The Gifts of Looking Back

I love reading posts that make me chew on the topic for a while, sorting it all out and deciding where I stand on the issues at hand. This happened yesterday when a wonderful writer friend posted about the way he dealt with grief, the past, and the sadness of life, with a strong message of not lookinging back, not becoming mired in sadness and grief.

As I spent several hours pulling weeds on our steep front hill this morning (aka, ‘yard therapy’), I thought about his words, and decided that I see things differently. In my own experience- I will not speak for others- I have found that there are many gifts in looking back. It is part of the human experience to have a trove of memories to call on, to remember where we have come from- good and bad. Our experiences have shaped us and taught us, preparing us to move forward in life with an appreciation for what we have overcome and reminding us to have gratitude for where we are or where we are headed in our own lives. 

I very much agree that it is not healthy to live in the past or become mired in grief- that is not what I am implying in this post. Everyone experiences grief, loss, and challenge in different ways- as uniquely as every human being is unique. We have to feel what we need to feel and face it, otherwise, those feelings will manifest themselves again and again in various ways until we do. I don’t want to live always thinking of the last hours of my mother’s life, but I don’t want to forget the incredibly beautiful gift of knowing that I was there for her and with her until the end, either. I hope to reflect back on that time to remind me that I am strong when I think I’m weak, and to remind me of the great love and fifty-one years of life that I shared with her. Knowing that I have those precious memories helped me to move forward with my life after the initial gut-wrenching pain of loss. A friend put it so well, saying that she didn’t think grief ever really ended, that it was only a manifestation of great love. I am a happy person, I love my life, and am excited about what the future holds…but my heart will always grieve for my mother. I am so thankful to have had a love that impacted me that deeply. I don’t feel mired in sadness by that realization- instead, it makes me feel that my mother is still with me through my memories, and that brings me joy and comfort. 

I also don’t want to forget what I learned in my past marriage, as those lessons have helped to make my marriage with Dan a much more happy and loving experience. When I think of the darkness I went through, I always see that it ultimately lead me to the light. Each challenge that felt like the end of the world, actually prepared me for better things to come. I am grateful for my memories of those times- not to dwell on unnecessarily, but to see them as making me who I am today and remind me to live in gratitude.  

My memories, my past, are all pieces of the puzzle that make up my life, and I cherish each one. I want to have them to enjoy like a wonderfully rich chocolate or a very special bottle of wine- not something that I want or need everyday, but for those special times when I want to delve deeper into who I am and how I came to this current place. I love deeply, and being able to look back at great love and great loss only makes me look forward to what other gifts are in store.  


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