Monday, April 30, 2012

Accepting forever

I recently read a Caringbridge journal entry from a mom who lost her teenage daughter to cancer last year. Not only did her heartbreak get to me, but something she said in particular had my stomach in knots.

“It’s forever,” she explained. Some days she struggles to come to terms with the fact that this loss—this heartache and pain—is lifelong. It’s not a temporary hurdle. No momentary hardship. It’s something she will have to face every day for as long as she lives.

And like the weight of a brick wall, it fell over me. I knew just what she meant. Certainly I’ve never lost a child and cannot (and will not) tell you I know how it feels. But I do know grief. And grief, over time, tends to come in waves. There are moments of peace, of comfort. But there are also moments of disbelief, as though I’m being told for the very first time.

I remember—too vividly, in fact—that feeling of trying to comprehend a loss. Struggling to understand its permanence. Fighting to accept something you want nothing more than to change. And feeling completely broken when you’d give anything to instead feel whole again.

I’ve talked about grief a lot before (the truth is, it's a part of me). But I’m no expert. All I know is that it’s a journey, one that, once you’ve started, you never get to stop living. 

This topic is heavy on my mind today because it’s been exactly 3 years since Sean’s dad died. I feel almost guilty sometimes because the truth is, I only knew him for 4 years. Imagine his wife and children and loved ones who had him for so much longer! But I’m sad all the same.

And part of that is because I’m realizing lately that grief can be twofold; it’s about missing the person you loved but also missing what they stand for in this life. I miss Sean’s dad as I knew him—his sense of humor, generosity, and warm smile. And I know his family and friends miss the man they knew even better, deeper. But I also grieve over the empty places his absence leaves in our lives. The dad and husband he should still be today. The grandfather I wish my future children could have. The handyman Lord knows we need when things are falling apart and overwhelming us. The friend he would be to so many, especially his sons as they grow into remarkable men.

But we go on because we have to. We learn to live with the ebb and flow of sadness. We find new normals. We pray to the angels watching over us. And we find strength—in each other, in our memories, and in the promise that one day we’ll meet again.

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