't know what her favourite color is, where she likes to shop, or what she does on her days when she is not involved with the theatre. I only know that she adores Murder, She Wrote (which is a clue that she's awesome in my book) and she is a fantastically talented woman...who also has suffered the loss of a parent. She wrote a wonderful, heartbreaking and heartfelt post about her father and about her own journey through the seemingly endless valley of grief.

Loosing your parent is not only earth shattering, its also a very lonely thing to have happen to someone. I was thirteen, and then I was victimized by a predator; so needless to say the years following my mother's death are not ones I wish to recount. I remember feeling very, very lonely; feeling like I was the only person in my world, that there was really nobody else who understood. I've confessed this before and have been chastized for it: "How could you think you're alone when you have all these people who care about you?!" It was as if they were saying "You're the one who makes yourself lonely." Not seeing that I was absolutely terrified of trusting anyone who was a male or talking about my feelings to a woman that may just say "Oh you're just trying to get attention." I don't want anyone to think that I am embittered, I'm not. I am simply providing some sort of explanation for why I felt the way I did because those of you reading this who haven't lost a parent really don't know what it's like. And no, loosing you're dog is not the same...yes, I've heard that too. I used to condemn those who hurt me, I used to not want anything to do with anyone because I was just...hurt. I was so immensely lost and sad, I had (still do to an extent) a very hard time trusting anyone about anything because of what else happened. I hope this doesn't sound like a "woe is me" sort of thing because those people really get on my nerves.

I'm going to pull a Kate Chopin and blatantly plagiarize another writer for the use of their incredibly wonderful metaphor, with the hopes that Miss Silber will not send the copyright monster down on my head. Just know that I was not the one who first came up with this metaphor. By the way, Kate Chopin did plagiarize...just read Madame Bovary and you'll see a remarkable resemblance to The Awakening. But I digress.

Grief is a deep, often dark valley that people are thrust into at least once in their lives; it's full of abyssal ravines, painful falls and winding roads that seemingly have no end. When you loose a parent, someone who was your whole world, who you depended on to always be there and give you advice...its like being thrust into this valley that you must now, on your own, find your way out of. Its something that is so foreign to a child: to find their way by themselves when they haven't had the proper teaching of how to do so. The child, after somewhat accepting that their parent is gone, begins the long journey through their Valley. They start at the bottom of one of those abyssal ravines, with nothing to help them but their own wounded mind and their will. Soon, the mind begins to heal; not completely but it becomes manageable. Like a gash on the arm or leg, it begins to close up and become mobile. The child can't get around like they used to yet, but in time they're able to at least make it out of the ravine.

Soon they begin to stand up and begin their long journey down the winding road out of their Valley, mind you there will be many pitfalls but now the child is on the road; in the Valley, one must see each step as a tiny victory. On their way down this road there are several milestones, like mile-markers or rest stops on Turnpikes and Parkways.

Along the way, the child has a fall. This fall could be anything: an anniversary, a birthday, a song or movie that reminds you of your sorrow, or even a smell. This fall is not as dark and abyssal as the ravine that they started out in, but it is a reminder that in the Valley, it is always important to remember that you must allow yourself to grieve. You must feel that pain because if you don't, if you try to cover it up and suppress it; it will eventually bubble over like a volcano that has lain dormant for hundreds of years. It will feel as though your loss happened yesterday, and you will experience that deep, painful sobbing that you experienced the day you lost them.

You must be allowed to grieve. That is what the rest-stops on the road are for: they are for the child to be allowed to remember, to determine what is a good memory and what is a bad, to be allowed to feel the pain and to realize that this pain is going to lessen. If they are denied that, their wounds will be left unattended and fester.

After a series of pitfalls, a few moments of getting lost and confused the child finally makes it: the end of the road and the exit out of their Valley. However, this is not a permanent exit; the Valley of Grief is one that the child will re-visit many times over their lives, and each time the way out will become easier and easier to find. Soon the Valley will become a sort of Mecca if you will; a place where one goes to recount what they've learned and how far they have come since their first visit here. They will be allowed to grieve, to cry and to long for their parent. This is not a setback, and there is no need to be concerned. The important thing to understand is that the pain will never completely disappear, and to be honest I don't think it would be good if it did. That would mean completely forgetting about those we lost, and I would rather die than to forget my mother.

Reader I have made this journey to my Valley several times since the death of my mother, and I do speak the truth when I say that it does become more of a place of recollection as the years go on. Do I still weep like I did eleven years ago? Of course I do. Is the pain sometimes so sharp that I can't breathe or think? Yes. Do I still get choked up about certain things and have to cry? Yes. But this is something that will always be, and I've accepted it. I've accepted, but not been consumed by it. A wave that crashes on the sand must eventually return to sea, taking with it the sediments and shells, but leaving behind new ones. The wave of grief crashes over you and takes away something, when my mother died she took with her something that I will never get back, but in the retracting waves I find that I've also gained something. What it is, I can't really explain; those who have lost a parent (I think) know what I mean.

It has taken years to reach this point, and to be honest, I still have much further to go. I'm content where I am right now, yes there are days where I wake up and I'm suddenly hit with this pang of loss and I can't think of anything but my mother and how much I miss her, but I accept them; I see them as a minor pitfall that I must find my way out of, that the Valley is calling me back for some reason and I must heed that call.

I urge you to read Alexandra's post, because she said it much better than I did; it seems strange to say this about a person that I have never met but I feel that she knows what I'm talking about. If she even reads this, if I'm priviledged enough to have her read this I want to say thank you for your gift and sharing it with me.

Dear reader, if you are in the midst of travelling through your Valley of Grief, whatever it may be, know that you are a beautiful being; know that you are not alone, that there is someone out there who cares for you; that you can and will make it, you just have to fight. You have to get your hands dirty, and maybe a little scraped up but you can make it out. Patience, Will, and Faith are the keys dear reader; those are the keys to the doors that will take you out of your Valley.