Sunday, October 01, 2017

Grieving takes time

By Karen Galarpe

Today, we went to the wake for the mother of a college friend, and I was struck by what my friend said. "Nu'ng nagpo-post ka tungkol sa Mommy mo, naisip ko nu'n, 'Kaya ko kaya pag dumating na sa point na 'yon?' Tapos ngayon, eto na."

It's been two and a half years since my mom passed away. Still, I think of her every day. I remember her when I see the flowers in the garden, and the near empty ref (my mom always shopped at the supermarket so our ref was always full). I think of her when I put night cream on my face -- her brand was more expensive -- and when I see her black and white photo in my dad's room. In that photo, she was smiling so warmly looking down at someone -- who turned out to be me as a baby.

In short, I still think of her, and I don't want to stop thinking about her.

The thought came to mind that God chose our mothers well. He picked the best mothers  for everyone. And I thank God for choosing my mom for me.

Six months after my mom passed away, I wrote the following on my Facebook wall. I read it again today and thought it may be somehow helpful to my college friend and all those who are grieving.

Here goes...

Last night, I had a dream wherein I hugged my mom. I can't remember now the context of that dream but I do remember the hug. :) And that's enough to put a smile on my face, and soothe my grieving heart.

It's been six months since my mom passed away, and someone just asked me last week, how are you coping with your grief?

Here's how:

1. I allow myself to grieve. Let go. There were -- and will be -- moments when I suddenly get reminded of my mom by the simplest of things: an empty Olay bottle, a J. Co donut, the Recipes restaurant sign, a pretty shawl. So I allow myself time to remember her and cry when I need to cry.

2. Daily, I ask God to tell my mom I love her, to hold her hand, and hug her for me.

3. I put a stop to the "If onlys." "If only I spent more time with her," "if only I made it to the hospital in time," "if only I took a leave from work." I can't bring back time so it's useless to dwell on the "if onlys."

4. I think about the times we've shared to replace the "If onlys." Times we went to the salon together, the times she would carry my son when he was still a baby, the times we would ride the Love Bus going to Cubao to shop for clothes when I was small, etc. And be thankful for those times.

5. Most importantly, I rely on God to see me through. The first two months were hard, and especially the first two weeks, but when you just ask God to sustain you each day, He does so. There were days when the most I could utter in prayer were: "Help me. Heal me. Comfort me." And He does. "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed." (Psalm 34:18)

When my mom died, someone told me to be strong. I didn't want to be strong. And I don't have the capacity to be strong. Nakakapagod yon. But I've found that He gives enough strength to see me through each day.

6. I remind myself to allow time for healing. It was only two months after my mom died when I realized I stopped writing for six months. That was when my mom's health became more fragile and she started talking about dying.

Now for a writer, six months of no writing is like six months of not existing. Two months after my mom died, I started writing again, and once again experienced the exhilarating joy of finishing a personal essay or a feature story. My life coach asked me, "So what does that mean?" I replied, "I've started to heal."

A few months ago too, when I was contemplating on my career's future, my boss told me to my face, "You're grieving!" It was a sharp reminder to hold off making major decisions while my grief was still raw and fresh.

7. I stepped out only when I felt ready. I didn't want to go out much after my mom died. I had no energy after work, and just wanted peace and quiet. And so I was honest enough to tell friends who have been inviting me to events and parties and reunions that I just needed space. And I'm grateful they understood.

8. I remember that I don't have to grieve like others do. A few months ago, someone asked me at what stage of grieving I was in already -- denial, anger, acceptance? I said I'm not conscious of the process; I just allow myself to be.

9. I express myself. And this is why I post status messages like this. :) Or why I post photos of things that remind me of my mom. Or why I document our Sunday bonding moments at the cemetery. A friend told me months ago, "I see that you're still grieving based on your FB posts." Yes, I am, and this is me. I can't hurry up my grieving or pretend it's not there. You can always hide me from your wall if you'd rather not see what I post. :)

10. I share and reach out to someone. Only this year have I learned that there are people around me who have been carrying their grief or have not allowed themselves time to grieve for years. YEARS! Madugo yan. And so I take the time to listen, hold their hand, share what I've learned.

Grieve if you must grieve. It's the first step to healing.

(September 13, 2015 Facebook post)

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm in the last chapter already of "Work Worth Doing Well" by Dr. Grace Koo (published by Church Strengthening Ministry, 2017). It's a good read and helps one take a look at his/her work -- does it make sense? Are you bored? Stressed? Are you happy? Healthy? Is it honest work? Dr Koo, with her educational psychology background, delves into the issue of work and gives expert tips to help one find meaning in one's work. It's worth reading!

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us." Psalm 90:17