Anyone who has ever lost someone they cared about can talk about grief. The characteristics of it are so common that it doesn’t matter if it was a parent or child, let alone sibling, friend, or extended family member.
We can all relate to each other on some level because of that common bond, but the depth is what varies our experiences. I’ve lost a lot of people over the course of my life – as so many of us have – and many of those are relationships I would have loved the chance to deepen before their time ended, but I don’t grieve them all the same.
Precious few have stayed with me for my entire life and carry lessons that I’m still trying to make habit. The lessons of my children, though, are ones that I will continue to learn. One of those is this:
Grief is intoxicating.
Its darkness wraps you up and keeps you, trying to tell you that this is the only way to keep your children present. Its siren’s voice so subtle that you don’t realize you’re staying too long, singing its songs into your heart in ways that we don’t recognize until it’s too late. There are many times I have to ask myself, ‘Have I stayed too long?’ Am I trying to hold onto them so hard that I wallow in their grief instead of living a life they would be proud to see me carry out?
Am I stuck?
I usually find that if I’m asking the question I already know the answer. I’ve listened for too long to the wrong voices and allowed myself to believe that the only way to feel my children is through depression, willfully or not. It takes me a while to break out of it, but let me tell you something straight out of my soul – feeling my children in happiness is the most incredible feeling I’ve ever had. I’ve been on a grueling 100-mile bike ride and caught a glimpse of them six hours into it that completely lifted my spirits. Small things like seeing a drawn whale on a card envelope or a surprise stuffed whale on my desk catch my breath. Turning my relationship with them into one of remembrance is among the hardest things I’ve ever done, but from the few times I’ve found it I know it will be worth it.
So if you’re here right now sitting and reading, wondering if the songs you hear right now are ones of remembrance or grief, ask yourself if it catches your breath or steals it.
Ask if these things you’re doing and feeling are from a place in your heart that is filled with them or is longing for them.
And no judgement here – I can tell you honestly and shamelessly that I’m often in both places at the same time but rarely do I hear songs of sorrow from my children. We all fight to get to that place and too few of us make it, so give yourself a chance and be real. Live for their memory and not for their death.
Your heart will thank you for it.