Uncategorized, Warrior's Voice

Grieving in Silence

I attended a Zoom conference today with the author of, ‘Motherless Daughters’, Hope Edelman. I wasn’t exactly sure of what to expect from the conversation as I have not yet read her book. As I logged in, others were logging in as well. Women from all over the world. Many from the United States, others from India, UK, Singapore, and other countries. Women of all ages raging from early 20’s to late 80’s joined the Zoom connection to hear what Hope had to say.

Hope shared a brief synopsis of her story in how she lost her mom when she was quite young and how she has found the process of grief varies in many ways. Whether due to the age you are when you lose your mother, the circumstances around her passing, how you, your father, and other family members processed or didn’t process the loss, all may effect how you have grieved and continue to grieve. She also introduced an online course she will be launching in January for a fee of $197.

What stood out to me the most was actually my lack of grief in the loss of my mother comparatively to the comments being typed into the chat portion of the Zoom conversation. I was devastated when my mother died suddenly after a very short battle with breast cancer. One that we thought she was actually winning. I can still see, feel and hear conversations in her hospital room in the couple days before her vocal chords were paralyzed. The day she gave her last breath will never leave my memory. I cried, long and hard. I spent the entire summer focused on my nieces and nephews, to surround myself with what mattered most to my mother.

And yet, as summer came to a close, it was back to life as it was. While sitting and listening to the women on this conference video still grieving, I connected to my lack of long term grief. Not lack of love for my mother, but lack off allowing myself the space and ability to continue to bring her memory with me today.

I am an ‘out of sight out of mind’ kind of person. It became evident to me when I traveled with a girlfriend to visit another girlfriend who was battling cancer in 2017. We had all been through our own battle with breast cancer around the same time with varied diagnosis. Now this friend was fighting colon cancer, stage IV. While I was away from my family, I noticed my friend calling home a few times each day to say hi to her husband and her daughters. It was then I realized I don’t do that. Have never done that. I thought long and hard about all the times Tom and I had gone away on a overnight getaway and determined I never once called to say goodnight to my children while I was away.

It’s not that I didn’t miss them. Many moments I would think, “Oh, I wish Tom was here to walk on this beach with me.” Or, “I wish M was here to play in the pool, he would love this!” Or, “Laurie and I should go here some time.’ And upon returning home, I would grab hold of them, give them hugs and kisses, and say, “I missed you so much!” I was very happy to see them indeed. It just never occurred to me to call them while I was away. (On another note, I also have not been prone to bring home gifts/souvenirs when I have been away.)

In giving this more thought I noticed this to be true in other areas of my life as well. If I left a job, I did not keep in touch with co-workers. When a friend has moved away, I have easily lost contact with that friend. Facebook has allowed for the most recent friendships to remain superficially connected, yet without it the relationship would be lost.

I did not grieve when my father passed shortly after my mother. I felt the lack of grief in his passing was for very different reasons. The zoom meeting today touched on how grief or lack thereof can vary based on the relationship you had with the loved one before their passing. This has always made sense to me. With a tumultuous at best relationship with m y father, a heart of pain, misunderstanding, memories of physical and emotional abuse over shadowed his death.

Today I found myself pondering about my childhood and how our family functioned in high stress times. Times, where I believe now, a therapist would say were traumatic, life altering moments. What I can recall is a great deal of silence. Our home became full of silence. Rooms that were meant to be shared, living spaces designed for the family to gather, empty. Each person went to their private space, including our mother, closed the door, creating a sea of silence throughout the home.

I spent a large amount of time at home, seemingly alone, even though others were there. And when our mother left for work, to visit our father who was living elsewhere at the time, the phone never rang. She didn’t call to check on me, to see how we were doing, to say good night. I don’t recall waiting for a phone call, or wishing I had received a phone call. It just didn’t happen. Not from her, not from friends, not from anyone. This was my normal.

After my trip to CA with my girlfriends, I began making a point of calling home or sending photos to my son with a text letting him know I missed him. I have even called my adult daughter and my best friend a couple times recently to check-in. It feels odd, and yet oddly right. I am beginning to acknowledge I have been trapped living a life of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for a very long time. It was and is my coping mechanism to loss. Whether that be grief for loss, or guilt for being away and thus causing my children a sense of loss, or guilt for being away from my partner and leaving them alone taking care of everything. It seems as though it all connects back to how I felt as a child, but was unable to voice it. No one voiced it.

We grieved in silence. All we were going through. All we were battling in our minds and our hearts. All of the pain, hurt, fear, worry, was held in silence. I carried this into my abusive marriage. It was furthered by the notion that our problems were private and thus should not be discussed with others. Furthered still by the belief wherein all of our cares should be taken to the Lord in prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in prayer. I believe in a God who heals and provides and loves me, for me. I also believe in a God who wants us to carry each others burdens, love one another, and care for and grieve with one another. It has taken years to get past, to get over, to forgive and heal from what was taught to me for decades. To break through the silence I was held captive in.

I am uncertain of how to grieve in a healthy way, one that will hold the love I have for who or what I have lost, without holding me in a space of sadness or pain. I desire to incorporate sharing memories of the good times along with expressing the pain and hurt in a way of processing through all which was lost before my parents died and after. With the inability to share what was lost before, due to the learned nature of holding it all in silence, I have developed the habit of doing nothing rather than something.

And I believe I have continued this method of living in silence in other areas of my adult life. The uncertainty of what can and cannot be spoken about. The idea of if I do not talk about it, do not call home while I am away, then being away will have been okay and will not have caused any harm (real or imagined). My child, my spouse, my relationship will not be changed, altered or affected, as long as the time away (and fear of what being away may have done to those I left) is kept in silence.

If I call, then I am acknowledging that I am away, that I have left them, that I am having fun without them. For some reason, that has always felt wrong. Thinking back to when my mom would go away in the evenings to see my dad, that is exactly what it felt like. I was abandoned. Left alone, to fend for myself, tuck myself in bed, say my prayers in silence. We didn’t ever talk about it. And as long as we didn’t talk about it, it was okay. Without realizing it, I carried this with me as I grew, developing a part of my character. Silence became my grieving process and silence expanded and grew into many areas of my life in which I felt uncertain whether or not should be spoken of. I have kept myself from truly experiencing grief, rest, pleasure, fear, joy, separation, instead remaining silent.

Silence became something I dreaded. I found ways to not be in silence whenever possible, not knowing all I was doing was covering up what I needed to hear, feel, say. I have come to a place in my life where I rejoice in silence. I long for silence and cherish moments, if not hours in silence. And it is in this silence where I am hearing my grief, feeling my hurts, gaining understanding and the strength to voice it all.

How To

The Great Infusion

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I have been asked (repeatedly) for my recipe for Rosemary infused vodka. Ignoring the fact this means I am seen far too often with a drink in hand, where in which I reply to the question, ‘What are you drinking?’, with, ‘Rosemary vodka and soda.’

“Rosemary vodka? Where-ever did you find that?’, A delightful yet quizzical (maybe even skeptical) look upon their face.

“I make it.”

“You make it?”, skepticism seeping from their pores, their eye brow raised.

My outstretched hand holds a mason jar, ice clinking as I extend the offering. One brow furrowed, one raised they receive the offer and raise the glass to their lips. A slight hesitation as they inhale the aroma before allowing themselves a taste. Both eyebrows raise, eyes widen as the earthy scent sparks visions of fields and meadows, nature surrounds them. They close their eyes soaking in the vision. Tilting the glass ever so to allow the drink to kiss their lips and delight their tongue.

“You must tell me how you make this!”, they exclaim.

One drink and they are sold, every time. (All but my husband. I have often wondered, but not for too long, what this says about him……)

The recipe is quite simple. In fact, items needed may already be in your home and hopefully in your own garden. You will need: A mason jar with lid, fresh rosemary sprigs, and vodka. I kid you not. The most expensive part should be the vodka (although I secretly buy cheap vodka much of the time), but at times one can pay the piper when buying rosemary at the market. The only time I purchase rosemary is during the winter when my potted plant fails to re-grow. This cold weather season had me wondering if I had brought the plant indoors, would it have continued to thrive? I will try that next winter and report back.

Items Needed:

Glass Mason Jar (Large), a canning jar, any brand will do (Ball, Mason, Kerr).
6-7 sprigs of rosemary (on the stems/branches, no taller than the jar)
Vodka to fill the jar (any plain vodka will do)

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The mason jar I use was given to me from a member of my local ‘Buy Nothing’ group on Facebook. A fantastic idea to give away items we no longer use to someone who is in need of that particular item. I wonder if the whole world did this to what extent we might do away with the needs of the world? To be certain it was clean, I soaked it in bleach water and then rinsed it out several times.

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Rosemary:

I grow rosemary in a large pot on my deck that is just steps outside my kitchen door. I purchased the plant at our local Home Depot for $5.99 a couple years ago. It has provided us with 2 years of rosemary for vodka infusion, Christmas prime rib roasts, and sprigs for various other cooking related needs. As I mentioned, the regrowth has slowed in the winter months. I found I had to purchase a package from the local market for my last batch of Rosemary infused vodka (an indication that while the growth slowed, my consumption did not). The tiny little package of Organic Rosemary had a ticket price of $5.99. Hmm…. Still worth it. I have also been gifted rosemary on the Buy Nothing Group as well, you may see of a neighbor has some to gift. You didn’t hear it from me, but one could always walk around with clippers in say, their pocket. You never know what you might come across on a walk through the neighborhood, perhaps a bush or two of beautiful rosemary needing a little trim.

Place the fresh-cut sprigs of rosemary into the empty mason jar. Unlike the photo above (it is just for effect), it is easier to fill the jar with vodka while not over filling it, if you put the rosemary in first. Do as you like, putting the rosemary in first or last will not change the outcome of the product.

Vodka:

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It really is up to you what brand of vodka you use. Lately I have been using Kirkland brand from Costco. I hear rumor that the company has contracts with big name distillers to have the product bottled under their in-house brand name. Not certain that is true, but I’d like to believe I am getting a higher end product for a reduced price. I have used Smirnoff, Skyy, Absolut, and other vodkas and found the end result is the same. I don’t know if you used the cheapest of cheap vodkas if it would affect the taste. There maybe a lower end when it begins to taste more like rubbing alcohol than something which should be consumed by human beings. I suggest you take precaution as to just how cheap you go on the vodka, but most certainly do not think you need to purchase expensive, top shelf vodka for the infusion to work or taste better.

Fill your mason jar up with vodka. covering the rosemary. Close the lid tight. Then, put the jar away in a cabinet (dark) and let it sit and infuse. There is no real specific time-frame. I have checked on mine after 3-4 days and it already had a rosemary scent to it. I tend to let mine sit for about 10 days. You will notice the vodka takes on a brown tint. Likely from the stem soaking in the vodka. After about 10-12 days it will look like this:

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Upon opening the jar, the aroma will once again hit your senses and take you off on a journey through meadows or forests filled with earthy delights full of peace and tranquility. Go ahead and remove the rosemary at this point, toss it in the compost (or I suppose you could chop it up and use it to season baked chicken….. I toss mine).

Next I strain my vodka to remove any little bits or floaties left behind in the jar. I simply put a large mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the vodka through it. Then I transfer the strained vodka to a bottle to store it in until it is consumed. It’s easiest to use a funnel for the transfer. I pour the vodka into an empty vodka bottle that I have kept on hand. This looks a little more sophisticated than pouring our drinks from a large mason jar (not that there is anything wrong with that).

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(Sophistication Note: The lovely office label and sharpie, ‘Rosemary Infused Vodka’)

There you have it, my Rosemary Infused Vodka, from start to finish. As for the drink it is equally as simple.

Rosemary Vodka and Seltzer water:

Mason drinking glass
Rosemary infused vodka (count to 6 as you pour – fast or slow, it’s really up to you)
Add ice cubes
Fill up the glass with seltzer water (I use store brand lemon-lime)
A dash of fresh squeezed lime juice (if you so desire, it cuts the earthy taste just a little for those, like my husband, who are just not that into earth or things that taste like it).
Sprig of rosemary (garnish, just for the photo. I never put this in my drink.)

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Bonus Note:

You can do the same infusion with organic ginger in place of rosemary. For this I have found you need to let it sit much longer. 3 months is the best for the ginger to get into the vodka. We use this for Moscow Mules. My husband prefers the ginger vodka with ginger beer and lime juice (lots of lime juice).

Drink and be merry! (…and share, don’t forget to share.)