Good Grief: A Reflection

It’s been just about 4 months since my mom has left this world. There are times it feels like yesterday, and there are times it feels like it happened 4 years ago.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the cruel, cold winter that we all pulled out from here in the Northeast. My situation aside, it was pretty horrendous, right? I felt the need to validate this with my friend Michelle, recently, because I couldn’t tell if I was feeling the winter more extremely, given my life situation, or if it really just was extraordinarily brutal and tundra-like.

The weather was such a telling backdrop for everything that went on with my mom’s illness and ultimate death. She died in the “winter of her life” during her birth month of February, and in bone-chillingly cold temperatures. What sticks out most in my mind are the height of those snow heaps and the drabness of the colors – everything was gray, white. Everything. The outside of the hospital, the inside of hospital corridors and rooms. Even my poor mother was gray.

Dullness. Everywhere.

I remember longing for color. And longing so desperately for Spring.   I remember knowing that the only guarantee I did have throughout my family’s ordeal was that Spring would eventually come. It helped to pull me through a bit. But what was tough to handle was that my mom would not flourish along with the buds on the tips of those tall trees outside her hospital window.

I have a very vivid recollection of the Friday before her passing. It’s when she was starting to transition into a semi-conscious state in late February. As I paced the corridor outside of the Intensive Care Unit, where she was being cared for, I remember looking outside the panoramic hospital windows to see the air a deep, dark gray — thick and foggy. It was the frame story to what was happening inside the gray hospital room. Knowing all too well that this was symbolic, I didn’t want to cooperate with what this symbol ultimately meant, yet I couldn’t deny its power and presence.

Grayness, uncertainty, transition seemed to consume us. And all I wanted was color.

I wanted to be sent a rainbow – as cheesy as it sounds, in some of the most trying times in my life, God has sent me a rainbow to assure me that “everything was going to be alright.” And it always was. But there were no rainbows to be found in late February.

The morning of my mom’s passing was in stark contrast to the preceding days — a vivid blue sky with gleaming sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky. And I remember feeling a sense of peace. And so darn relieved to see color and the sun again. And to feel the warmth of its glow on my face.

Fast-forward a bit.

Mother’s Day came and went. Many of you sent compassionate messages and support via my social media channels. My close friends and families, former colleagues (and even folks I don’t know so well) kept me close in thought.

“I know how tough a day today will be for you – hang in there” – was the general sentiment bestowed upon me. And I appreciated it immensely and was surprised as to just how many people in my universe felt compelled to reach out or at the very least, share that they were thinking of me on that day.

But to be completely honest with you, Mother’s Day for me was no different than last Tuesday. Or four Wednesdays ago. Or next Friday.

Because whether it’s Mother’s Day, Christmas Day, Tuesday or Friday, my mom is still gone. And frankly, it sucks, no matter if there is a Hallmark holiday attached to it or not.

It’s. Just. Really. F-ing. Hard.

I’m not all that interested in reading books on managing my grief or attending any sort of programs, etc. I have many “healers” in my life who are helping me through. And I much rather cozy up to Rob Lowe’s latest memoir before bed than Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ advice for me.

And I’m told that that’s “ok.”

There are things that ease the hurt and mend the holes via the signs my mom seems to send: a random $10 bill in the pocket of my jeans. A photo of the two of us prominently sticking out from a stack. A grocery clerk’s offer to help me in the self-check out line when my son was going completely bonkers. And many, many more.

Others may see these as isolated incidents or as “coincidences” but I see them as “guideposts” that she’s ok and that she’s still looking after me, specifically. She comes to my dad in other ways and my brother is so preoccupied with his delicious newborn son that I haven’t stopped to ask him how mom comes to him. But I’m certain she does.

And so here we are. It’s almost Summer. The Spring came – as expected – but even the Spring took its sweet time this season. I’ve been drinking in the colorful hues of blooming rhododendrons; delicate dogwood leaves gracing branches, magnificent azaleas. Just taking them all in. So happy to have my painted toes in my punch-colored Havaianas and have even whipped out the self-tanner to give myself a little color.

Living colorfully for my mom, for my family, for myself.

Good grief…what else can one POSSIBLY do after such a horrendous winter?

Brightly Colored Flowers


6 thoughts on “Good Grief: A Reflection

  1. Oh Lisa, your reflection here is beautiful. I lost my mom 13 years ago and it seems like yesterday sometimes. I love signs just as you experience. Here’s to our moms for keeping in touch in such meaningful ways! xo Lorette

  2. So well said! It’s going to be 2 years that my mom passed and she also pops up at various times! Miss her everyday! You’re mom was also a treasure and is missed by many!

  3. Lisa I can’t begin to tell you how much I love reading your beautiful words. It helps me stay close to my dear friend Kathy by being touched by one of the most important people in her life, her daughter. I think of you all often. Love, Lucy

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Love your post! I have been really missing your mom too, especially the past few days. Would give anything to have been working alongside her today.

  5. Lisa,
    The loss of your Mom has stolen a little color out of everyone that knew her’s world. She, herself, was like a rainbow. That wonderful, colorful rainbow after a rainstorm, always bringing a smile to your face. I find myself glancing at every gold minivan, her signature vehicle, only to be hit with the reality that it won’t be her driving it. I used to see her getting out of her car every morning at Lincoln from my kitchen window, with her bags of goodies, ready to start a new day of making children smile.
    When my dad passed, I received many signs that her was around. Dreams of him calling me, even though I knew in the dream he was gone. A feeling that someone was standing beside me at the sink a few times. I went to a fortune teller, who told me my Dad was coming to me because he couldn’t get through to my Mom. She was too upset, and that prevented him from reaching her. The first Thanksgiving without him, a month after he passed, my Mom’s oven broke, with the uncooked turkey inside…which we didn’t realize until we went to take it out…my Dad would have wanted to be there, and he was letting us know it. Believe in those signs, I know your Mom would want to let you know she is okay, and that you will be, too.

  6. Dearest Lisa,

    Your mom just came to me through you. I too find it surreal that the spring has bloomed, and our beloved Kathy Dee is not physically present. I’ve find myself looking over to her house wanting to see how she decorated for the season as I’ve always done with evey season of every year. I know that she’s come to Erica and I in special times of need. Just a few days ago while getting my spare room ready for a visit from my sister-in-law, I came across a random memory box with items from Erica’s younger years. Erica had been experiencing the sting from just being a 15 year old girl and trying to stay clear of meanness. In this box was a white paper bag with an old candy kiss, a tissue, a button, a bandaid, and pictures of a peppermint candy and a lifesaver. Attached to the bag was a comforting message from your mom to her second grade students. The message was about how to use each item with compassion and care for yourself and others. The lesson still applied at 15 and even for me at 53.

    Later on I ran into one of your mom’s colleagues, Lauren, and recounted my find telling her how Kathy was still helping us through life in her ever special way. Lauren and I both agreed that that I just received a special visit. At that very moment a tingling sensation ran through body in confirmation. How very special I thought as I realized that she had family who needed her to be with them…..but then I remembered that Kathy always found time for all of us and her family here on earth. I’d amusingly call this talent if hers “the magic of Kathy D.” Her magic still exists….thank you for sharing such a special person with us Lisa. You write so beautifully and from the heart when you share. Her magic exists through you.

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