Grief and the Fear of Memories

When something terrible happens, it makes sense that we would want to block those memories out, avoid them at all costs. Who wants to revisit that? And dwelling has gotten itself such a bad rep. Our reasons to try to push those memories down until they are buried so deep inside of us that we never have to confront them again are unlimited.

It’s certainly a thought, trying to forget those harsh memories- but in doing so, you make it impossible to allow any good memories back in. Suppression has got to be complete and total, which in the act erases all of the joy along with it. We cannot selectively decide what to remember. That’s not how a brain works, my loves.

I don’t want to forget anything. Even if we could have this mighty power of erasing memories from popping up in our own heads, what about the external factors? The reminders that crop up, calling to mind our most prominent associations?

I have daily, unavoidable reminders of the mother that I lost and the time in which I lost her.

This inevitable approach of Fall has become a complicated time. My initial reaction is fear- fear of what memories are going to come flooding back. Mid-October was the traumatic beginning of the end. Everything pumpkin flavored reminds me of the last thing Mom enjoyed eating. Changing leaves reminds me of the last walk my mom and I managed to take together- the day before we visited the ER only to find the cancer that had spread to her brain, the one where I practically held her up the entire way, telling myself it was just the medication causing her unsteadiness. But man, we sure did enjoy seeing that one tree starting to change color. I took a picture of it for her a few days later to show her in the hospital how it had changed even more. Who knew a quick snapshot of a tree in a neighbor’s yard could make me feel like this? Bring up my entire grief to the surface until I feel the need to lay myself down on the floor? Cozy shawls remind me of her. Thanksgiving really just makes me think of that year, all previous holidays erased.

And yet…. I’m baking. I’m spending cozy mornings with my roommate eating pumpkin cinnamon rolls. I’m buying Fall scents to fill up my home. I’m indulging in that animal-like instinct to begin the nesting process. Even though it makes me think of some really fucking hard things- it reminds me of those seriously beautiful moments that we had as a family. The last walk we all took together. Piling onto Mom and Dad’s bed all together to eat warm, comforting soup and watch a movie. Those moments are worth it to me to not forget.

I recently had a friend reach out about an intimidating revisitation to her past. And I encouraged her to remember that memories only have power over us if we let them take control. As long as we can let those harder memories come and go, making conscious decisions how to react to them, we will be okay.

We have to equip ourselves with the ability to allow our memories and our peace of mind to coexist. After all, it’s a skill you will need for the rest of your life.

Don’t be afraid to remember, my dears. Be afraid of forgetting.

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