As many of you may know, after a long illness, my Mom has gone to heaven. I am now in the biggest fight of my life, surviving grief. This pain is different than when I lost my grandparents and father. This pain is deeper because I’m older and had resided with Mom since my divorce over 30 years ago when my daughter was a year old. She was the quintessential matriarch; an extremely smart, fair, dedicated woman who loved us deeply with the type of tough love to help us sustain life’s toughest battles with dignity and intelligence. An educator for 46 years, we shared her with many. She continued to encourage others even as her health steadily declined. From nurses to ambulance drivers, she had a good word for all with direct honesty. Her dry wit gave many a laugh during a night at revival, a teacher’s meeting, in the choir from the piano, or whenever she felt like shocking you.
We often disagreed. After losing the battle so many times, I realized she was right most of the time. I learned so much from her. Even her style. She often said she didn’t have any, all the while exhibiting it through her beautiful church hats. She would often tell me to walk with my head held high and with my shoulders back. She taught me to put on the proper foundations to stop all the jiggling. Most of all, insisted that I be a lady. More importantly, she demonstrated to me how to be your own person.
In this grief dome, our home doesn’t feel like home without her. I wake up at the same time in the middle of the night hearing the bell she would ring when she needed me. Some days, I can do a few chores with energy. Five minutes later, I’m in the middle of the floor crying hysterically. I talk to her constantly. I suffer flashbacks. I can’t sleep, or eat. Then, I overeat. Everything is a “first.”Going to the grocer, the dentist office, even sitting in my seat behind Mom’s seat in church. The void is deafening. I envision her sitting on a cloud wondering how I’m going to survive. She would often asked me how I would survive. I assured her that I’d be alright if and when the time came. The time is here and I have no idea what I’m going to do. Janet’s been here before, but grief has its own agenda. I can only follow it.
Sharing through the “Gripression”
My agenda when I share these stories is to inspire and empower those who have been or will be in the same situation eventually. I write to help all of us learn a lesson of life. Grieving is hard and painful but necessary in order to move forward. In order to do that, I hear my Mom tell me to get up and get going. I know she wouldn’t be pleased with this “Gripression” (Grief and Depression), and she would tell me so. I’d get insulted and hasten to prove she was wrong. I admit that the only thing that would get under my skin was my Mom’s critique. I still craved her approval. Surprisingly, this memory is my motivation to cherish my time with her, but it is also spurs me into living again.
The first signs of lessening the “Gripression” was finally being able to take the sympathy cards down from the mantle without screaming. Instead, I took them down to save them in her memory. Another action was to write thank you notes personally in my own words to everyone that had sent a memento, a donation, a flower. I also sent copies of her obituary, as requested, and to some of her friends that couldn’t make the ceremony.
This entry of Hipping Through Life is monumental; it is the 10th entry into a series of personal empowerment that just kept growing. In my growth and struggle, I was reminded by my Mentor some very special words from one of my first entries, they were: “…if we have to encourage ourselves…then we must continue.” He’s right! I’m fighting in memory of my Mom, her legacy and hopefully my legacy, so I must continue being the best I can be by sharing, caring, loving, praying, laughing, crying, and most of all, living the best life I can. So, in celebration of this milestone and my Mom, I choose to grieve by living. I choose to survive. I choose to do it like she taught me. I personally think that changes grief’s original agenda, don’t you?
[Janet E. Blakemore is a former full-figure model, former director of a modeling school, retiree from TN State Government, and an awesome, vibrant spirit of a person. In addition to writing, Janet is an entrepreneur who enjoys retail therapy, being a Tennessee State University alum, and time with her adult daughter and extended family. ]