Exactly two years ago I lost my mother. And then, after a few weeks, I lost my younger sister. What I’ve learned is that time doesn’t heal all wounds as is commonly assumed. Time however lessens the pain of loss. Over time I’ve seen a shift in the way I grief. It’s not less hard, but a different kind of grief in which I mourn for both loss and acceptance. No wonder it took me more than a year to clean out my mother’s room and closet.
When I was around four years old I understood that things changed with the death of a first-degree relative. My mom, with the passing of her mother, started wearing only black. I remember her telling me that according to the church (she was a devout Catholic) the first year after death of a close relative, is referred to as deep mourning. Only all black or all white dresses were appropriate. Half mourning is the next period of six months of mourning. Black with white trim, or white with black trim, is considered the standard for dress. Light or second mourning, also lasting six months, is the final stage. Clothing is characterized by mild colors, including greys, mauves and other soft pastel colors.
As a child I noticed the colors, not her sadness. She was very brave as was most probably her mother when she went through the same hard times. I guess that’s why mothers are so special and loved. I also know now that no church or person can tell you how you should feel or how long you should mourn the loss of loved ones. I had the opportunity after the passing of my mother and sister to go on assignment in various Asian and Pacific countries. Being away from it all was therapeutic. For others who have had a loss, it may not have been.
You shouldn’t compare yourself with those whom you know have had a loss. The coworker who’s smiling at happy hour only a few weeks after his wife died? He may have been crying every day on the way to and from work. The family member who thinks that you should “move on” after a few months has no idea what this loss feels like, or what feels right for you. Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect to quickly recover. Be patient with those who don’t understand. At the end of the day I’d rather feel this pain than feel nothing.