In doing some research for my book I came across a print out from The Compassionate Friends, an organization who supports those who have lost loved ones. In that article it addressed an area of my grief that I struggle with even today. What made me think about it was recently I also had read an article by a mother who was mourning her daughter’s move to college. She felt lost and alone and unsure of what she was going to do with her time. And I thought to myself – we have so much in common, yet there is a place where that commonality takes a fork in the road. That fork starts a path no parent wants to travel.
The article from TCF addresses parents who are now childless. As I read this for the first time, tears streamed down my face, because for once during my grieving period someone wrote what I was feeling. I thought no one could possibily understand what it was like to feel my future slip away, or at least the one I thought I was suppose to live, had been ripped from me. I questioned so many times, “who am I if I am not a parent” “who am I if I am not a mother” – I was utterly lost in my own identity. I felt empty and alone and the hole in my heart seemed as if it would never recover.
This article gave me a small rope to cling to. The words “Ultimately, however, we realize that we are forever parents.” were the words I needed to hear. I remember thinking – “finally someone gets it” – until I got asked “the question”. How many children do you have? The first couple of times I was asked by an unsuspecting person, I would just hang my head and say quietly one and then walk away from their bedside, to hide the tears that quickly flooded my eyes. As time went on, that question would continue to come, and with each level of grief I would answer it differently. Sometimes I could tell if the person that was asking could handle me saying “one, but she now lives in Heaven” or I would just say “no”.
Saying “no” was in a way betraying Brittany’s existenace so I stopped that and just became comfortable with saying I have a daughter and she has passed on. I came to a place where I could even smile while saying it. That is real progress.
So often my well meaning family, friends and co-workers would try to offer a word of comfort by saying “try and focus on what time you had with her” or “try not to look back and look toward the future” – can I just say I wanted to belt them a few times. But I knew they cared for me and were just trying to help. But let me tell you if you are in this place, you may feel, like I did, that it’s hard to find a way to focus on the future when it looks very empty. I won’t deny that for one minute, but it does get better. The fact doesn’t change, it’s the way you look at it that changes.
You begin to see the blessings and not the grief that has held you hostage for so long. The trip is a long one and it seems as though some days you move one step forward and three back. Eventually the steps forward begin to out number the steps backward. That is the hope I offer you today.
If you are early in your grief, move into it, lean into it and lean into God. Move through your grief and let it take you where you need to go. Tears will fall, floods will come but so will joy. When joy returns your memories will make you smile and sometimes with a small tear – a sign that you will never forget.
until next time