Paeonia lactiflora “Hermione” was easy to find in early June. The pink, fragrant flower is widely available and is an established cultivar of the peony family. It was the clear choice because peonies were my mom’s favorite flower. These proud, pink, showy blossoms were abundant at her funeral in 2004. I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate peonies until a few years later, when I discovered their power to heal grief.
Each time I see a peony, I think about my mom, especially in May, when Mothers Day coincides with their early blooming season. They don’t grow in the desert where we now live, but my friends all over the country regularly post photos of them when they bloom. This year, my dear friend Kay posted her photos (shown here, with her permission) and my mind was again drawn to mom.
After 14 years, I don’t often become sad when I think of her, but I am reminded that healing from grief is slow and unpredictable. And in the aftermath of the death of someone close, grief can be overwhelming.
Healing from grief
What heals us from grief? It’s different for each person, but for me it was a combination of several things. I focused on four of her traits:
- Gratitude – She modeled grateful and abundant living. Each time I do something I learned from my mom, I express thanks that she taught me how to live independently and with gratitude.
- Courage – She took on situations with bravery and fortitude. I inherited her courage and think of her when I face tough situations.
- Challenge – Beyond being brave, she seemed to have endless endurance for new and difficult tasks. It was in that spirit that I taught myself to sew last year, knowing she would be proud that I challenged myself with a new skill.
- Joy – Laughter was one of my mom’s hallmark traits. Whenever my parents got together with their friends, contagious laughter filled the house and the people who occupied it.
My mom was imperfect. But even in her imperfection, she seemed to draw strength from gratitude, courage, challenge, and joy. I still tell my favorite stories of her foibles and missteps – the same ones we laughed about together when she was alive. And I still feel her loss at times when I know she’d have an answer that I struggle to find.
But most of all, I know that I honor her memory by living fully, gratefully, bravely, stalwartly, and happily because that’s how she taught me to live.
Related: Mothers Day Revisited