My Mother's Memorial

Recently I had an opportunity to fulfill my mother’s wish to spread her ashes at sea.  It’s been a few years since she died; rather suddenly, at the age of only 72.  My husband and I planned a memorial trip to Savannah, GA, where we lived when I was a very little girl.  The last big family vacation we took, some time ago, was also to that coast, and I have fond memories of watching my children get to spend a week enjoying extended family.  So it seemed a fitting, symbolic place, to perform this last rite of my mother’s passage. 

I’ve been working with grief and loss professionally and personally for more than 25 years now.  Since it’s been some time since Mom’s death, I felt ready to take care of this, and was convinced I was prepared for the process.

So, I was caught off guard, and surprised by the level of emotional pain that this journey brought me.  This memorial, and scattering of ashes, wasn’t what triggered my grief as much as being actively in the headspace of thinking and processing memories of my mother. Initially my husband and I were prepared to spend a few days in Savannah afterwards, enjoying ourselves.  I found that I was unable to disconnect from the loss long enough to be able to casually sightsee through the beautiful city and ultimately, we cut our trip short and came home.

I hadn’t compartmentalized my grief when she died, but instead processed through the stages of grief.  She and I had a rather typical mother-daughter relationship.  And, I was in control of the memorial situation, having chosen the place and timeframe.  But still, grief came rolling into my heart and head like a two-ton truck, and I was bereft once again.

I remembered good times, and the painful ones.  I saw her face, and heard her voice, as clearly as I did the day she died.  I remembered little things, like watching up at her in awe, as she got ready for parties when I was just a girl, and how I believed it would be marvelous to grow up and be as beautiful as she was at that moment!  I treasured the memories of her support of me at the young age of 40, when I became a widow.  I reflected on the love written all over her face every time she held my twin sons, and became a grandmother for the first, and only time.  I spend several days dancing with my old friend, Grief, once again.

Once we have a loss, grief is with us, always.  Studies show that the strength of grief fades, but that our lives grow up and around it.  It doesn’t go away. We carry it through our new experiences. Grief can be a silent passenger, showing up when we least expect it.  As they say, we never really get ‘over’ a loss, we get ‘through’ the loss.  I believe that connection lives on, and that no true love is ever really lost.  My trip to Savannah allowed me to memorialize this amazing, creative, and unique woman who gave birth, and mothered me.  We even found a wonderful artist’s glass shop where we were able to have a handmade glass memorial with a few of Mom’s ashes swirled through the center—shining in angelic white through the colors of the sea.  I’ll have that memorial with me at home to remember her, and this trip, by.

I’m grateful for the closure I now have, after scattering my mother’s remains, at sea, as she requested.  I’m also grateful for the reminder that grief is a sacred space, and a beautiful, terrible, wonderful, journey.  As I work with grieving clients, I want to remain close to the memories of my own grief, so I always truly empathize with their story.

Sharing our grief, telling our stories, allowing the memories to come—this is how we will move through the experiences of our losses.

Scattering Mom’s ashes in the Atlantic.

Scattering Mom’s ashes in the Atlantic.

Mom’s memorial glass

Mom’s memorial glass

Before and After

When a traumatic event or change happens in our lives we tend to view our life path as ‘before’ and ‘after’ that event.  Our time is measured by the space up to the trauma and how we live after the trauma.

For a lot of people, the before and after defines who they are.  In a grief journey it is critical to our successful path that we reconcile who we now want ourselves to be, after the change.  We literally, if not consciously, have to rebuild the definition of who we are.  I was a wife.  I am now a widow.  I was a daughter.  I’m now an orphan. 

The journey of discovery can be brief or long.  It’s often dizzying and painful.  Ultimately though, it can be rewarding and strengthening.  But the real beauty in the journey can be found in the small space between the ‘before’ and ‘after’.  Here is the sweet spot of discovery.  Most importantly here is the place to set your intention for the life of your choosing in the ‘after’! 

When we are mired down in the fallout from the trauma, or loss, we may struggle to find ourselves, or we may stuff down the pain and push through our days; just trying to get through it all.  This is where we must be vigilant.  We must ask for help.  We must partner with those who are able to help us reframe our experiences from pain to growth.  And most of all, we must recognize that as we transition past the darkness into the light, we have an opportunity to reflect, learn, and move intentionally in the life we want to have. 

Who do you want to be after?  Where does your heart pull you?  When is your energy at its’ peak?  When your energy is high, and you feel jazzed, loved, and light, it’s a sign that you’re on the right path for you.  When we move into a space where our true values are matched with our actions, our authentic selves align with our experiences. 

Set your intentions as early as you’re able.  Sometimes your journaling will allow you to voice your desire, even before acting on it is possible.  But take the step!  Dream Your Dream!  As coaches, we see lives transform when clients set their intention, and we’re able to partner to find the steps toward the life they truly desire.

Before was then.  The past.  The place we were.  But the after is the dream.  Take steps in the sweet space between, to ensure you’re making the changes meaningful for you.

And as always, Tell your Story!