Summer means many different things for many people; for some, it means warm sunny days; for others, vacations, beach time, backyard grillings, and so on, but for me, it reminds me of time spent grieving and suffering. It reminds me of that awful summer season in 2016 when for the first time, I felt utterly alone in this world. The summer of ’16 was hell; it came immediately after my mother’s death. I have no real clue how I made it through in one piece. There were a few loved ones around me during this tough period, trying to ease the pain and help me cope, but the void mom left behind was abysmal and impossible to fill. There is this mix of anger, fear, and regret every time I think of what life is like without her. Those thoughts and emotions make up most of my days.
My life has been an insane rollercoaster ride these last three years. Three years spent at the edge of madness. I know I sound a bit dramatic, but just like I wrote in a previous blog: “When you live your life, moving through grief and pain, that is how you truly discover the meaning of your life.”
Two Summers have come and gone (this will be my third), and I still find it very hard to accept that I will never see her again, that I will never spend another Summer with her. I still have days when I find myself planning something fun to do with mom; I catch myself thinking, “I should give mom a call, see what she wants to do,” before realizing that she is actually fucking gone.
She died in March, right at the beginning of Spring. I went through Spring and headed into Summer of that year consumed by grief, and when I think back, I do not even know how I was able to cope through “the summer of grief and desolation,” as I like to refer to it. It was the darkest summer I have ever experienced, and I got through it without losing my mind or killing myself, but I came close, very close.
The Summer before her death, eight months before her death to be exact–we took a quick weekend trip to Atlantic City, and I had no idea that it would be the final trip I would ever take with mom. I have bittersweet memories of that final trip. We had so much fun together that weekend. We laughed like never before; she made me take so many photos of her. We went to the casinos, where she won a few bucks on the slot machines. We walked the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk together, we had cocktails on the boardwalk, beers, and more cocktails at the Tropicana Casino, and we even took a pleasant long beach stroll. It was our final beach stroll together, to be precise. It was all very poetic when I think about it. Perhaps her death was already predetermined to occur, and this trip was, in a way, how the universe was preparing both of us to say goodbye to each other.
As I go through the photos and videos from that trip, I cannot help but overanalyze them. I see mom, I see her face, I see her hands, and I can see a map of a life of hard work, a life of sacrifice. I look at her, and I wonder if she was ever truly happy. I see in her eyes memories of anguish, of a broken heart. I wonder how she felt those last few days, those last few hours before she succumbed to the aneurysm that finally stole her from me.
I think back to those long conversations we had the previous few years, those conversations about her childhood, about her marriage, about her family, and the tragic aftermath of the narco-economy from which we rose and eventually fell victim as a family. All those conversations are still vivid in my memory, and I cannot help but feel that perhaps the heavy burden of a life lived strenuously and relentlessly in some way contributed to her death, contributed to her brain to say: “we had enough finally.”
I have not accepted the fact that she is dead yet. Three years, three summers, and I have not come to terms with her death. I walk around pretending to be a normal productive member of society, but I am not; I’m just a wounded man wandering through life, trying to make sense of things. The grief manifests itself the hardest when I get home late at night, after a long day of work. When I am sitting there on the couch taking my boots off, and I’m all alone with my sad reality, with the fact that I’m all alone with my grief. However, the process of grieving is an incomplete one, it will never be complete until you reach the end of your life, and everything comes together, and you are finally reunited with your loved ones.
Reduction of grief is achievable but challenging to achieve. Grieving can turn into clinical depression, especially if you are completely consumed by grief and do not have anything coming into your life that supports joy, happiness, or anything to look forward to. It can even make your metabolism stop producing serotonin or the other chemicals that you need to allow good feelings and positive thoughts into your life. It is essential to understand that and figure out your own way of how to cope with it and not let it kill you.
What I have done these last three years to better cope with my grief is to change the context of grieving. I realized that it is not about letting go, but in actuality, it is all about continuing to carry on and go on living alongside with your grief. Yes, to continue to go on with your life side by side with your grief. I am making it an integral part of my being. Journaling and meditation are my main tools to cope with grieving. I go right into the memories, and I journal everything that I can remember of our time together, of our conversations, my childhood memories, my frequent dreams with mom, and so on. I was not ready to be alone that Summer. I was not prepared to live my life without her in it, and I was not prepared to face the world without her. That is why summer will always be a trigger point of grieving for me.
Every summer is going to be the same all over again. The heat of summer will symbolize the hell that I must go through every summer season. Grief will always be there, waiting for me faithfully every summer until I die. Moreover, for most people, there will be future summers of beach time, backyard grillings, vacations, and many fun activities. Still, given what summer truly represents to me, it will always be a season of grief.