When my mother passed, my life paused and everything suddenly seemed much larger and intimidating than it had before. Overwhelmed with fresh grief, I let mundane household tasks become completely unattended to. I wasn’t trying to be lazy, I simply crumbled at the thought of anything that would leave me alone with my thoughts and my pain and my new reality.
Laundry was one of those lonely activities.
Instead of handling daily chores, I looked for an easy route– anything to lighten the load and the responsibility. Each day, I would wash and dry my family’s clothes and then dump them in our spare bedroom, out of sight. Then, each morning, I’d venture to the pile, choose an outfit for everyone and carry on about our day.
And each morning I’d be overwhelmed with the shame of collecting clean clothes from the floor of a spare bedroom, yet each morning there I would be doing just that. Until one day, a month or two after my mother’s funeral, when I decided I could no longer avoid the task— for my mental health, for our family’s organization and for any hope of regaining normalcy. The laundry had to be done– completely, from start to finish.
Tears fell as I sat down in the middle of clothing-made mountains. The silence felt deafening. I was suddenly alone with my pain and my grief. I was alone, so so alone, in this new new version of life.
Immediately I was reminded why I had been avoiding this simple task. I felt vulnerable. I felt fragile. I felt like I was sitting face-to-face with the realities that I’d been working so diligently to hide and avoid— realities like watching my mother take her last breaths and be lowered into the earth. Realities I still hadn’t accepted. Realities that became unavoidable when sitting alone, in silence, completing my to-do’s.
Folding laundry was reminding me that no matter how much it felt like life had stopped, it hadn’t. That pile of laundry reminded me that ready-or-not, life was moving forward. The world was still spinning and avoiding my household duties wouldn’t change that truth, even as harsh as it seemed to keep living when my mother no longer could.
I had to learn to be alone with my thoughts and not crumble permanently.
I had to learn to be alone with my emotions and honor and acknowledge each one of them.
I had to learn to be alone with this new version of myself, each and every piece of her.
I cried the entire time I folded those clothes.
There on a spare bedroom floor, I faced the darkest spots of my grief, the ones I kept trying to run from. There on that old tan carpet, I faced my new truth— the truth that meant my mother was gone. There, sprawled across the floor, I learned one of grief’s harshest lessons, that it’s survivable.
And I knew that in a few minutes I’d finish folding clothes, but that I’d never, never ever, finish grieving.
And to this day, I do as much grieving as I do laundry. And I probably always will.
A 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.