So many people in our modern society are not well versed in the ways of grief. When you have never lived a year, or five years, or 50 years with the death of someone you love, you just don’t know what that will mean or be like. I have both the fortune and misfortune of having lost people at a young age… and so while I still have relatively fresh grief from my fiance dying 7 years ago, I also have long term grief from my mom dying almost 30 years ago now.
Having lived so much of my 37 years with her death has given me time to go through a lot of different phases with her. In my early 20’s is when I truly began to grieve her death in a big way. Not really capable as a child, it took time to mature to a place to break that pain open. It was my first breakup from a serious relationship that broke my grief open for my mom. And so I learned, sometimes it is like that – sometimes one loss in your world will rip open the old wounds of another loss WIDE OPEN.
In my 20’s I also began to celebrate and build a relationship to my mom once more. My family was the type to not talk about dead people, or painful things, so I learned just to think she was gone and no longer existed. But I never believed that on the inside I don’t think. It was in my 20’s that I started to celebrate her birthday again, quietly on my own. I began writing a card to her on that day to talk about all the things in my world and thank her for all the lessons she continues to teach me.
In those years, I also had a lot of painful moments where I just wished she was there to give me a hug and some encouragement. That’s when I finally began to realize that the pain of missing someone probably never leaves. That I will be 80 years old someday – if I am lucky – and still having moments where I just cry because I want her there. I think before that, I thought there would be some gradual closure of that wound for good. I think a lot of folks believe that. In a way, there was something freeing about realizing that I’ll be crying because I miss her for the rest of my life. I don’t have to try and close up that wound. I don’t have to worry about not being “done” with grief or doing it too fast or too slow. I am free to miss her for all of my days.
By the time Drew died suddenly in 2012, I already had all these lessons and understandings about grief. It was then that I started to realize in a deeper way, just how much our loved ones are still with us. In her death, my mom taught me a world of important lessons that would one day help me with new challenges in my life. All the things that I had learned from her death were now helping to support me through his death. It didn’t make it less painful, but it did make it easier, and less scary, because on certain levels I did know what to expect already. In a surprising way, it’s felt like she has been preparing me all along for this immense trauma of losing my partner. That during all of these years that she has been gone, she hasn’t really been gone at all, but has been laying a different sort of parental foundation for her daughter.
I would never wish to relive any of the losses in my life. And I will always wish for all of them to be back and living. However I can’t ignore that there seems to be so much alignment and still so much to be grateful for them teaching me. Similarly, Drew’s death gave deeper meaning and purpose to my mom’s death. If I had to experience losing him, then there now seems a purpose to having lost her in that it helped me to understand my own grief and pain better after he died. Ultimately, all of these earthly deaths have helped me to know myself more, and to find a very distinct love for myself that has come from loving myself through the darkness. These are gifts they have given me, and there are many more gifts they will continue to give me in the future I am certain. In that way, I am no longer wishing for the wounds to close up and become fully healed. For to continue to have them open and ever changing with me is to continue to have my loved ones with me, guiding me, teaching me, and helping me to grow.
Wounds that never disappear also mean that love never disappears. When they remain open in some small way, we remain open, and we can spend a lifetime pouring our love into those wounds so that they hurt less and teach us more. To close them may hurt less, but it also teaches us far less.