Recently I watched a dear friend tell a group of us that she would be moving soon. I watched the scene unfold with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was thrilled for my friend and her family as it is a great opportunity for them and a new adventure to be sure. On the other hand, I was sad for those of us left behind, for one friend in particular. You see, these two ladies are the best of friends, sisters is more like it. As I watched the tears flowing from the eyes all around, I felt their pain. I have been in both of their shoes before – the mover and the one left behind. It is an awful feeling of loss and emptiness. As I walked away I was hit with the reality that grief is grief. We experience grief in death but also in life, in so many different incarnations.
A week ago my son turned ten years old. A decade. He was so excited. He said “mom, I have finally hit my double digits”. As I watched his excitement, I fought back my own tears. I felt like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest leaving a very deep, dark hole. I have no idea if this sense of loss is normal or even deemed “acceptable”. What I do know is that my heart and soul feel so conflicted. I am so proud of this little man for the outstanding human being he is becoming. I am so proud of each and every obstacle he has overcome in his decade on this earth. I love him with my whole heart. When I became a mom, I did not know that it would hurt so bad to love this much. Doesn’t that sound crazy? I realize I should be jumping up and down with glee for what this boy has become and all that he will do, yet can’t I allow myself to grieve for how quickly the time has passed and for what is behind us while I look forward to what is to come?
My answer is simply, YES! I give my friends and family permission to grieve. I not only give them permission to grieve death but to grieve all losses that happen in their lives. Why can’t I give myself that same latitude? Soon after I found out I was pregnant I had to have a life altering surgery. While growing my baby, I had to have surgery at which time it was diagnosed that I had ovarian cancer. The cancer and the ovary were removed. I was able to carry my baby almost to term and delivered a healthy boy. A Christmas Miracle to be sure! Two years later the cancer threatened my body again but this time I was, well, pissed, for lack of a better word! I fought back hard and with a vengeance and had a final life altering surgery that would prohibit me from having any more children. My boy would be an only child. I never allowed myself the grace to grieve for what was lost that day.
Each year on his birthday, I am taken back to the day my sweet boy was born as well as the struggle it took to get him here. I am filled with so much love and joy and relief for all that this little boy represents, yet I also grieve that each experience is not only a first but a last as well. On the upside, I never wish away time yet on the downside, I can never seem to slow the clock down either.
This year was a little different. This year, I learned grace. I allowed myself to grieve. I cried a lot and I cried hard. I didn’t try to hide it this year. My husband saw it and he understood my feelings of loss. I think he experiences it in his own way as well. The biggest difference this year was that I didn’t hide it from my boy either. The night before his actual birthday, he surpassed a monumental milestone in his taekwondo practice. As I watched this child, I cried without abandon right in front of the other parents, students and Masters. I felt no shame in my feelings of pride, joy or in my grief and the sense of loss that I felt as he took this huge step forward. When we got in the car to go to dinner I apologized to him and told him that I hoped I hadn’t embarrassed him. This precious child took my hand and said “mom, I wasn’t embarrassed. I kind of liked it”. And, just like that, the floodgates opened for him as well. We sat in the car both sobbing, unable to catch our breaths. I asked him why he was crying. He didn’t know. He just felt like he was releasing something. We both were. We were releasing the past. We were releasing what was lost and what would never be. We were grieving and it was good. It was good to let go.
Today I was visiting with my friends while we worked out together and I watched them tip toe around the discussions of the impending move. The one whispered to me that she just tries not to think about it, you know, by not thinking about it, it’s not real. I assured her that it’s ok to cry and to be sad and to feel the loss. It is ok to grieve and we must allow ourselves that gift to grieve. Make no mistake, it is a gift to grieve and to release. I also assured her that I would hold her hand through it just as my son held mine.
With Love and Grace,