The past week has been riddled with the most severe anxiety I have ever experienced. I never knew that this was a part of grief until it happened to me... the nervousness, the racing heart, the pit in the stomach, the feeling that my heart may jump right out of my chest. But it is. It's this real part of grief that I don't think many people expect because most people don't talk about it.
The fact is that I have never experienced Christmas without my mother. Not one. Never had a Christmas that she wasn't a part of to some degree. So the anxiety of having my first without her in the world seems normal. But why did it take me by surprise? Why did I really believe that I could sail through it and not feel like I was going to die? I don't know...
I found myself holding onto her more than ever since I lost her, more than when I watched her slipping away. I made the two homemade treats she made every Christmas, divinity and the cake we called the Santa Clause cake, which is just a devil's food cake with a homemade icing. I used her old recipes that she wrote down over thirty years ago. It felt good to do something she would have done if she were still alive, and it made me feel somewhat closer to her. But it didn't make anything feel less painful
I have cried more in the past week than I did the week that she died. The grief was the most physical it had ever been, with the chest pains and racing heart and nausea. There were moments in which I felt I couldn't make it one more second, moments in which all I could do was utter Jesus under my breath. I felt distracted and unable to concentrate on much of anything, so detached from the holiday going on around me. It was hard to imagine the joy of the season without her here, hard to picture what things would be like.
But here I am on the other side.
As the day progressed yesterday, the weight lifted off my chest. The anxiety diminished. My heart slowed down. Today I find myself feeling a little numb. In many ways, I am looking forward to a new year, the first year of my life without my mother. But in another way, I feel like it separates me even further from her, to begin something new without her. But life moves forward.
I think that's one of the trickiest parts of grief. I am constantly looking backwards in my mind, reliving the good and the bad, thinking of all the ways she touched my life. All the while, life carries on. And I keep looking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth between what was when she was here and what will be without her. I am stuck somewhere in the middle trying to figure it all out, knowing there will be a day when the dizzying back and forth becomes less frequent. Less painful.
Until then, I carry on as best I can.