This month marks eight years since my mom’s death. Sometimes it seems like she was here just yesterday, smiling at me, talking to me, and other times it seems like it has been ages since I saw her warm, comforting face.
Most days, I think of her. And sometimes sadness consumes me when I think of her, and other times, I’m sad but I’m okay. She passes through my thoughts and I continue on with what I am doing. The missing her is always there and the loneliness is always there, but sometimes my memory of her is calming. It’s reassuring. It’s safe.
But when life is hard, or when I’m dealing with something emotional, her loss feels heavy. I think of her with sadness, and wish she could be here. I feel the full weight of missing her and can’t distract myself or find a way to feel better.
I used to think the pain would be temporary. You lose someone, and you grieve, and then you keep on living. I thought there was a specific window for grief to occur, or that a certain time was allotted to grief. I didn’t realize that grief could stay with me, even eight years later. But I’m learning that grief doesn’t follow a pattern. It doesn’t have walls or boundaries that dictate when it will show itself. And it doesn’t always show itself in a predictable way.
Grief comes at the strangest of times. Sometimes I’ll be laughing, and I’ll think of my mom. And I’ll miss her with all of my heart, yet I’ll still be able to laugh. I will feel the grief, but at the same time, I will still be able to smile. It’s like I can still see the joy in the world while simultaneously missing her.
But other times, she touches my heart and the grief is overwhelming and heavy. There’s nothing I can do to relieve the pain. It’s all encompassing. And I feel my heart breaking all over again because I realize that I’ll be missing her for the rest of my life.
I was at a therapy session a few months ago and was having a really hard time. We tried to talk through what was going on in my head and suddenly I started crying, and out of my lips came the words, “I just miss my mom so much.” And believe it or not, this was the first time I had ever cried about my mom to my therapist. And I had been seeing this same therapist since before my mom’s death.
I guess I thought that by now, I would be okay. I would have healed. But I’m learning that perhaps grief always stays with us. And even as we heal from loss, grief becomes a part of who we are. It doesn’t leave our side.
Sometimes grief is quiet. It remains hidden beneath the surface and comes out at unexpected times. Maybe we will start to cry at something that we wouldn’t expect to be saddened by, like a scene from a movie or a really beautiful song. I think sometimes these unexpected tears are an expression of grief quietly resurfacing. We feel the sadness, but we don’t always realize that it is coming from missing the person we loved. We don’t always identify the tears as relating to our loss.
And I don’t think grief always comes in the form of tears. Sometimes it comes in the moments when you are smiling with the sun shining down on your back. Sometimes grief is the feeling you get when you look up at the stars and hope with all of your heart that your loved one is somewhere up there looking down on you and loving you. Sometimes grief comes in the most joyful moments. It’s that aching feeling in your chest or in your throat that reminds you that someone very wonderful is missing, but that life is still beautiful. Because life can still be beautiful even in the midst of grief.
The beautiful thing about grief is that grieving the loss of someone and missing someone means we were lucky enough to have loved someone and to have been loved by someone. It means that we had someone special, someone irreplaceable, who brought light into our world. I guess I’d like to think that the sadness we feel is the price we pay for love.
More than anything, I wish I could see my mom. I wish I could talk to her. I wish I could ask her how her day went, or call her on the phone, just to chat. I wish I could hug her, even just one more time. And my heart aches for her. I miss her with every fiber of my being.
And this is why losing someone is so hard. Because the feeling of missing our person never ends. The ache never fully goes away. The pain of the loss never subsides.
But we do begin to learn how to live with it. We learn how to live in a world without the person we love. And we learn how to be almost okay again.
I would like to think that those we lose never fully leave us. I would like to think that they become a part of us, that they live on within us. They live in our hearts and are by our side with each step of the way. And even though we may heal for the most part, we will still carry some grief with us forever, because grief is the equivalent of love. We will still miss our person because they are a part of who we were and of who we are. Our lives have been permanently changed because of them. So while we may have this hole in our hearts forever, we can take peace in knowing that because of the person we miss, our lives have been changed for the better.
I don’t think I’m ever going to stop missing my mom, and I don’t want to. I am afraid of losing my memories of her. I am afraid of losing her smile or forgetting the sound of her voice. So I am going to cling tightly to my memories. I’m going to cry when I need to cry. And I’m also going to celebrate her life whenever I get the chance. Because someone so beautifully special deserves to be remembered and celebrated.
My relationship with my mom is not over. I will always be her daughter. And I am proud of this. I am proud to walk through this life with a part of her in every single thing I do.
There is no one way to grieve. But I do hope you know that grief is born out of love. In fact, grief is love. So allow this love to fill you up and be sure to take this love with you, wherever your path may lead.