As a mama, you know there is no time to slow down. To stop and smell the roses can exist, but it hardly ever exists alone when you have little ones. For the most part, this time of little or no privacy is part of the parenting package. And even though it is chaotic at (most) times, there are bursts of sheer gratitude on a continual basis that make it all worth while. I often find myself just thanking God for the gifts I have been given that surround me every day; my children.
But when a mama loses her own parents, it hurts so bad and it is a loss that is internalized a great deal for the sake of their children. A mama can’t crawl into a ball and sleep all day. A mama can’t go out and take load off with drinks with friends either.
A mama is a mama, in every moment.
As you may know, I lost my mama, Grandma MOE. Today marks three years. I feel like it was yesterday. My parents created joy in every day. They taught me how to celebrate life in every sense of the word.
At the beginning, I found it very hard to celebrate anything after they passed. Even though I still had so much to celebrate. I knew that my parents, especially my mother, celebrated every single thing (birthdays, real holidays, hokey holidays, celebrations for every milestone) even though they, too, had many losses. My mother lost her mother around the same time I lost her. And still, she celebrated everything for us with a big smile on her face. As a child to young adult, I loved how my mother celebrated life in every way. But now as a mama, who has lost like her, I can only feel deep gratitude and enormous admiration.
Sadly, I have met many young parents like myself who have lost their parent(s) as well. It’s not an easy cross to bear and while it may be something we know will happen one day, it is still hard to deal with and very difficult to express to young children. So how do we continue for ourselves and our children in a way that can help, inspire and celebrate what is our new reality?
Here are some ideas to help celebrate during loss and grief. Please keep in mind, these are simply examples that have helped me deal with my losses. I am by no means a psychologist or grief counsellor. I am simply a mama dealing with this the best way I can. And on that note, I would highly encourage anyone going through a loss to seek out some form of grief counseling, as little or as much as needed.
Talk: it seems simple, but the reality is, it might be the hardest thing to do. When you have your kids running the roost from sun-up to sun-down, at the end of the day, you just want to stay silent and not express one single thought. And while that is good, and actually just as important, talking can help get some feelings to the surface for you and your partner (who may not have a clue what it feels like on your side).
Print out pictures and make an album together with your family: this may take time, and it really depends on the relationship you had with the person you lost, but pulling out pictures of good memories gives you a connection. A picture really is worth a thousand words, so when the person you love is missing, a picture can be a form of a conversation. Truthfully, I have not done much of this yet. It takes time, and it is difficult to remember, but I know it is something I want to do very soon. I printed a picture of Grandma MOE for my boys to have by their bed right away and it was a comfort to them.
Watch family videos: a simple and profound joy I shared with my children was showing them my husband and my wedding video. Not only was it fun to show them Mama and Papa all dressed up, but they got to see my parents and grandparents, who have all passed away. They loved watching Grandma MOE so happy and it was the very first time they heard the voice of my father. I took that for granted, but they pointed it out because it touched them. As hard as this may be, you will be surprised how good it makes you feel as well.
Cook / bake their favourites: I was only able to do this this past Christmas, but when I did (after shedding many tears) I was grateful and proud. Passing on special recipes and tastes from my childhood to my boys is something I am more than happy to do. And as anyone who has tried to replicate a family recipe knows, it will never truly taste like you remember, but it is so worth trying, as a way of keeping their memory alive.
Double up: Keeping on the cooking and baking theme, if you are in the kitchen and have the energy to get a meal done, do yourself a favour and double up the recipes. Freeze the second batch. There will be days that you will not want to cook or bake at all. Many days, actually. And you still have little mouths to feed. So for the sake of your kids (and your wallet because takeout can get expensive), try and double up on the times you can.
Sleep: I know this seems obvious. Or maybe it seems ridiculous. But sleep does help. When my father passed away, I could not control my need to sleep. And when my mother passed away, I knew my family in-laws where here with my husband and children, so I took off and slept a lot at the very beginning. I felt guilty, but realize now, my body needed to rest from the trauma of loss. I wish I could say I still follow this great and powerful advice, but most times, I don’t.
Read / watch before bed: Yes, I know, the news it out how watching something before bed is not good for your health. But I will tell you why I do it and how it might help you. Sometimes, my pain of loss is too great. And if I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, my mind wonders to my losses and it hurts very much. So, to relieve myself, I watch some fluff before falling asleep. What you watch is up to you, but for me, something a little mindless works.
Pray: the power of prayer is real. My faith helped me in ways I cannot even describe. Praying is a way of having your moment of silence with those you have lost. I truly believe my parents listen when I pray and I know they guide me as well. My faith also tells me my parents are with God now and I know they are at peace. Having this belief helps me as a daughter, but also as a parent to my boys. We talk a great deal (whenever they want to) about Grandma MOE. Our faith helps them feel comforted with our loss.
Honour: In small ways, I honor my parents continually. Whether it is a meal, a story, a gesture, or a memento, all are ways of keeping their memory alive. In every holiday, I include them. They made me who I am today, and I will forever be grateful to them for instilling the values I have now, that I pass on to my boys. So we will celebrate. We will celebrate it all. Because that’s what they did and that’s what they would want for us.
I hope this helps you deal with your loss, as it has helped me. It’s not easy to continue without those you love, but these little ideas might make it a little more bearable.