In early 2009, living my life with some redundancy and lack of purpose, I found myself suddenly searching for the rug that had been pulled from under my feet.
During a 6-week period I experienced a series of losses that seemed so unreal at the time. The first was the loss of my grandmother, a woman who was the heart and soul of our family and my sweet earth angel. Returning to work from her memorial service, I was promptly laid-off from a job that I naively believed held job security for me and that I truly loved. But that wasn’t the end of it. Exactly one month later, my dad succumbed to his 7-year battle with cancer and I lost my champion, my best friend and the man I measured all others by.
Over the next several months I felt the need to put my grief on hold. As the only child of a mother who had just lost her husband and her mother, I needed to be there for her. There would be time for me to fall apart later. And so started the learning process of what grief had to teach me.
The first lesson grief taught me was that it did not like to be buried deep inside or put away on a shelf to deal with when time permits. In fact, I learned that the longer I put my grief on hold, the more I felt like it was eating me from the inside out until one night while listening to my dad’s favorite song on the radio, grief took hold and wouldn’t let go. I can honestly say that I have never sobbed so hard before or since that night or the days that followed.
But a few days later I was ready to face daylight again and figure out a way to move on with my life. After all, that’s what my dad and my grandmother would want most for me and I wanted to honor them with my life and my choices.
The second lesson took me a little longer to figure out. I realized that I wasn’t just grieving the losses, I was also grieving who I was in those relationships. I hadn’t just lost people I loved, I also lost the way they saw me, the person I was in their eyes. I lost the special way I felt loved by them and I lost my ability to show them my love. My grief was deeper than just the fact that they were no longer in my life. It was also about who I could no longer be to someone I loved. I lost a part of myself with each of them. And I would need to learn how to love myself the way they would have loved me.
Next, grief taught me that time does not actually heal all wounds. We just learn how to live with the pain easier over time. After all these years, I still feel an emptiness inside. A hole that can never be filled. But I’ve come to love that hole because it represents two people who shaped my life and made me who I am. That hole honors their place in my life forever.
I also learned that people who say they know what you’re going through really don’t. I know, because I’ve said it before and I was wrong. Someone might be able to relate to your pain or understand how you feel, but they’ll never truly feel your loss the same because all relationships are different and very personal. No two people ever experience a loss the same.
Lastly, my grief presented me an opportunity to examine my life and come out of it either better or worse depending on my desires. When I finally felt like I could see daylight again, I knew that I wanted to live my life in a way that would honor the souls that I deeply loved. Two of the most important people in my life taught me to love, laugh and live life to the fullest. Each day that I wake is another opportunity to live my life in a way that honors my guardian angels.
So, while I will always miss them and will always feel the pain of their loss, I will also always keep them close by living my life in a manner that would make them proud. Since I realized that my grief would probably always be a part of me, I decided to make friends with it, be grateful for it and allow it to be what it needs to be whenever it needs attention.