exploring life and love with pictures and words

Good Grief . . .

Grief . . . 

There is no escaping it. All of us will experience a big loss in our lifetime, most of us already have. If we’re lucky we may have time to prepare our hearts for the inevitable passing of someone we love. In other instances we will never see it coming and we’ll wish for a different ending. And for some death marks the end of any opportunity to right the wrongs, or make peace. No matter the circumstances, we are left to grieve.

When my parents died I was forty-seven, and an amateur when it came to grief. In the foggy aftermath of their deaths, I took care of business, made lots of phone calls and with my siblings planned a beautiful celebration of their lives. We filled our childhood home with friends and family and raised our glasses to honor our mom and dad. Several tequila shots later, and lost in the love and support of the day, my heart mistakenly thought the worst was over. I was wrong.  

The months that followed were brutal, the first Mothers Day without mom, the first Fathers Day without dad, and so on. The milestones that drew attention to my parents’ absence were an unwelcome reminder of missing them. I wasn’t ready for a world that didn’t include them. So I talked about them constantly. With my siblings it was easy. Our collective memory improved the stories with each telling. Sometimes our words would catch in our throats. Thoughts were punctuated with heavy sighs, and one of us would ultimately say, I wish they were here.

I shared stories about my parents with friends and colleagues as well. At times I was awkward and teary, often repeating myself or oversharing. People were patient and kind. If they grew weary or uncomfortable with my storytelling they never showed it. They listened intently, smiled and told me I was lucky to have so many wonderful memories, adding that our tight knit family was unique, something to cherish. 

Time passed and grief lingered, I wondered if I would ever feel normal again. How long was I allowed to be heartbroken. Was there a moratorium on feeling sad? The rules for grieving were a mystery to me. And while I tried to decipher them, life went on. There were weddings, and grand babies, job opportunities and adventures. Without notice or ceremony the hollow ache in my heart slowly disappeared.

Once in awhile the ghost of grief past still haunts me. It found its way to me the other day as I’m Leaving on Jet Plane played on my Pandora. I could hear my dad’s voice singing along. Teary-eyed, I sang along too. Another time it was my grandson Luca’s inquiry, “Would your mom and dad like me Nonna, if they were alive?” Or, “I’m an artist like your mom, huh Nonna?” I tell him they would absolutely love him, and yes he is like my mom. Though these moments make me a little sad, I no longer feel the anguish of losing them. But the missing them is deeply felt.  

Recently, grief’s ghost was resurrected again while I consoled a grieving friend. As she searched for words to articulate her heartache I remembered my own grief and wished to save her from the difficult days ahead. An unrealistic wish I know. Grieving cannot be skipped, or rushed, or denied. It will follow us until we process its meaning in our lives. Even when we find peace, grief will continue to make random appearances, reminding us there is no life without death, no happiness without sadness. We can’t save anyone from experiencing grief. But we can be a soft place to land, a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on. So when my loved ones grieve I do what friends, and even strangers, did for me. I take the care and compassion they showed me and I pay the kindness forward. My greatest lesson? Helping others heal helped me to heal. And so on, and so on . . .    

I no longer feel the depth of sorrow I experienced during the surreal days that followed the passing of my parents. It’s been reduced to moments of melancholy that come and go. And in between those moments there are countless happy memories.

I recognize that not everyone has memories to ease their pain. Missing my parents is a gift, a reminder of how lucky I was to have them in my life for as long as I did. Someone once said that grief is love with no place to go. I honor my parents by finding a place for that love.

The missing them will never go away. And neither will the love. 


24 Responses to “Good Grief . . .”

  1. Katie Lewis

    Thank you Christine! What a lovely sentiment to remember your parents…. There is a podcast called “Grief is a sneaky bitch”… I agree… you seem okay and then a song, bird, sunrise or color jolts the pain right back to the surface and shakes you up. It really is something that we don’t talk about enough. And yes all of us have been surrounded with it. Thanks for sitting with your friends……. They are lucky to have a caring friend to listen.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pat Mulhaupt

    Thanks Christine for your beautiful words. Having lost my beautiful younger daughter 5 years ago, I relate to your words. I no longer sob Uncontrollably but my heart still aches. The best we can do for those grieving is to let us talk about our loved one. I have many friends who allow me that gift. I do so many small things to remember her – as I write this I am wearing her Ugg boots.
    I wish you the best and thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Phyllis Kerlin

    I love this piece, C.
    I remember those days.
    And I remember a little bird coming to your balcony during your early grieving and we both said it was your dad singing to you, as he does here in your story.
    Love you. P

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Randi H.

    Every word in this piece was perfectly placed; the phrasing flawless. I felt it, and I know so many others will too. I’m so proud of you and your beautiful work.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Terri

    Christine your words express and so beautifully articulate the loss and the missing. I know that I too was so blessed to have parents to miss and a family to share the memories with the retelling. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. hblendo

    This was so beautifully written and I grieved the loss your parents and mine as I read. I know your writing will touch many people. Steve Crothers said yours are the only blogs he reads (he hates reading) but he is looking forward to reading your book ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Barbara Shew

    I did not know your family until later. ,but I grew close to your mom as she came to visit..the words mean a lot .My friend and I are. Both. Grieving a recent loss. This week. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: