I went to the cemetery this past weekend. I used to go quite often before I moved to California. My experience at the cemetery has changed over time. For the first few months after she died in 2012, I used to visit her grave and sit there and cry. I’d just weep. My eyes would fill with tears as I realized where I was and who was lying underneath my feet.
A few months later, it became the place where my greatest reflecting took place. I could go there, sit with Mom’s spirit, and inspiration would hit me quickly and with ease. I enjoyed it actually. Sitting by her grave became my favorite place to be. People had always said the cemetery is a place of sadness. But not for me. Maybe it was because I missed her so much. Maybe it was because as I sat there, with the sun beaming down on me, soaking into my skin, I felt a little bit closer to her. I knew at one point she had been there before. So I would just sit, and the thoughts would flow in, effortlessly.
As I prepared to move to California and on my visit home, I’d talk to her and update her on my life. Tell her my plans. What I had been up to. I’d pray to her for help or guidance. And I’d always tell her that I miss her.
But lately… it has changed. My time there with mom and her grave. It’s different. I go there and I just stand. Or sit. And stare. A numbness washes over me. I think about it. The numbness. I think about how much I want it to move. To leave. How badly I want to feel while I’m there with her.
I see flashes. Back to that day. I see her casket in front of me. Covered in flowers. I remember feeling numb in that moment. The disbelief that it was happening. That we were burying her. Right there. In that moment. And I feel that same way when I go to her grave. Like I can’t get through. My thoughts are frozen. My heart is still. And I hate it.
I hate it.
This past weekend, standing there at her grave thinking about how stuck my thoughts felt, I whispered to myself in frustration, “I can’t break through. I can’t break through!”
And just like that, The Doors’ song “Break On Through” started playing in my head.
“…Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side…”
I didn’t realize it until the song stopped playing in my mind. It was The Doors. Jim Morrison sang that song. My mom went to high school with him. His yearbook photo is still sitting on my mom’s dresser.
And suddenly, for just a moment, my mind was clear. Because I knew she was there. I knew that was her saying, “I’m right here, Chels.” And that was all I needed to know. All I needed to think about.
Grief is different for all of us. Perhaps that’s another reason why it leaves us so lonely. Not only are we grieving the loss of someone we love, but we’re left with emotions only we can process, only we can try to understand, only we can feel or be numb to. We can talk, we can write, we can remain silent. But those emotions of grief, they remain somehow ingrained in us forever.
When it comes to grief, it’s okay to feel stuck. It’s okay to feel stagnant. The important part is to recognize where you are. And how far you’ve come. Because the truth is, it will remain ingrained in us. Loss changes our lives. It’s always there. It won’t leave. However, it’s what we do with the grief that matters. Even in those moments of feeling stuck in the grief, feeling frozen, acknowledging the grief is what breaks us though to the other side.