This is what grief looks like. For the few months I have found myself emerged in a flood of memories. I have been sorting pictures that we quickly threw into albums while we were trying to move out of my mom’s house seven years ago. Everything was out of order but safe in about 40 albums that my mother-in-law had put together and stored to make sure my memories were preserved. While I was in bed post hip surgery this spring, I decided it was time to sort through them and put them in some sense of order. I have laughed, cried, been angry, and at peace as I put some of this all back together. I feel like I learn something new each time I open another album that has pictures of my parents honeymoon in the 70s mixed with me pictures from the mid 90s of elementary school. I’m thankful that many of these pictures show happy people with smiles on their faces and having fun, even though that wasn’t always our actual reality. With each page, I relive memories of me with my parents, crazy cousins, and loved extended family members. I also see memories of before I was born of times that to me seemed simpler and more fun. Who would have thought pictures would have brought so many memories? This is what grief looks like.
The past two weeks, my husband and I have been trying to clean out a storage unit, the only one left of the four we had seven years ago. It has become expensive and we’re trying to save some money while trying to treasure some of the few memories that we have left. I spent Father’s Day weekend sorting baseball cards, probably around 1,000 of them, just from 1995. Through this process I was able to have a good conversation with one of my cousins and touch some of my dad’s most treasured possessions. Although I won’t be keeping but a few of them, I spent seven hours sharing my dad’s passion with him, even though he wasn’t sitting next to me. This is what grief looks like.
Yesterday, we were finishing moving some of the furniture that we had planned on keeping from my Mom’s house to the new storage unit. As we were loading up round two to finish our day and be done with moving furniture, we brought a piece out into the light that we hadn’t seen out of the wrapped blankets since it was still sitting in my house. We noticed gauges in the wood, red ink and water stains that would not have happened while in my mother’s control, and all of the edges were roughed up. This damage did not happen from us. The damage was done when it was out of our control. I was sick to my stomach. I had held onto this one last big piece to hopefully fill our future house with the spirit of those who had gone before us, and now it was damaged to the point that was too expensive to fix. We got it moved and we’ll have to decide what to do with it at a later date, because even as I’m writing this I’m still devastated. This is what grief looks like.
Almost eight years since my mother’s passing, and around seven since my life became run by storage units, these things still bother me. My whole childhood existence has been weeded down from four 10×15 storage units, to one 10X10 with some of my most prized possessions being housed safely in a closet at my in laws house. I have looked into hollow spaces of where my life used to sit. The first one, my mom’s house, then four empty storage units after that. Now, we’re about to peer into another one by next week. Grief is more than just the loss of a person. Grief is the loss of a relationship, the loss of memories, the loss of your identity, and for me, also the loss of my home. In one instant, everything changes. You go from a daughter taking care of her mother to a college student with no one to depend on but herself. Grief can have its moments of taking it’s toll on us. Last night, all I could do after my slight mental breakdown about my furniture was sit on the couch and watch a movie while eating a meal I didn’t have to cook. Grief is hard. Grief is messy. Grief doesn’t go away. This is what grief looks like.