Rushes of memories don’t sweep me under as often as they used to when I first lost my brother and mom. The type of flurry triggered by the tiniest most seemingly trivial sight, smell, sound or taste. Suddenly you find yourself swept far far away as a sudden rip current would carry you out to sea. This sea of memories are familiar to you, though. At least you have that advantage. Some knowledge of where you are, though where you are going remains up to the torrent of memories and the emotions linked to them. Often, in my first days, weeks and months actively grieving I would get lost in rumination. Something in my environment would trigger a visceral reaction that I had no control over. It happened anywhere and everywhere with a variety of reactions from others. People side glance at you confused when you cry randomly in the grocery store, or when you smell a perfume at an outdoor farmers market and you break into tears, or when you glance a boy that so closely resembles your deceased brother you stare a little too long willing your feet not to burst into a run toward him for a bear hug. We as a society are ridiculously uncomfortable and ill prepared for a show of emotions outside a certain framework. We freeze. We ignore or break away as if the emotions are contagious. Strong emotions are aversive. They remind us of our vulnerability, our fragility.
Sometimes I could predict when certain events would ramp up my emotions. Often, I was clueless. It is bizarre to feel so out of control of your emotions. As if someone has just hijacked your limbic system. Initially, I had the same reactions as those strangers side glancing me wearily. I fought the feelings. I tried to squash them, ignore them. I resented the takeover.
Then, I realized somehow those feelings always won out. They were happening with or without my permission. If I didn’t roll with the recollections, feel them, go through them in my mind, they often came out magnified, sideways and inappropriate.
Now I ride the reliving regardless of where I may be in the present. I embrace the clarity of the memory. My brother and mother’s edges are fuzzy as I march onward in time and they stay in my past. I miss them and I allow myself the transportation backwards in time.
The other day I was in Walmart, shopping alone. Rare in itself. I meandered into the women’s sleepwear section. Perusing for something cute to wear to a girlfriend spa sleepover night. I saw so many pajama sets that my mom would wear. I couldn’t help but think of her immediately. She loved cute, comfy matching pajamas. I just spun slowly, envisioning her choosing pajamas. I could almost hear her “Look at these, hon! Look how cute!”. I gave myself a few minutes there, shed a few tears, and continued my shopping.
I know we are still in October but for me the holiday season can be bittersweet. Thankfully, I am able to enjoy the gifts of my life. I am genuine in my joy now. The weight and heaviness of active grieving is behind me. But so many memories are triggered by fall through the new year. These special people are missing from me. They always will be. But I can take the cascade of memories and enjoy reliving.