Half a decade.
It's a long time, but in the grand scheme of "forever" it doesn't seem like much.
When my mom first died my counselor asked me to write out an allegory of what my grief was like. This is what I wrote:
"My grief is like trying to live with Vancouver’s weather.
I’d like to think it’s predictable because that would make my life easier but most of the time it’s shockingly sporadic and the more I try to make sense of it or to find an obvious pattern the more I realize there is no point. It’s beyond my control.
Most of the time it’s dull and gray, which doesn’t inspire much desire to venture out, but I do because its just a little gray out, and I don’t want to miss everything just because of a few clouds. Sometimes I’ve underestimated the clouds and while I’m out a shower starts, but I open an umbrella and I try to trudge on. In Vancouver almost every day is rainy and grey and I’ve had to learn to accept this, it’s just the way it is living here and I’ve tried to adapt my life to it.
But sometimes, every now and then, there is an amazing day, or even just a few hours where the sun is shining and the clouds are far away from me and they are the last thing on my mind and nothing can keep me from smiling and because it’s so sunny out, it’s so warm and so dry and it’s so easy to go out and have fun and the blues seem bluer and the greens seem greener. Everything seems so easy when the sun is shining.
But this is all short lived. I do live in Vancouver after all.
The heavy gray clouds roll in, they’re darker than before, and the rain falls and it’s harder than before, and it’s difficult for me to accept this rainy day because just yesterday it was so sunny. The sun felt so nice, I wanted it to last. But I can’t control the weather and now the warm dry days seem so far away.
Now it feels like there is no point in going outside, and I start to think that maybe the rain won’t ever stop. It’s too wet, it’s too dark, it’s too cold, it’s too pointless. I stay inside, but instead of going on with my day I am hopelessly preoccupied with the weather, with watching how hard the rain falls, how hard the wind blows, how dark the new clouds rolling in are. I just sit at the window wallowing in the dark cold wet weather. The storm consumes my day and all my energy and it almost seems like the more attention I pay to the rain, the harder it falls.
But the heavy, heavy, rain rarely lasts for more than a day at a time. Eventually the rain lightens up and even though it’s still gray and wet and dreary and I don’t really want to go out in it, I bundle up and venture out again anyway.
Because I have to.
Because it’s Vancouver and I know if I hide from the rain I’ll never go outside again. And sometimes while I’m out the rain lets up and a few clouds clear up and a bit of relief comes in the form of blue sky poking through the clouds and I smile and remember why I live in Vancouver at all.
But sometimes instead, the clouds get darker again and the rain starts falling harder, and since I’ve already left the house I cant just sit inside and wait for this storm to pass. It’s difficult, through all this cold wet rain that’s soaked me down to the core of my being, to remember what feeling warm and dry even feels like. It starts to feel like the sun doesn’t even exist. Then I look around and I see that life is going on around me, regardless of the rain. Everyone else seems to be so dry compared to me, I feel like I am the only one who got caught in the storm. Everyone tries to be sympathetic of the fact that I got soaked in this rain storm but they can’t understand exactly how I feel and I don’t fault them for that. I try not to get frustrated with them as they stand there, all dry, trying to tell me how to dry off, or deal with being drenched. Maybe they’ve all been soaked by rain storms too, just maybe on a different day, in a different storm, I don’t know. I try to add another layer so can I drag myself through my errands, or whatever it is that has forced me to stay out in the rain, until I can go home and strip off all the layers that I put on to try protect me, that were supposed to keep me warm and dry but couldn’t no matter how much I wanted them to. I crawl into bed and let the repetitive sound of the rain consume the last bit of energy that I have for that day.
But through all the rain, and cold and dark clouds I know I’ll stick it out, that living through all the rainy days, through what seems like never ending gray days, will be worth it because eventually it will be summer and it will be sunny and beautiful and warm for days on end. And sometimes in the summer when the rain comes it’s actually a relief, something to smile about and to be grateful for, something I like to venture out into and feel on my skin.
But right now it’s still winter and the rain seems never ending."
So what does my grief look like now that 5 years has passed?
Now, my grief is like being reluctantly forced into learning to garden.
I don't want to learn to garden. I have never gardened before. I have no interest in gardening but here I am standing in the middle of a pile of dirt with no choice but to dig in. I grab some tools and poke around a little bit. I'm uninterested and it's hard and dirty and I don't want anything to do with it.
Someone who knows about gardening comes along and tells me it needs manure. It will help if I stir some in.
Now I am standing in a pile of shit. How can anything good ever come from this pile of shit?
I toss some seeds in, I try to tend to what grows. It rains a lot. I struggle because I still hate gardening but there are some plants trying to grow. Some turn to flowers and bloom, some die. I try to take care of what is growing and I try to focus on them but I still resent being forced to garden in the first place. Sometimes I knowingly let the plants die.
And then one day I take a step back and take a look at my garden from a distance, and I notice that a tree has grown in my garden.
A big strong tree with its roots buried deep in the shit filled dirt drawing all it's strength and life from this garden I was forced to tend. It has a stronger trunk than I could have ever imagined could grow in my garden. It has lots branches with beautiful leaves. There are buds on the branches with the promise of new life and more growth.
The flowers around the tree are easier to tend to now that they have some shade and birds come to the garden and now I can come to my garden and smile.