Jingle bells Gentle Reader! I hope this finds you well and planning lots of healthy self-care for this holiday season. Today I’m going to share some of my own quiet griefs so you know that if a sneaky grief attack hits you this year that you are not alone.
As I have shared in the past, my mother has Alzheimers. This looks and feels different for everyone and we are fortunate that even as the disease progresses my mother still knows where she is and who her children are. Not everyone is so fortunate, as names of family may be one of the first sets of information to be lost to this terminal disease.
When I speak to my mother on the phone she is still happy to hear my voice, but our conversations become shorter and shorter every time, and there is a note of fear sometimes in her voice if we talk about something she no longer has ‘the information’ for. This happened one weekend mid-year when I made a joke about her coming down to sit on the ride-on lawnmower to enjoy the nice Tasmanian weather. Although she laughed and said “Yes, yes, right” I could hear in her voice the fear of not understanding the sentence I had just said. And I realised that she no longer knows what a ‘lawnmower’ is.
Another piece of my mother’s identity and self had slipped away, but this time I got to witness it. I am both sorry for her fear as she recognises gaps in her grasp of the world around her, and for my own understanding that all I had hoped to gain from my relationship with my mother slips further and further away…
It has been a long three years with COVID, and as often as I write or teach about the lowered resiliency we all have, the ongoing tiredness and baseline numbness, I have to remind myself that all this applies to me, too.
I, too, grieve the little losses around me – My mother’s cognitive decline as Alzheimers tightens it’s grip on her capacity to navigate the world in a way that is coherent;
The businesses that didn’t survive the necessary shut-downs for public health reasons so I cannot go there to make new memories;
The toll that weariness and loneliness has taken on relationships – both mine and those of the people around me;
Touch, because like many of us I have incredible skin hunger and often no way to assuage it;
The mental health toll of ongoing uncertainty that is part and parcel of living through a pandemic;
The amplification of grief triggers and anniversaries; some days I feel as though the tears won’t stop.
Of course, we are now at the end of the western calendar year, and this is a time of year that carries it’s own set of expectations, emotional baggage, and wishes for that which was not – and all too often now will never be as we come to terms with the deaths COVID brought to our lives.
We are all trying our best, even when we may not have the energy or inclination to do very much at all. Perhaps if we can hold that understanding close to us we may minimise our own sneaky holiday grief attacks, and find a heightened ability to be kind to those around us. We can also do small things just for us to help us get through the day a bit more easily.
For me, as a visual person I find strong, clear colour helps boost me and get me through the day. My hottest fuschias, fiercest greens and clearest deep blues and purples are at the front of my dress-for-the-day wardrobe choices. I keep bright post-it notes on my work desk, and buy lots of seasonal fresh fruit for the kitchen.
Colour and happy visuals work well for me – what works for you?
It’s a good and healthy thing to recognise and acknowledge the limits of our resources at any time, especially so right now when the holiday season is almost here and we get time to both stop and rest as well as dive into seasonal activities. Borders around Australia open up in a few days, so I wish everyone a safe, relaxing, and kind rest of the week.
Huge love, Annetta xx