I was at my daughter’s softball game last weekend, yelling and jumping with excitement as her team narrowly pulled off a tough win. For any stranger who watched me bounce out of my folding chair and shout excitedly at the winning run, they would never have known my mother died only a month ago. I appeared to be okay, beaming with pride at my daughter’s team.
But within a few seconds of showcasing such outward joy, I was deeply saddened again. I was mournful because the thought hit me out of nowhere that I should call my mama and tell her about the ball game. In my excitement, I’d forgotten that she was gone, and when I remembered, I wanted to hide beneath the bleachers and cry one of those ugly, snotty cries over a paper plate of ballpark nachos.
And that’s what life is like for me these days.
Every day has become a rollercoaster. I’m at the top of the ride one moment, smiling and enjoying life. Then I’m suddenly plummeting down, with my stomach in my throat and an uneasy feeling radiating throughout my body.
When she first died- the minutes, hours and days immediately following her death- I wasn’t on a rollercoaster. I was simply at an unwavering low. I was riding a flat, straight track of sadness. There was no joy, and I didn’t have to pretend that I was okay. There were no ups. I was expected to be at a consistent low then. I wasn’t expected to laugh or smile or make an appearance at local events because I was “mourning”. I wasn’t expected to do anything but eat the food people brought me and receive their hugs and hide in the bed and sleep as a way to escape the heartache. I was expected only to grieve.
And I think I was content with that.
But I made the decision, about 28 days after she died, to get out of the bed and live again. I know that’s what she’d want me to do. She’d told me to do that very thing when my father died in 1992 and when my godfather passed away four years ago. In 2011, she sat on my bed and ran her fingers through my hair after I’d spent a month in the bed, crying over his absence, and she told me it was time to get up and live again. So, that’s what I did.
And that’s what I’m trying to do now.
I went back to church this weekend. I’ve taken the kids to their sports functions and even been to a couple of events for my book. I have tried to get back into writing, although my humor seems to have taken a sabbatical, and anything fun and light-hearted that I write really sucks. I’ve tried to go on living, these thirty some-odd days since she’s been gone, but trying to live has put me on this dreaded rollercoaster.
I’ll be at the top of the track- laughing with friends or observing something hideously hilarious that would make good blog material- and sometimes this lasts for a lengthy 30-minute span. But, sigh, I’ll quickly be reminded that she’s dead, and suddenly I’m sailing straight down on the Ride of Grief.
I know the wound is still fresh. Five weeks isn’t a very long time to adjust to the loss of your mother. I know, with time, that I’ll get off this blasted rollercoaster. I know there will be days when the thought that she’s gone won’t send me sailing straight down. I’m not new to grief, and I know everyone does it in their own way. I know I still have plenty of happiness left during my time on this earth. I know I’ll be all right. I know. I know. I know.
But one thing I don’t know is which is worse- the unrelenting low where I do nothing but mourn- or the ups and downs where I’m jovial one second and a blubbering idiot the next. I like consistency, and there’s nothing consistent about a rollercoaster.
If you’re on the rollercoaster of grief, just know I’m strapped in beside you, holding on for dear life and praying I don’t barf.
We can scream “let me off!” as much as we want, but we have to stay on until the ride ends.