Absorbing the loss of my parents has become a three dimensional task that I hold onto with white knuckles so it doesn’t consume me. Within 7 weeks of each other their long lives of 86 and 88 have ended. It’s painful enough to consume the reality of rich, brave, resilient, blessed and hard lives gone in a blink in time, but these were my parents – individuals who knew me intimately and at times not at all. They saw and heard me and they also didn’t. The times they didn’t informed me to know myself more and ultimately deeply. Little did they know, or me for that matter, that when they “failed” me they were setting a path towards growth and self discovery. This awareness and process makes me miss them even more.
The conflict with them, individually and collectively, was rich and very much alive. The conflicts had an energy that informed engagement, contact and something to come back to – an energy forward, leaning in. I’ve done a lot of work on my relationships with them. I’ve known for sometime that I needed to make peace with the ways they failed me and the ways I failed them – the calming of the external and internal storms. Ending each conversation with “I love you” was not an asking but a confirmation that we were good. The conflict with them has ended.
I feel hollowed out. As if someone took a kitchen utensil meant to take the innards out and went to work on my gut – attempting to remove parts of my core. I realize now that this is deep grief and the topsy turbulent process of grieving and loss.
My daughter wins a close tennis match, gutting it out in a third set tiebreaker and I want to call my father with joy and pride knowing how absolutely thrilled he would be. There’s no call to make. My son comes home from sleep away camp, a success of maturity and fun, and I want to call my mother, who always saw something “deeply special” behind his eyes and in his spirit. There’s no call to make. These are not only opportunities to share joy and pride about their grandchildren, but an opportunity for me to connect with them. In these stories I am the messenger of this generational lineage. I am part of the story – the narrator. For me, there is something profoundly relational in this process. This process has ended.
Grieving is not the same as being a victim. I don’t feel like a victim. Rather I feel blessed to have had my parents for so long. I do feel, however, a pain that begs for more marrow in my bones, oxygen in my blood, and greater eye sight that can see light in the future.
It’s easy to conjoin grieving with depression. There is a facing of the existential reality, the impermanence of life, that makes for a dreaded cocktail of grieving, death and life.
Death pushes you to grapple with what’s meaningful to you.
Depression is often the struggle of aloneness, hopelessness and the dark. Grieving has you dance with impermanence, loss and meaning.
I’m holding on, white knuckles, taking this ride of grief through rough terrain towards the landscape of cherished and loving memories – streaming light through darkened clouds.