She asks “How do I prepare for the funeral of my mother? It’s tomorrow and I need advice. I need your advice. You’ve been here.” My heart breaks, though I’m honored she has reached out to me, a woman who lives each day with the absence of my mother. In this moment, I wish I had a wand to wipe away her pain and erase her loss. I wish she didn’t need advice for preparing for her mother’s funeral, instead I wish she had her mother. I wish we both did.
I take a deep breath and try to think of any words that would provide “advice” for a moment like this. I can’t think of anything that could have shielded my heart from the pain of my mother’s funeral and lowering her beneath the dirt. I can’t think of anything that could have softened the sting of seeing her lifeless body on display for everyone we know. I can’t think of anything that could have prepared me for that day, those endless hours, and that ceremony signifying the end.
I close my eyes and demand my brain to start finding words and ideas to share with this sweet soul. I pray that something, anything, will come to my heart to help her heal hers. Deep down I know it’s not words that can heal, but time. Time and people are what helped me through my darkest moments of grief and loss.
I open my eyes as tears begin to stream down my face. I think back to her question about one of the most difficult days of my life and try to find the answer to how I survived it. I grab my phone and type this response:
Today will be a day unlike any other. It will finalize the deep loss you’ve just experienced. It will demand you comprehend this new fate, the one you’re working desperately to run from. It’s truly a day that will take your breath away and have you in an ebb and flow of love and trauma and hope and pain.
Today will be the day you have to stare at the delicate finality of life for hours, while family, friends, and strangers pass by and acknowledge it too. It will be a day you learn the heaviness of wood, dirt and stone in harsh new ways. It will be a day that feels unbearable in ways you can’t explain and incomprehensible in ways that you wish didn’t exist.
It will be hard. It will be exhausting. It will be excruciating.
My advice will fall short of your request because nothing can prepare you for what is to come. So, breathe. Keep breathing. One breath at a time. Today do what feels right for you. This is the very start of your grief journey. The key word being YOUR. Every person experiencing this loss will do it differently. You decide what you need and how you’ll venture through this. Talk if you want to talk. Be silent if you want to be silent. Hug if you want to hug, and stay distant if you need space. This is your grief path. Do what feels right for you and you alone.
The world has become a foreign place. It won’t stay that way, though it feels like it. Your own body and life have become foreign places. They won’t stay that way either. So, for today, be patient and prepare for one of the longest days of your life. It’s as simple and as harsh as that.
And when you feel like it’s impossible to breathe…
And when you feel like you’ve reached the edge and you can’t hold on any longer…
And when you feel like you can’t possibly survive this loss and this day…
Think of me, a woman just like you, a woman without superpowers or remarkable qualities, yet still a woman who survived significant and unimaginable loss.
There is no ‘advice’ for a day like today but you will get through this. It won’t feel that way but it’s true.
I am here, however you need me.
A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.