We’ve had a good bit of snow this winter. It’s been prime weather for hibernating and avoiding life in general. I fell into a funk before Christmas, it hit me kinda like the snow, heavy and cold. I managed to make it through Christmas, and New years, and the beginning of the term, but it’s not been an easy few months, especially for those around me. I’ve been moody, and angry, and tearful, and tired. I believe those fall under the category of Depression. Of course, the DSM (the big book of disorders psychologist use to diagnose psychiatric issues) has this little clause that basically says *except when in grief*. Essentially grief can manifest itself as depression in many individuals, (including me). And psychiatrists are trying to untangle when to step in to deal with just the grief, or when there is actually an underlying depressive or anxiety issue that is being exacerbated by the grief (also me).
I have been seeing a grief counselor since before my mother died, and she has been invaluable in helping me process the mountains and valleys that have hit me during the past year. However, before Christmas, I felt myself spiraling slowly out of control. I felt like the world was closing in on me and my grip on reality was starting to slip. I couldn’t untangle if this was because of the looming holidays, or the looming 1 year anniversary, or what. Ultimately I opted to find a new more intense therapist to help me navigate the deeper valley I seemed to be in.
Side note: I can not say enough about the need and value of talk therapy. I am keenly aware that not everyone wishes to discuss their life with a stranger. But for me, it has been a lifesaver. I have had a number of therapists in my life and each one has brought me better insight into why I am the way I am. Slowly, I’m learning to accept things I haven’t been able to, and slowly I’m learning to change things I’ve resisted changing in the past. If you’re struggling or questioning, or in grief, I urge you to seek out a therapist, my only advice would be that don’t judge based on the first visit. Sometimes the relationship takes a few sessions to develop. And sometimes it takes meeting with a few different therapists before you find the right one. But the lessons you can learn about yourself can be immensely helpful. For me, the biggest help is having an objective third party handing me different shovels to help me dig myself out of my own snow. It’s about the tools you learn, it’s a process. Trust it. But I digress…
Anyway, all that to say that now that it’s March, and the one year anniversary of my mother’s death is painfully close, I’m still struggling. I’ve managed to dig myself out of my snowdrift enough to see the sunshine, but I still get snowed under frequently. It’s a daily decision to get out of bed, to put clothes on, get the kids out the door, make it to class, and “do life” so that we can keep going on. But some days I look at pictures and think why?! what’s it all for? just so one day I can leave my kids alone?!
Be present as much as I can, love them as best I can, do all I can with them, are all sentiments playing in my mind as I go through my day. But I’m just not that kind of mom! I was raised with a mother who used the term “benign neglect” to define her parenting style, in her world this meant she gave us what she could while not harming us, but she also ensured she had her own life and her own identity. Had she lived longer I would have challenged her, on the whole, doing no harm philosophy based on some of her decisions but ultimately it’s what worked for her and we’ve all turned out mostly okay. My parenting style is just not one where you’re going to find me on the floor playing blocks or sitting at a table doing art, or spending hours diving into their imaginary world while they play. I believe they can play well on their own and don’t need me in their world all the time. I believe that I can connect and provide for them in many meaningful ways throughout every day, even tho they’re in daycare/school and I don’t spend every waking moment with them! But I still struggle, there will be a day when I’m not here with them anymore, will they look back and say ‘I wish mom had spent more time with us playing lego’? Probably. Am I okay with that? For now, yes. Because like my mother I need to have my own identity separate and apart from my kids and it’s that separation and struggling with the pressure to be ‘everything’ for them that makes me the most depressed.
When I step back from it and refocus, and remind myself that I am doing the best I can. That I am loving them with all I have. That I am meeting them in their world as often as I can. When I remind myself of all this and remind myself that I’m teaching my children to be independent, to learn how to solve their own problems without always needing me, then I remember that I’m teaching them to live without me. At least a little bit. I’m giving them the independence to survive in life so that when the inevitable happens and they lose one or both of their parents their (hopefully) sadness and sense of loss will be tempered by the fact that they will have their own lives separate and apart from me and they will hopefully be able to struggle through their grief with a support system and life that goes beyond just me.
So here I sit, in March, on another cold snowy day, again contemplating the reality of the fact that my children will one day live on this earth without me. And accepting that. And also accepting that I can’t change that. I’m also accepting that I can’t stop having my own life to be everything to them just because one day they will live without me. Because I also have to accept that one day, (Lord willing), I will also have to live in a world where they have their own lives, where they have jobs and families and go off on big world adventures and leave their mama at home. I can’t fall apart when that happens, because that must happen for them to survive in this world. So, here I sit, in March, reminding myself that it’s okay to live separate and apart from my children because I learned from my mother that it can be done and children can still know they are loved.