Posts tagged ‘loss of parent’
As green leaves transform into shades of yellow, orange, red and rust, I realize grief is a seasonal creature, and I’m faced again with its shifting nature.
Winter arrives with the cold hand of death. It takes our parent, our husband, our child, and the landscape of our lives feels barren without them. We struggle to survive just a day.
Spring comes. A glimmer of hope. A bud of new life. We still wrap ourselves against the chilly air, but we feel the warmth of hope in our hearts. There is something to live for.
Summer teaches us that grief is a test of endurance. We’re sweating it out with the realization grief does not end, but it is different than what we felt in the winter of our sorrow.
I stood frozen in the doorway of my parents’ walk-in closet again, my eyes darting from Mom’s red party dress to Dad’s sports jackets. Cleaning out a loved one’s closet is perhaps one of the most daunting tasks for the one left behind. I put it off for eight years.
I’ve heard this job described many times. It’s never easy, and it’s always filled with memories. And emotion. Clothes become a part of people. They hint of character, style, personality. They harbor the memories of events – a suit for church, a dress for celebrations, a uniform for war.
My dad died 11 years ago. My mother died eight years ago. I had cleaned out all of the bedroom closets except for this one. What is obvious to the mind isn’t so obvious to the heart – for me, cleaning out the last clothes closet was like a declaration that my parents aren’t coming back.
But after all these years of inching toward cleaning out the house, I was running out of places to turn. So I landed in the doorway of their closet this weekend for the umpteenth time.
I don’t want to tell you that I’m grieving again. Not that I ever really stopped, but after eight years without my Mom, it wasn’t intruding into my every hour or day in that heartbreaking way.
But lately, it has – in that heartbreaking way. In that way that hinders sleep. In that way that casts a pall over everything I do. I smile, but inside a part of me is crying.
I know what happened. I’m being called upon to let go of my parents’ home. I’ve known all along this is what I’d probably do. Sell. But the day was far away.
I stared into the sky at the black hole ringed with white-hot fire. I’d never seen anything like this before in my life. It was unearthly. Alien. Tears flooded my eyes. Awe flooded my soul.
My mother taught me to gaze into the cosmos as a girl. She walked into the front yard, brought the binoculars to her eyes and found the craters on Luna. Then she handed the binoculars to me.
Mom never saw a total solar eclipse. I wish she’d been alive to see it with me Aug. 21. My husband and I traveled from Memphis, in the partial eclipse zone, to western Kentucky to see the sun go totally dark. We’d booked our hotel room 10 months in advance. I packed a bracelet of Mom’s. I’d wear it during the eclipse in honor of her.
In the moments before the moon totally blacked out the sun, I was skeptical, building to upset. I’d heard it got dark enough to see stars, but it was daylight with more than 90 percent of the sun covered. An eerie pallor draped us, but I’d seen a partial eclipse before.
Loss can feel like a great abyss, like my parents are a trillion miles in space, on a planet I’ve never seen, in a place I can neither fly to nor telephone. But death doesn’t end a relationship.
Nor does it end a connection. No, it’s not the one I want. I want them here. In front of my face. But at least our bond isn’t completely severed.
I felt the connection again one July evening in 2013 when I was going through my parents’ things at their home. I found a letter. It had been mailed to them in the 1960s before I was born.
I didn’t expect to take eight years cleaning out my parents’ home. But here I am.
I also didn’t expect to feel walls of resistance erect inside of me, blocking my ability – or rather, my willingness – to throw away, give away or pack up their stuff. Propriety dictated I go over to their home and get the job done. I just wanted to sit with their things and cry.
Along the way, I noticed what nudged me to act when I’d get stuck holding on to their things. I’m not advocating we push ourselves past the point that our emotional journey takes us. In fact, I’d say take all the time you need and can reasonably acquire. I had the luxury of keeping my parents’ home, the house where I grew up, for almost as long as I wanted. I wasn’t paying a mortgage on it, it was close by, and my husband indulged me.
However, if you discover you need a nudge, try these strategies to get back on track.
Do you feel safe? I don’t mean do you fear you’re in danger of being robbed or burgled or murdered. I mean do you feel like you are emotionally in a place of safety?
I admit I haven’t always felt safe. In fact, one of the most unsafe times in my life was after my father died in the summer of 2006. I wasn’t aware of it in exactly those terms at the time, but in the years that have followed, I’ve thought a lot about this human drive for safety.
I think we all recognize the desire for physical safety. We lock our doors. We look twice to cross the street. But emotional safety is sort of nebulous. Undefined.
I find safety in relationships and in roles. I didn’t realize how glued I was to my parents and my identity as a daughter until I lost my dad, and then three years later, when I lost my mom. Over time, I’ve examined how magnetized I was to them, even though I was an independent woman. I bought my own home, alone, at age 29. Umm….it was 10 minutes from their house.
What is the good of grief? Is there anything we can snatch from the jaws of death? Or is it a final defeat – senseless, purposeless and meaningless?
My mother died eight years ago today. I remember feeling the sense of total defeat for her. I was still alive. I might rise from the ashes of my grief and find joy again. But she was dead.
My feelings contradicted my spiritual beliefs. I believed my mom was in heaven and in the presence of God. But I live in a tangible world. I could not see where she was or how she was.