When my mother died (10 years ago this week) one of the hardest things in the world for me to do starting almost immediately was finding reasons to get out of the bed. In the first week, I had the funeral and the people. The house was full of people. Funeral plans needed to be made and as her only child, most of that landed solidly in my lap. Every day I got up because I had something I had to do. I had to lay my mother to her final rest. Then came the day after the funeral. Here I am six days after she died and I was again in bed searching for a reason to get up. This time it was the shutting down of her business.
She ran a sole proprietor tax service and as if the universe was playing a cruel IRS inspired April Fool’s Day joke my mother died on April 1 — just 14 days shy of April 15th. People are pretty forgiving when you lose a loved one, but I learned quickly that forgiveness starts to wane as they wait for an answer to where they are in the process of getting a check or what a letter they are holding from the IRS means. The second week after my mother passed my reason for getting up was other people's business, other people's stress and a general sense of needing to close up shop.
Week three I returned to work. I was a wreck. I wasn’t sleeping well and so I wasn’t getting up well. Thanks to the sound leadership of my boss at the time I was sent home with direction to only come back when I was ready.
I went back home. No plans to make. No business to shut down and no job to report to. It then finally hits me like a ton of bricks that what I didn’t have and would never have again was my mother who at that moment felt like my entire reason for getting up in the first place.
Another week passes and now I need to go back to work, but that was not enough reason to get out of bed. I sat there in tears and finally a phrase falls into my mind:
You can breathe in. You can feel the wind on your face. You can process thoughts. You have everything you need to survive.
I repeated those words to myself until I was out of the bed and on my feet. I did this every single day until getting up became routine again. Even now there are times when I do not think that I have it in me to keep going, to keep trying; to keep surviving grief or loneliness or what has often felt in the time since my mother passed, the loss of the very definition of who I am. A big part of that definition, of course, was being her daughter, actively and in real-time.
So I use those words to center myself. I use them to bring me back down to Earth and to remind myself that I am still here. If I am still here there is a purpose for my being. There is a purpose for me still having breath in my body. There is a purpose for me still feeling the wind on my face. A purpose for my brain to still process thoughts.
I had to learn to move past the crippling fear and doubt that accompanies loss and realize that if life is still happening to and around me there is purpose left inside of me. There is a daily reason to get up breathe, feel and think. It was always there. It will always be there.