I have been writing about grief now for several years, focusing on other people as much as I can. I think it’s helpful to have many perspectives on grief because everyone’s experience is different.
As part of my work in running my business, (www.beetlepress.com), I supervise interns from Westfield State University, and this semester, my intern is Alaina Leary of Fall River. She is a junior, and she is exceptionally bright, but also incredibly intuitive and wise for someone who is poised to turn 21 in a matter of weeks.
She looks like a flower child with her long, straight purple hair and her short lacey skirts. But she is no part of flighty. She knows herself well, and she has both academic and emotional intelligence.
Alaina lost her mother when she was 11 years old. I wanted to give her the opportunity to blog about how that loss has shaped her, and I wanted readers to have the opportunity to hear from this amazing young lady. Over the next three weeks, Alaina will tell you her insightful and powerful story.
Here is the first excerpt.
By Alaina Leary
I’ve never liked the word grief. To me, it just doesn’t describe the experience of losing someone that you love – that moment when you realize that they are gone forever.
There really is no word for it, but I like “melancholy.” In the book Because of Winn-Dixie, which was one of my favorite books as a child, a young girl describes missing her mom as “melancholy.” In that book, her mother left the family when she was just a baby, and I found that I could relate to that feeling after my mom passed away when I was 11 years old.
I’ve found that there are just as many expectations and truths about how people will grieve as there are actual, genuine feelings that come. The first expectation was a truth for me: You will be bone-achingly sad when the person dies. I felt this way when my mom died, but before and since then, I have also lost aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, and a close friend.
I did not always feel the kind of life-changing loss and complete sadness, and sometimes I felt guilty for that. That’s the thing about grief, about melancholy: it is messy, and it doesn’t always feel the way you expect it to.
Another expectation that wasn’t true for me is that you will be sensitive about your loss, tender in that place. This is true every once in a while, but a vast majority of the time, I don’t need people to tiptoe around my feelings.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want people to censor “your mom” jokes. I enjoy being asked about my mom, and I don’t think that we should stop talking about someone when they die.
I think that often the hardest part for people to understand is that losing my mom has changed me—and it affects everything that I do and every decision that I make—but it isn’t necessarily always in a sad way. I’m not at home every afternoon writing poetry about death and crying over last Mother’s Day, although I have done both at times.
A lot of the time, I’m grateful for how my life has turned out. This was especially hard for me to admit at first, but a lot of beauty has come from losing my mom. I remember the moment that I realized it, when I was looking through a bag of her things.
I found a binder of her miscellaneous writings. Inside was her hand-copied The Beatitudes, which is a list of what good can come from a loss. It felt like she was telling me that it was okay to be happy with what my life was becoming.