I wasn’t expecting the rush of emotion, but the wave of grief crashed over me and tears stung my eyes. Dan and I had gone to our favorite antique shop to wander around as the Christmas music danced through the air. Suddenly, I missed my mother so much that I couldn’t breathe and I wanted to crumple onto the floor and let my tears flow. Mom loved antiques and enjoyed Christmas with childlike wonder. Perhaps I should have expected this.
It’s been four and a half years since she died, and the Christmas holidays and the memories invoked still bring the pain of the loss of my mother back to the surface, unlocking the part of my heart where I keep the sadness locked tightly away. It’s funny how grief works, how everything can feel so normal and then suddenly it isn’t anymore, suddenly all of the healing you thought you had done dissolves into a sea of longing for someone you can never hold in your arms again.
The death of a loved one is gut wrenchingly painful, but losing a parent is a different kind of loss, one that shakes your very foundation. Parents are the ones who know you better than you know yourself; they hold your history, they love you in a selfless, unconditional way that is an incredibly beautiful and irreplaceable gift. I was very close to my mother, caring for her in the last years of her life. She was my best friend, my confidant, and my staunchest champion.
So, what is different about grief four and a half years later? I still miss Mom terribly, but I feel her with me in a way that is difficult to articulate; she is a part of me, she is there whispering words of courage and love to me when I need her most. I see signs that make me smile and know she is there, and it comforts me to my core.Little hellos from Heaven…
I see that all of my mother’s sacrifices, all of her hard work and unshakable love, set me on the path to live a good and happy life. She gave me the tools and helped me get the education I needed to do what I love, she taught me to believe that I could succeed, and over time I have come to realize that she helped me to love myself enough to not settle for a life in which I wasn’t happy. I owe everything to her and will do my best to pay that kind of support and encouragement forward to others.
That’s the great thing about love; it is an energy that keeps going and going. It may change vessels, but it is always there with us, eternal. For those of you going through the holidays missing loved ones, I give my most sincere hope that you feel them with with you in ways large and small this season. They are there.