By: Nicole Collaço
March 20th marked the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. Due to COVID-19, we weren’t able to host a wake for my mother on the day of her funeral last year, let alone have more than nine people attend due to restrictions at the time. I hoped that one year later restrictions would have been removed; however, we are still in lockdown 3 and isolated from each other.
It’s hard to explain exactly what it is like, going through losing your mother, but I think a year on I am able to say four areas that have been really important in getting me through. These include self-reflection, patience with myself and my emotions, committing to improving my mental and physical wellbeing, and connecting with supportive people. Check out my previous blogs for more information on exploring my grieving process and what I learned: A commitment to my mental wellbeing, Goodbye 2020…Welcome 2021, Navigating other peoples’ responses to the loss of a loved one, Exploring grief through creative arts. It feels surreal that a year has passed already. So much has changed for me personally and on a global level which has made for some challenging times. A year later, I still feel sadness, loneliness, and anxiety, but I don’t feel these emotions to the same intensity as I had done initially after my mother passed away. It’s still the same pattern, that some days are better than others but these feelings are still there, lingering. When my mum had passed away, my feelings were centered around “how can I live without her?” Now, instead of wondering how to live without her, I get anxious about forgetting her, the happy memories with her, her mannerisms, her wit, her charms. Watching family videos of her definitely helps keep that memory alive within my mind, but it’s still very emotional and triggering.
Reflecting on my life one year on, I have come to a better understanding that grief comes in waves, there’s no constant in the emotions I feel, it’s always changing. I find that there are some days where I really have to work hard on finding ways to feel more balanced, more calmness and learn to live with and adjust to the loss. I am consciously aware of my emotional processing, and over time I am learning to be more patient with myself, and therefore allowing myself to feel all the emotions within me and not judging myself for how I cope.
I think one of the most important things I learned was putting more time into my mental and physical health. Experiencing grief made me feel so out of balance, it felt like I was experiencing a see-saw of emotions continuously and that took a toll on my physical body as well. With grief and lockdowns, I noticed I was emotionally eating a lot! So, finding a routine that worked best for me regarding eating well/healthily, exercising, getting a good amount of sleep, being more creative was all important in helping me find that balance. It isn’t easy to maintain this routine, and I definitely experienced moments where I scrapped the balanced routine for a packet (or two…three!) of chocolate chip cookies!
Another lesson I’ve learned is to keep connections with people who you know are supportive. I did so much inward reflection and grieving but particular family members and friends can really help us process and express some of our thinking and feelings about loss. I had to learn to be more open with sharing my thoughts and feelings with the people I trusted and know would listen to me wholeheartedly. Reaching out helped me keep connected and uplifted.
I’m learning to process the changes to my life without my mother- I can’t call her up to ask what ingredient to put in that recipe, or watch romcom Netflix shows with her, she won’t be at my wedding or see her grandchildren and that’s so incredibly painful to accept, but I’m trying to find ways of coping in those moments of realisations about life moving forward. Remember that grief is different for us all, you don’t need to feel pressure to feel any particular way in any length of time, but I do hope that in time you find the waves of grief easier to navigate.