Grieving… It’s A Process

“Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow, I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain, I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush, I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight, I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom, I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing, I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave bereft
I am not there. I have not left.”
―Mary Elizabeth Frye

Three times a year, I pause to honor my mother. Had she lived, she would be seventy-five this year. It’s hard to believe she isn’t here, because of late, her presence has been evident.

Explaining that you’re an orphan to people, especially as an adult, is tough. Not everyone can relate. Far too many people expect you to, “get over it”, and move on as soon as the funeral is behind you, as though someone like a mother is easily forgotten or replaced. This is not the case. Not for me. The grief is real, and it is present in everything I do. Not in a negative way, but in a questioning way.

Unlike a lot of mother/daughter relationships, I do not sit and question if my mother was proud of me. I know she was. She trusted me to handle tough situations, to take care of others, to do the right thing, even when I wanted to scream, and to forge a path no one could ever doubt, not even me. Whenever I had doubts about what I could or couldn’t achieve, she would marvel at my brilliance, not at any potential lack of confidence. Ultimately, I don’t lack confidence, but I do plan things out in a very clear fashion. It’s borderline obsessive, but it’s part of who I am. I would not be able to do these things, or be the person I am, if I hadn’t been gifted with an honest parent from day one.

Parenting today is quite different from my own upbringing. When people tell me how they grew up, I am generally appalled at the lack of diversity, culture, joyful moments, simple moments, the lack of music, theater, and film. Often, the lack of books or regular use of a library also galls me. The lack of any kind of bond between parents and children. Even more so when Grandparents are involved, but cannot or do not choose to be present in their lives. My maternal Grandparents lived across the street from us. I saw them every single day, practically. I never had babysitters; only relatives. My brother grew up differently in many ways, and does not have the same memories. I can mention something from when he was two or three and he has zero recollection of it, whereas I have vivid recollection.

Maybe it’s a cultural thing? Perhaps it is also a location issue. City kids grow up differently than those who grew up in the suburbs, in rural areas, or in tiny places where everyone knows everyone. I definitely wasn’t cut out for anything else, except city life. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, lately. My mother trusted me to let the city be my playground in many respects, but she also said no to many things, and I’m glad she did. I’m almost embarrassed over the things I pushed her on at a young age. To the point where a friend’s mother called her to complain that I was, “too sophisticated” for my age. 🙄 I laugh when I think about it now. I was deemed, “too sophisticated” at thirteen. This other woman said I should, “Still be playing with Barbie dolls and stuffed animals” at that age. 🤣 I remember my mother hanging up from that call and saying, “Thank GOD you’re a teenager and not an infant! What healthy, normal thirteen year old is still playing with dolls?!” She rolled her eyes and assured me I was okay.

I can’t say anything really stood out for me at thirteen, aside from being different and not fitting in. Though, I didn’t care about fitting in, and I still don’t think about it on such terms. Why should I? It was the year I added additional piercings, which officially stopped at twenty-one. It was also a hard time in my life because writing and singing were my only escapes from an abusive home life. Not many people understand that now, either, but I did and I do. We didn’t discuss it outside the family. Family friends knew and certainly saw things weren’t right, but no one ever stood up to my father. No one ever corrected his behavior or told him off. I do not recall anyone EVER standing up for my mother and brother, except me. People, especially family, simply chose to avoid us, as though we all suffered from the plague. Out of sight, out of mind. A few pretended to care once my mother had enough and left, but their support was temporary and disingenuous. To this day, I do not speak to anyone who ever disrespected my parents or Grandparents.

When I think about my mother’s childhood and how she spoke of it with a lot of fondness, I realize I was robbed of mine. Maybe this explains my “sophistication”. 🙄 I was functioning in chaos with an adult mindset, and I remember having these thoughts at about age four. Don’t misunderstand me though; I do not feel sorry for myself about this in any way, shape, or form. I am not angry with my mother for believing she had no other choice, but to stay. I am not angry for being the person who protected her and my brother. To this day, I still protect my brother in many ways.

Yesterday, a family member made the gross misjudgment of trying to tell me how to live my life, how to think and behave, and she took a shot at my parents. Let me be clear; this is one hundred percent NOT ALLOWED. I read this message multiple times and did not respond. Why? Because I was a step away from going from zero to epic bitch. I will not respond at all moving forward. I don’t need anyone to dictate to me, or attempt to use me as a replacement relationship for something lacking in their own life.

If it was her intention to be permanently iced out, she came to the right person. I am my mother’s daughter; you’ll die of frostbite before I give you the time of day ever again. No one gets to criticize my parents, except for my brother and I. We lived it. We get to say how we feel, but outsiders DO NOT. Unless you are living in the world’s most perfect relationship, glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and think it’s acceptable behavior. I will throw back bricks and concrete slabs, and I don’t throw like a girl.

What’s worse is, this person likely has no idea how disrespectful they were being to me, but I won’t sit here and take it. That’s the difference between mother and daughter: I don’t feel obligated to anyone regarding politeness and there’s no one overseeing my behavior. The niceness gene clearly skipped a generation or two. Even my brother would have responded with, “Oh, fuck you.” My response would be far worse, which is why I said nothing. I am kind and fair, but I’ve got boundaries and rules.

I have a short list of untouchable people in my life. My brother, parents, and Grandparents are extremely high on said list. If you were not a constant presence in my life, and did not deal with any of them regularly, then I strongly suggest you keep your mouth shut. If you’re going to persist in disrespecting any of them, I want you to do it to my face so that other people hear you do it and understand why I broke your face. No, I’m not kidding. Don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash. It’s simple and easy enough for most people with a brain to grasp.

My father used to affectionately refer to me as, “the family pitbull”. No, he wasn’t saying I reminded him of a dog. What he was saying is that once my temper comes loose, he almost felt sorry for the poor bastard on the other side of my wrath. Almost, but not really. It’s a good analogy for being a protector archetype, which matches me to a T.

Mom, thank you for seeing me. Thank you for letting me be my true self. Thank you for showing me that honesty and authenticity would get me further in life than anything else. Thank you for reminding me to be persistent in my goals. But most of all, thank you for having my back and teaching me to have my own back. Those are important tools to have in life. I am grateful to you for preparing me for things I never thought I’d survive.

Today, we plant a tree in your memory, because the memory of you will stay strong and live forever.

Fully credited to Zach Vaughan Photography

copyright © 2022 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark. Photo and poem are fully credited, and no profit is being made from either.

The Thirteenth Year

May. The month of darkness. The month of flashbacks, nightmares, anger at being robbed of loved ones… It’s hell. I suffer silently; no one is particularly interested in what I have to say. I remind myself it isn’t personal, some people simply aren’t full-fledged human beings. C’est la vie.

Thirteen years ago tonight, my mother’s heart gave out. I got the phone call, “We’re trying to revive her, but…” The BUT was my mother’s DNR; a point of contention between us for years. I had power of attorney and I remember saying, “Screw the DNR. If she can be revived, you save her life.” An hour later and I knew. I remember looking at the clock, in pure silence, and knowing the exact moment when she left. When I received her death certificate, the time was not a shock, but it jolted me. My life was permanently altered. I feel like I’ve lived a nightmare almost every day since.

One of the most important messages my mother instilled in me was to ALWAYS be honest and speak up for my beliefs. I am not a passive, gullible, peace-keeper; I was built for war and educated argument. My mother knew, before I was born, that I was strong and a force to be reckoned with. That’s the kind of daughter she wanted; one who would always speak her mind, one who would not pretend, and one who wouldn’t take shit from anyone, because she’d know her worth and would not be afraid of walking into rooms and being a strong, powerful, determined individual. I suspect she got what she ordered. 😉

My parents taught my brother and I to focus on facts, and to know when we were being lied to. Not everyone is blessed with intuitive education. I was not taught to hate. I am an intuitive person with a mind which pays attention to details others might miss. Micro-aggressions, body language, any shift in behavior or verbal tone is something I will notice. I am grateful for these things, because I know other parents weren’t teaching such things, and because much of this knowledge has saved my life in many situations.

My mother was the best. I was blessed with someone truly devoted to her children, imperfections aside, because NO ONE is perfect. We’re all human.

I miss you. There are no words for the amount of pain I am still trying to work through. Time does not heal a damn thing. Not in this situation.

Tracking The Time

The loss of my mother haunts me. How could it not?

I know not everyone has a deep bond with either parent, and others have different scenarios of their family dynamic, which I understand, but my mother was my best friend. I was never embarrassed of her or ashamed of her. I took care of her. I helped her with anything and everything. I paid her bills and kept everything up-to-date. I cooked. I took her to doctor’s appointments. I dropped her off at work, walking her to her desk, and repeated the process at the end of each day. Sometimes, my brother was the one doing that, when he was available. We often dreaded it, but we did not complain. Two failed back surgeries left my mother partially paralyzed, so the extra assistance was necessary. Her biggest fear was falling and being wheelchair bound. 😦

I always question what I could have done to save her. I would have given her the heart out of my own chest. Ultimately, her life was in her own hands and she refused invasive medical treatment. Medical treatment my brother would later receive, and still receives. She gave up and her heart did, too. I don’t think she realized how much heartache and pain she would leave behind. Nor do I think she cared. She was too far gone to care anymore. While I understand that, it’s the polar opposite of how she expected me to be. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that she always wanted me to fight, but wouldn’t do it for herself.

So today, on what would have been her 74th birthday, I tried to do normal things. I’m wearing one of her favorite colors of nail polish in homage to her. I do it every year; I try to find a shade of purple that honors her life and what she left behind. But ultimately, as the day comes to a mental close, I am deeply saddened and feel the loss in every part of my life and heart.

If your parents are still alive and you have a good relationship with them, please realize how blessed you are. Some of us aren’t so lucky.

May you seek sweet Serenity, madre. May time heal, even though right now, it still tracks.

Dirge Without Music

“I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
―Edna St. Vincent Millay

My Mother’s Daughter

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Today is the anniversary of me losing an angel I was gifted with. A unique, perfect, pure angel. I will probably cry myself to sleep tonight because I MISS HER so much. She truly taught me how to be the best version of myself, how to be a mother, and how to be a bigger bad ass than I could ever have dreamed of. I miss you, my tiny angel.

Today is also the anniversary of great loss. Every day, this torments me. Every.Fucking.Day.

However, today I am trying to remind myself that above all else, I am my mother’s daughter and I wasn’t raised to be some soft, whiny, pathetic individual. I was raised to be strong, smart, and fierce. Life throws so much crap in my direction. There are people who throw the same level of crap in my direction, too. But on most days, I have to remind myself who raised me and why.

There are days you can try to deny your background, but why would I ever want to forget being my mother’s daughter? I wouldn’t. I lucked out. Miss you, Mom. I know you are always with me.

A Decade

If I added up the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years I have spent missing my mother, I am pretty sure it would be an astronomical number. All those moments have brought me to this day; the tenth anniversary. A decade without my mother. It makes me sick to my stomach, putting the words out there into the universe.

My life has changed in such dramatic ways since I hung up the phone for the final time the night she passed away. No matter far I have come, no matter how much growth I have achieved, no matter the rises and falls, I am still gutted by every moment that led to her death.

The people who loved me the most are all gone. I live in a world where no one mentions my mother. No one talks about her, no one acknowledges that she even existed, and it deeply affects me.

I remember when she was alive and people would often accuse her of being “too emotional”. I don’t think people, especially now, are emotional enough. I don’t think people are anywhere near as human, kind, caring, or compassionate as my mother was. Occasionally I catch myself looking for those qualities in others, and I find people sorely lacking. Perhaps this is why I am more introverted and isolated than ever before.

I am by no means searching for a “mother figure” or “mother replacement” because those are simply things that do not exist for me. No one else could ever be her. I can hear my father’s voice whenever I speak to my brother, but my mother’s voice has grown distant and foreign, and for me, that is very sad indeed.

I’m never not going to be disgusted to have someone, be it a family member or a friends, act like today is “just another day”. Today is the day I lost my mother, my best friend, and my guidepost. As imperfect as I am, I will never be the kind, caring, loving person my mother was to her children and other people. I have learned to accept that.

Lighting Yarhzeit tonight was difficult and highly emotional, but I did it. I’m doing my best. My Mom always told me “Your best is all you can ever do, and if people don’t like it, at least you know you didn’t sit around ignoring a situation.”

I’m a writer because of my mother. She introduced me to power through my voice, and that’s something that will never change. Nor will my commitment and devotion to her memory.

“Seek the sweet surrender of simplicity. Listen to the sound of faith like a flute playing inside your chest. Go within. Serenity lives always within your reach.”
-Ching Qu Lam

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Life Is Full Of Everything

Nine years ago today, I lost my mother. I can’t always say it out loud, I can’t always talk about it, but I honestly have no clue how I’ve survived this long without her. Not because I need someone else in order to survive, that isn’t it, but because life is full of people that mean something to you, or at least, that’s what life should be.

Stupidly, I sometimes expect certain people to be a little more like my mother, and they aren’t. On a scale of my Mom to them, they’re epic failures. They don’t mean to be, they simply cannot be her. No one can. Irreplaceable people are precisely that; irreplaceable.

I have spent the past year and a half holding on tight to everything near and dear, and I’ve been a failure. I have needed help, and I’ve allowed my health to fail in the process. But ultimately, I have actually needed kindness, compassion, understanding, a person who listens, and someone who can put me first sometimes. No one ever does. Not for long.

When you go from being someone’s daughter to just being a person, there is a great shift. Suddenly, nothing is right in the universe, but there’s no way to fix it. And so, you move from one thing to the next at your own pace, trying to succeed and make a person proud, a person who is no longer here. Inevitably, there’s nothing you can do, because life is full of everything.

People, places, things, photos, shared moments, building memories. That’s life. It’s laughter, misery, friendship, companionship, love, and so much more. I went from being a daughter to just being. I’ve spent nine years trying to figure out who the hell that is. I still have no answers.

Hours before her death, the last words my mother spoke were “I love you, too.” I’d been sick for weeks at that point from Fibromyalgia pain. I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t move, and I had missed Mother’s Day the weekend before due to pain and a migraine. I felt like the biggest piece of crap on the planet. So getting the call that my mother had gone into cardiac arrest was like lightning striking through my entire body. I remember exactly what I was thinking and exactly what I said. I also remember thinking “This cannot be happening. This can’t be my life!”

After losing my mother, I got a brief respite for a few years before more damage could be done to my psyche. But as I sit here today, I realize some damage may be irreversible.

When you’re sick and you’re hurting, Google is your worst enemy. So tomorrow, I see my doctors’ Nurse Practitioner to see if she can be of any help in figuring out why I am suffering to the extent I am. Unfortunately, I suspect the only thing I will come away with is additional referrals to more doctors and maybe a prescription, or two. While there, I’ll get my lab work done. That should be an interesting experience. I hope someone reminds me to pack a snack. Especially since it’s going to be over 90 degrees tomorrow and I’m basically the Wicked Witch who will melt, with infinitely better skin. 😉 It’s 91 today and I can barely breathe.

Today has been a shaky day for me. I’m unable to function, unable to think, and it took repeated phone calls to find out what I was forgetting (and G-d help me, I WISH I had just let it go because when I did find out what I’d forgotten, knowing something wasn’t right with my memory, I wanted to crawl into a hole a die. I have less than 20 hours to solve the problem and quite frankly, I’d give up completely if I didn’t feel that not giving up was the right thing to do.). That I could not remember something from last week definitely makes me question what the hell is going on inside my brain. I want answers, not more questions. I’m terrified knowing I, once again, have to ask for help and that I might very well get shot in the process. It has occurred to me that, quite frankly, few people care to have your back when you’re down, but damn, they want you to have their back when they’re in the same place as you. They want you to fix their problems and make everything better, but are very happy to cast you aside once all is well in their own world. It doesn’t make you feel very good, and they’re, unfortunately, too stupid to understand that something isn’t right and they should reach out.

If we’re close and I say “I’m fine.” or you ask how I’m doing and I don’t answer, I urge you to look deeper. It’s extremely rare for me to say “I’m fine.” or “I’m okay.” when I’m not. If you dismiss it and take it at face value, then you’re showing me that you really don’t give a damn, because you’ve just accepted a blatant lie. I can’t remember the last time I was “fine” or “okay”. I wish people weren’t so self-absorbed and took a minute to really connect sometimes. No matter how good or bad my life may be, I still check in with people. If someone tells me they’re fine and I sense otherwise, I call them on it. That’s the mark of a true friend/family member.

I rarely go to the doctor. I’m not fine. I’m not okay. And quite frankly, I’m afraid for my life and sanity.

Life may be “full of everything”, but right now, life is empty, scary, lonely, and heartbreaking.

Here’s hoping my prayers are answered and that someone, somewhere, is looking out for me.

Lisa-blue

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.