My year with grief

It’s been a year since my mom passed away. I can’t even believe it went so quickly. Losing your mom on another continent during a pandemic is insanity. Watching your mother’s funeral over WhatsApp in the middle of the night, because borders are closed. Trying to find empty corners to grieve and cry in a full house with your husband and 3 kids at home. Dealing with issues with the Will and the house she left behind from far away. Maybe it was good that we were all home, though. Maybe it kept me from sinking lower.

Grief has been an interesting beast. It is often riddled with confusing emotions. My mom and I had a tumultuous past. One filled with cross continental drama. Grief was not straightforward for me. It came with anger, resentment, regret, pity, disbelief, guilt, and sadness all at the same time in some moments. I didn’t announce to the world that my mom had passed. Only my closest friends and family knew. I didn’t post it online. I didn’t think I could handle the condolences. I didn’t want others dictating how I should feel. Sending me words of sympathy and telling me how wonderful my mom was, when I wasn’t feeling it then. Not to the level I THOUGHT I should. That’s where the guilt came in. I needed to be alone in this, I thought. Figure this thing out. Luckily, I had a couple people that knew I shouldn’t be left alone in this. I had help. I got coaching. I got facilitated in processing my thoughts, I got virtual support from my family and people I work with. My virtual village. My husband held me through it. My kids gave me hugs. I also cried alone in my closet a lot. 

And I started to see some light. I started to have more compassion for my mom. I started to have more compassion for me. I started to recognize my mom’s struggles, some of which I have. I am lucky, though, that I have the tools to push me through. I have a husband and kids that make it harder to give up. I have a coach. I have friends who are on the same journey of trying to improve, questioning their thoughts and living honest lives. I use the internet to my advantage and seek inspiration and motivation through it. (Not that it isn’t sometimes my downfall with Netflix and social media…) I’ve been able to see more clearly that I’m not better than my mom. Maybe I’ve been dealt a better hand. Maybe I’ve been lucky to stumble on the path I’m on. The path that helps me deal with my past and try to move on. The path that keeps pushing me to try harder, do better, AND be gentle on myself. Maybe my path isn’t even better. Just different.

Your relationship doesn’t end when someone leaves this earth. Ironically, it can get better… I have regrets about not getting to some revelations sooner, but nothing can be forced. It is what it is, and maybe it’s exactly the way it should be. My mom will always be a part of me. The great, the OK, and the ugly. Despite a roller coaster past, we never gave up. We tried to be a mother and a daughter with all the baggage that came with. It was often messy and painful, but we never walked away, we never called it quits. That, I can carry with me. When things get tough in life, if or when I hit turbulent waters with my family, I will not walk away. I will keep fighting. There were a lot of things I wish my mom did differently, but one thing was clear, she loved me and unconditionally. We all have different ways of showing love. Sometimes we want to receive it differently than it is given, but it still is love regardless.

When I’m giving love to my kids and my husband and my siblings and my dad and my step mom and my whole family that they may want presented differently, it’s still love. It’s messy, painful at times, but it’s a bond hopefully strong enough to help you stay in the fight. To not give up. 

I miss you, Mama. I won’t pretend things would be different or better if you were still around. I don’t know that. Maybe they would be. Maybe not. But I’m glad that I have the tools and support to get to a place where I can honor you and be thankful for you and miss you. 

To anyone out there, you are not alone if grief is confusing for you. Be gentle with yourself. You can’t force yourself to feel something you don’t. But with time and some work, I hope you can get to a place of peace and love for that person. A place of gratitude for the lessons that person has taught you and the gifts that person has given you.

xxx
Joanna Greaney, Great Parenting Simplified Coach

P.S. Please leave a comment below and tell me about your grief. Sharing and reading other people’s stories is how we heal together. If you ever need any support, you can book a free consult with one of our coaches, or email us at support@greatparentingsimplified.com

27 thoughts on “My year with grief

  1. This brought tears to my eyes Joanna. It’s powerfully written, and touches on a topic that hits so many of us. Grief is so often complicated. Thank you for sharing! xoxo

    1. Thank you, Jacqueline, for your continued support and encouragement to share my story. 🙂

  2. Joanna your strength and ability to work out issues have always been a feature I am jealous of. Your words are amazing and ability to see issues from every angle. I love you and your amazing heart. I have missed you this past year and am always here for what you need.
    I am thankful you have your rock mark in your corner

    1. Thank you, Kathleen! I love you, too, and know I can count on you! We will see each other soon. <3

  3. Joanna, I thank you for your vulnerability and the courage you have shown in posting such a beautiful expression of the last year of your life. Your words brought up very deep feelings and, yes, some years, related to my own complicated grief. I do think that through accepting ourselves, being gentle with ourselves, and exploring instead of making assumptions about what is conventionally “right” or “wrong” about something as personal as grief may be effective in helping us process and heal. I thought this was beautifully written.

    As you know, Joanna, I was given up for adoption at my birth. Like many adopted children, I always wondered about my birth mother, even though my mother was a wonderful mother. Approximately two years ago, through the magic of DNA testing and Facebook, I was able to connect with my birth mother. After 41 years, she found me. This was a huge gift, and I feel like it helped me get to know myself a little bit better and understand part of my past. I was so excited for the day that I might get a chance to meet her and really have a long conversation. It was hard to find the time, and she didn’t like to text. I thought that once Covid was finally over, we would have a chance to connect more deeply, but she passed away very rapidly and unexpectedly almost exactly 2 years after we had first connected. I felt very lonely in my grief for her. I was grieving for a person I had just come to know, and for my dreams of a future we would build together. It felt strange to grieve her so deeply when I hadn’t truly known her very well, and when I felt like I had to compare my grief to the grief that her sister, brother, nieces and nephew were feeling. But my grief was genuine. It was hard to grieve with my parents. Although they are my parents in every single way, she was still the person that gave birth to me. I didn’t know how to explain how deeply saddened I was when she passed away. I was afraid to hurt my mother, but I also gave them the chance to be there for me and told them what had happened. They showed up and supported me, but it has only been a couple of months, and with Mother’s Day just a few days past, it’s been on my mind. While I am so grateful that we had some time together, I am so saddened about the circumstances of her death and this loss.

    I respect the way you grieved for your mother in a way that was supportive and kind to yourself. It inspires me to kindly confront and get curious about my own grief. Thank you, Joanna. I hope you continue to find comfort and peace. Hugs!

    1. Thank you so much for commenting and responding in such a vulnerable way! I am here for you in this process of grieving whichever way you need. There is no right way. And I know your situation is a little different, but your grief is just as valid! We don’t just grieve the person. We grieve the relationship that could have been, the future we thought we had. All of it. Big hugs! <3

    2. Chiara, thank you for sharing so openly as well. I can imagine how unique and painful your grief would be. With her passing, you faced the loss of the dream of you two interacting in the future, physically. Your grief is quite complicated too, by the fact that you have parents who loved and raised you. My brother was adopted, although he died at 20 and never met his birth parents. I was sensitized by being his sister to how mixed feelings can be about not having met your birth mother.

      Much love to you Chiara while you walk alongside Joanna and so many others in your grief. The work you are doing is sacred. Sharing your experience is a gift. xoxxo

  4. Oh Joanna, separated by oceans, but so incredibly connected. I feel your love, pain, compassion, warmth and more. My grief has come nearly 3 years after my mum died. Sudden, shocking but much needed. It’s given me the gift of knowing that I did actually love her, which is as sad as it is wonderful. I miss her. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s like the universe knew I needed to read your wonderful words. Much love to you xxx

    1. So much love to you, too, Kelly! I’m so glad my words could help a little. Separated by oceans, but so connected. So powerful that you are discovering that you did love her despite it all… Hang in there in your grief journey! I’ll be there with you in my thoughts. <3

  5. This is so beautiful Joanna. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your journey. It brought up so many feelings for me.
    What you said about not announcing it because you couldn’t handle the condolences really hit home for me. When we lost our daughter in a full term stillbirth 10 years ago we did announce it because we felt we had no choice. So many people knew me as pregnant and there I was not pregnant with no baby. The hardest part was bumping into well meaning people who either didn’t know or didn’t know what to say. I hid for months, terrified to leave the house for fear of seeing someone I knew. Going back to work felt like I was being tortured. I only learned how to grieve in a “healthier” way years later.
    Thanks for creating the safety to share! Huge hugs!

    1. Oh wow, Larissa. I had no idea. So hard to navigate a situation where you feel forced to explain when it’s the last thing you want to do. And to lose a baby in full term stillbirth. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. And I’m glad you finally got to a place of grieving in a way that was more nurturing for you. Huge hugs!

  6. Joanna,
    Your grief post was beautiful in a raw, inspiring, and transparent way. You have helped me think of some things differently and by doing so you have opened up some possibilities in my mind and heart. Thank you. I wish you peace and the continued development of the grace you showed in your post.

    1. Thank you so much. I’m so glad I could open up some other ways of thinking for you. Wish you all the best!

  7. So much thanks for this — your healing, your story, your journey and the clarity that includes the messiness. It helps us all, along with the tools and skills of GPS.

  8. Joanna thank you for sharing your grief, sending hugs & much gratitude for your wisdom & insight gleaned after this emotional year.

  9. Joanna, thank you for sharing the story of your experience since your Mother’s passing. I’m so sorry it had to happen in a year when so much of our normal activity was restricted – as you said, insanity. It’s good to know that you had the support and the tools you needed to handle it. You are a blessing to this community. Thank you for all that you do. Sending you warm healing thoughts and love.

    1. Thank you Kendra! It’s an honor to serve this community and it lifts me up, too!

  10. You are a beautiful soul Joanna! Thank you for being so vulnerable, transparent and strong enough to share. You’ve shown me that Grieving comes in many forms for different circumstances and you’ve made me reflect on my own personal journey. 💚

  11. Beautiful and poignant sharing Joanna! I can feel the love and compassion for yourself and your loved ones as I read it. Thank you for sharing your authentic, vulnerable story. So glad to be on this growth journey with you! ❤️

  12. So many inspiring lessons in your words, Joanna! The idea that a relationship doesn’t end even when one of the people leaves this earth and that we can keep healing even after that fact is so powerful. Thank you for sharing your story and your insights. You are a brave and beautiful woman!

    1. Thank you, Maureen! I’m glad it spoke to you! I’m in good company with brave and beautiful women here. 😉

  13. Dear Joanna,

    I was so moved by your post; how clearly you identified the complexity of grieving those in our lives with whom we had complex relationships.

    For me it brought up the death of my Mom 18 years ago. I watched and grieved her 10 year descent into Alzheimer’s, I was constantly asking “Where is she”, “Does she know me anymore?”. My children watched this process as well and I watched them. They grew in empathy and compassion and they seemed to get that you love people no matter what. They didn’t have the mixed feelings that I had. She was their Grandma. I had, like so many of us do, a complicated relationship with her. I know that she loved me deeply and wanted the best for me. But we were never able to get genuinely close. There was little I could disclose to her about my life because I believed it would upset her and for some reason I found that unbearable. So I didn’t disclose and probably I missed out on some support that she might have been able to offer. I actually harbored strong resentment that I couldn’t talk to her about my own struggles. (It would be interesting to do The Work on this). Several years ago I was on a Retreat. We were told to bring objects that were significant to us. I brought a photo book that had many pictures of my parents from before I was born. Being in a fairly deep meditative state, as I looked at the pictures I had a sudden flash of my mother as a seven year old, fleeing her burning village, running through the woods. I knew that this was fact, but the oddest thing was that in my vision I saw inside my mother and she had a tiny little fetus – and it was me, waiting to be born 30 years later. After that image I was flooded with compassion for her and did a major shift into absolute forgiveness for whatever I felt she had done “badly”. Much to my amazement that forgiveness has held. This past year, on her birthday, as I was going to bed, the moonlight came through my window and landed on a photo of her I have on my dresser. I looked at it and my eyes filled with tears. Spontaneously I said out loud, “Mom, I never really knew you. I’m sorry”. So yes the grieving process is complex and seems to go on for years. And hopefully we get to a place of total peace. Thank you so much for your beautiful, heartfelt post, and to everyone else who has shared on here.

    1. Thank you, Judy, for sharing your grieving journey. So powerful to know that you can still have profound moments of healing many years after. I know I still have a ways to go, and this gives me hope. I so appreciate learning about your experience. There is so much healing in being heard and hearing other people’s stories! Big hugs.

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