After my mother died, I learned a few things about mourning.
I used to think that mourning was about sadness. Sadness is part of it. But, for me, the core of the mourning process has been about adjusting to a new mental landscape.
In the days after my mother’s death, it felt like my thought process was frequently interrupted. The sensation was like stepping off a sidewalk without knowing there was a curb and dropping that extra distance. A stumble. An interruption.
That interruption did not bring me to a full stop, but it was distracting. And it happened frequently. An hour of interrupted thoughts was fatiguing. A day was exhausting.
This wasn’t sadness, specifically. It was more about navigating a new space. If my thoughts touched on anything relating to my mother, I was dropping off that curb again.
In the months leading up to her death, most of my energy went into looking after her. This conditioned me to think of her constantly. Following her death, my train of thought would fall back into those well-worn routines. Except, there was no more sidewalk in that direction. Each time my mind started in that direction, thud. Off the curb again.
Even without the transition away from being a full-time caregiver, there is plenty in my life that reminds me of my mother in some way. Family. A can of Pepsi. A coloring book. Anything could send me back to that little mental interruption. Each interruption only takes a little effort to overcome. But even little efforts add up.
For me, that’s what mourning is. It’s the feeling of the brain adapting. Something important has changed, and it takes time to get used to that. In the mean time, the thought interruptions are a kind of frequent, involuntary context switching. Distracting and tiring.