There I was, at a coffee shop downtown last Wednesday afternoon. I was sitting beside a large window enjoying the rain tapping against the glass as I did some work on my computer, when suddenly my awareness was completely shifted. In that instant, I felt a deep, emptiness that was both piercing and aching at the same time. A screaming hollowness inside me.
What had happened? I overheard a word from one of the two women who sat behind me enjoying lunch together. And that word, was “Mom”.
As I continued to listen in on their conversation, the hole in my heart grew bigger and bigger. The daughter looked to be my age, and here they were, just having an ordinary lunch together. Like this is a thing they do every week. She must have fired off the word “mom” twenty more times as I listened. There was such an ease in their voices. Such a comfortable knowingness of each other. Something I have never experienced as an adult. I teared up, and actually stopped working to grab my journal and write my emotions out….
“I feel it so acutely right now. This hole in me. This lack of security. I wonder if I should go back to counseling. I wonder if I will always have trouble with avoiding things. I wonder if I will always get in my own way, and if somehow all of it is because of this hole. Because of this lack of security deep down in me. I just miss my mom.”
On this particular day, I was feeling especially vulnerable. I had to back out of a commitment that was very personally important to me for financial reasons. No matter how much I wanted to, I just couldn’t swing it. I was feeling sad and very emotional over the whole thing. So in that moment when I heard the word “Mom” from the table behind me, I knew. I knew instantly why this week had been so much harder for me than I thought it should have been. Why I was so damn emotional over this decision. Because it was one of those moments in your life, as an adult, that you really just want the comfort of your parents. So there it was, being shoved in my face at the coffee shop… all week, all I had really wanted, was to just talk to my mom. To feel that sense of security. That warm, loving, unconditional embrace. That connection to the one person who knows my entire history (or who would have, were she still alive). That alone would have made a world of difference.
There’s just no way around how challenging loss is. And always continues to be. There’s no avoiding that, because of losing both of my parents, and Drew, I now have so many missing pieces. There’s no avoiding how this has made me a nervous person. Or how it has made getting close to people a huge challenge for me my whole life. No avoiding how much deeper the pain goes when people I love die or fade out of my life – because every new loss reactivates these 3 primary losses. No avoiding that I get in my own way a lot, because deep down if I achieve great things there is an even greater risk of experiencing loss in some form… the last thing I want more of. No avoiding that loss has shaped who I am. No avoiding the fact that sometimes, I hate that is has shaped who I am.
On the flip side, I still know that loss has shaped me in ways I am grateful for too. The way I look at life… the way I constantly scan my surroundings for beauty and capture it artwork and writing. My ability to find meaning and teaching moments in even the most painful experiences, using these to help myself learn and grow… and to help others too. My courage to try scary things or do hard things, and not take my days for granted because I am aware it could all end tomorrow. There are good things about loss shaping us. But today, this week, it was just plain hard to look at that side of it.
Sometimes an ordinary day at the coffee shop is just going to rip the bandaid off and leave me feeling utterly exposed again. And when it does, It’s just plain HARD.