Surviving Grief

By on September 22, 2016

By Lynne Cox−

Laura and I had been close friends since junior high school. I grew up knowing her family and she knew mine.  Last year when her mom moved into an assisted care facility Laura asked me to visit her. We met outside her mom’s facility and as we entered through the front door Laura stopped, turned to me, and as if to prepare me and said, “my mom isn’t doing well.” She took a deep breath and continued. “My mom can’t walk or speak anymore. She’s dying a thousand little deaths.” Laura choked back tears.

I hugged her tightly. I had lost my mom a few years earlier and my dad had passed a few years before that. I had learned that hugs were something that helped. When everything inside me felt like it was falling apart, a hug from a friend helped me calm down and steady myself. 

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Many of my adult friends had lost or were losing their parents or other loved ones. It was strange rite of passage that none of us wanted to experience, but it was inevitable. 

I told Laura this part of life was hard that you grieve a hundred little losses every day, and our parents also grieve their little losses every day, but at the same time we need celebrate the moments we have together, realizing that they are precious and fleeting. This is one of life’s most challenging marathons.

Love drew Laura to her mom’s side to help and support her, and it was love that helped Laura endure the heartbreak and grief when she lost her mom.

When Laura called to tell me that her mom had passed away, her grief was so immense that she could hardly speak. I recognized that feeling, that was how I felt when my mom died. I had no words to describe the loss or how I felt about it. No matter how much we know that loss was inevitable, there was no way for us to prepare for it or for the depths of our sadness and grief.

It was strange, when I lost my mom, I thought I would get over grieving fairly quickly and put the past behind me so I could move forward with my life. But that didn’t work. It took more time. I discovered that just as there are no limits on love, there are also no limits on grief.  It would take time to let the grief go, and sometimes when I thought I was done with grieving, I would suddenly see or hear something that reminded me of my mom, and wish that she was with me.

I was learning that grief is a process that couldn’t be rushed, and there were actions to help me make positive steps to move through this process. Friends who had lost their parents or loved ones invited me to have dinner with them or go out to see a movie. A few friends invited me for sleep overs, and we sometimes talked most of the night away about our moms and dads, and the things that we loved about them. My friends made sure to let me know that they loved and supported me and they helped fill the hole in my life and in my heart. Other friends encouraged me to pray. 

It has been four years since I lost my mom she is always in my thoughts. She was an artist and her paintings hang on my walls. One painting is of seaside in Maine – with two seagulls in flight. I think of the birds as my parents free of the gravity and pain of the earth and flying above a place they loved. There is always a touch of sadness in those memories and thoughts. But, as time passes I sense and feel the grief evolving – it is there but surrounding the sadness are many joyful memories and an ever-lingering sense of gratitude and love. I continue to learn the importance of celebrating each and every day, guided by things I learned from friends.

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Surviving Grief