I’ve heard that it’s important to not isolate ourselves while grieving. Instead of pushing others away and stubbornly thinking we can rely on our own strength, we ought to lean on those who love us for support and understanding. Community is key. I’ve also heard the cliched advice that it’s important not to make any big changes during the first year of grief, as that puts a lot of added strain on an already trying time.
This makes total sense.
So will someone please explain to me why I decided to move across the country by myself- less than a year after my mom died?! A few thousand miles from home, and all alone- that’s about as isolated as a girl can get.
I willingly removed myself from the people and the places I loved- and the people and places who loved me in return- at a time when I really needed to be surrounded by love.
My mom passed at home in Montana in December of 2015, and I was living in Nashville by the following September. I have questioned this decision literally every single day for the past year and 214 days. Okay, like, maybe every other day. Some of them have been fun. 😉
When I think back on my first year here in Nashville, while I was still so newly grieving, I’m actually amazed that I made it through. I remember calling my dad sobbing every day for the first 3 months. I kept tissues in my car because every time I started to drive the tears would start flowing. I was working as a makeup artist at the time, which was hilarious because I would spend so much time on my face before heading off to work, and then I would just cry it all off during the commute. Then I had panic attacks at work. Just a few, but they were embarrassing enough to leave an impression.
That image of myself pulls on a lot of heartstrings. I want to scold 23 year old me for being so stubborn and too attached to her pride that she didn’t take the proper time to take care of herself. I want to hold her while she cries and reassure her that she did something really, truly brave. I want to laugh at her for being such an earnest little shit show!
Moving forward, I’ve realized a little too late that I didn’t fully take in how much my experience of losing my mom had changed who I was and what I valued. I made a snap decision to move when I perhaps wasn’t stable enough to do so. I honestly do look back on that time with a good dose of regret. I wish I had taken more time to breathe and give myself grace. There would have been no harm in waiting a bit longer.
All that being said, I accept the decision I made. I can’t go back in time and undo it. I also respect the hell out of myself for being such a tough li’l cookie. I admire the vulnerability I was willing to share with my dad during those all-too-frequent phone calls. I am amazed that I sought out a therapist when I knew my solitary efforts were not enough to see me through. I can’t believe how many people with whom I have been willing to open up and share my story. I am awestruck by the new community I’ve begun to create for myself, and truly surprised when I think about all the people I now know in Nashville. When I first arrived, I only had two friends. (Including my ex-boyfriend but let’s not go there quite yet!)
Frankly, moving to a new city in your 20s is supposed to be freaking hard. It’s supposed to be intimidating and new, and it’s supposed to teach you a whole heck of a lot about yourself in the process.
But I also think the idea behind moving to a new place in your 20s is to primarily to give yourself a clean slate. To start fresh. There was no way that was going to happen for me. I’m just now realizing I may have been secretly hoping it would. It took me a while to accept that I didn’t get to just start re-writing my story. Whereas my peers could just wipe off the chalk from their slate, I had to work around the deep etchings that had been carved into mine by losing my mom. A permanent part of my story had been written. No “fresh start” could undo it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought “I wish my new friends could have known the me I was before my mom died.” I see so many ways in which she would have moved about this city differently. But does this comparison game help anything? No.
I am now giving myself the kindness I didn’t allow myself when I moved to Tennessee. I don’t need to pressure myself to be successful- especially during a period of mourning and rest.
All this is to say that I respect whatever you decide to do. If you are grieving and want desperately to be home so you can mourn with family, DO IT. If you feel like you need to keep moving forward with your life, DO IT. It will be hard but you can and will survive.
Has my time in Nashville been wasted if I wasn’t able to take fullest advantage of all the opportunities here? I don’t think any time is wasted. Especially hard times. This is just the rhythm of life.
I am learning to rediscover my confidence. I am learning to be alone. I am learning to be gentle with myself. I am learning to take care of my body. I am learning that growth is subjective. I am learning to be my own best friend and counselor. I am living. I am experiencing. I am healing. I am counting on myself. I am creating space. I am revising. I am deciding. I am surviving.
Most important of all, amid the isolation, I am learning to find my mother’s voice within myself.