Things I Already Know…

September 1, 2021

I stand here wearing the color black. It’s no accident. It’s simply the only color appropriate to be clothed in when burying my mother. I’m surrounded by family, close friends and even strangers. They continuously speak, though I only hear every other word or so. My mind is still trying to comprehend the happenings of the last week and the finality of losing my mother, which it consistently fails to do. 

People keep saying things like, 

“One day at a time.”

“Make sure to take care of yourself.”

“You need to eat something.”

“Just let it out, it’s ok to cry.”

“You need rest.”

“You need to sit down.”

They keep proclaiming tasks and concepts I’m already aware of. 

I know all of these things already. I don’t need these people to keep repeating them. I wish I could say this, but every word I’ve said the past few days seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Either they don’t want to hear me or they’re too consumed by their own grief and responsibilities to acknowledge the very few words I’ve been able to mutter. 

I know what I need to do to survive daily life, I’ve been doing it for over thirty years. I’m capable even though suddenly I’m being treated like some kind of child unable to survive without reminders and constant observation. I also know, that above all, what I need most is my mother. The very thing and reality that I cannot have, not now, not ever again. Right now she is all I want and all I’m thinking about. 

Instead of listening to what I need and want, even if unrealistic, each person stands here placating me. It’s maddening. I think they mean well and wish to soothe, but right now I don’t want to be comforted or calmed. I want to be heard. I want my sorrow and anger and insane disappointment to be seen and respected. I don’t want to put on a brave face. I want to stand here authentic and bruised and feel like I can. I don’t want to pretend, I just want to be. And right now, being is ugly and uncomfortable and gut-wrenching and they don’t want to witness that vision and truth. 

So, we all stand here, shells of the people we really are, hiding it all, the pain, the confusion, the mass destruction. Suddenly, I think of all the funerals I’ve been to that are the mirror image of this one. Masked. Concealed. Camouflaged. Hidden souls that ache with an intensity no one has told me about. Now that I’m inside of grief’s chaos, they wouldn’t need to because I feel it deeply. 

I promise myself right here in this moment to never do or say all of these statements that I’ve been fogged by for the past days and hours. I promise to see and hear the messiness of each person’s grief I bear witness to, even when it is invisible and tucked away. I promise to show up in my vulnerability and authenticity to let others know theirs is welcomed too. I promise to simply be what they need, not what I need, to feel better or at ease. 

When you find yourself standing there, next to a casket or urn or decorated stone of the ones you love, know that your messiness and chaos and unexplainable pieces of loss and grief are understood by me, in fact they’re appreciated. You don’t have to hide from me. My broken pieces recognized yours before I ever walked into this room. 

You should know that most people that ask how you’re feeling in grief aren’t prepared for your actual feelings or factual answers. They really just want you to be OK, while also knowing that you’re not. They know from experience that you’ll say you are fine, and you’ll say you are ok, and all the things that you most certainly are not, so they ask anyway. You should also know that others who have endured grief want your genuineness and sincerity for we know the weight of the ache you carry. 

Shattered souls have a bond that’s delicately intertwined without words or actions. I won’t tell you to eat or breathe or keep stepping, you already know those things. I’ll simply tell you that I see your brokenness and I can feel the collapsing that has taken place inside of your heart. I’ll tell you that I’m not afraid of either of those realities. I’ll tell you that when you need to let the harsh pieces of grief loose and freely express the scary and uncomfortable emotions of loss, I’m here. We can do it together. I’m ready when you are. 

Your grief doesn’t scare me and it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. In fact, it makes me feel less alone because while the world keeps spinning there is someone else that understands how dizzy that makes me. 

When everyone else keeps telling you to eat, or breathe, or rest, I’ll be here reminding you to grieve. 

Grieve on, friend. Grieve on. 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

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.

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