I don’t talk about my mother’s death much because it makes people uncomfortable to hear about grief—particularly young people’s parent loss. It it a topic most people avoid in any and every way possible. And I get it. If I had the choice, I would avoid it, too.
But I don’t. And I want to talk about something.
I want to talk about how frequent and acute the waves of grief have been since beginning to feel the lightness and joy return to my life in recent months. How I have fallen in love, felt more myself, and have welcomed back large parts of my heart that I never thought could return to me, but how there never comes a day where these times and feelings are not tainted by pangs of loss; aches reminding me that there was once more to the story, and holes in my life and in my heart widening to remind me of the space that will forever be vacant.
This juxtaposition —that of tremendous joy and utter grief— has led to several otherwise wonderful days and nights ending in tears. Including tonight.
When I delivered my mom’s eulogy 5 years ago, I alluded to an abstract, anticipatory sadness about her absence at my future wedding; at my graduations, job promotions, and even births. But it is not just the big moments where her absence sears through my heart. It’s also the collection of small, beautiful experiences everyday that I will never share with her.
It’s finally saying “I love you” and wishing I could call her and let her know.
It’s introducing my boyfriend to my friends and family, and wishing more than anything that my mom could meet the person who makes my everyday bright and full of joy.
It’s knowing that she would love him almost as much as I do.
It’s facing tremendously hard seasons of life, and only wishing there was a way for me to seek her advice— the kind that always allowed my world to continue spinning.
It’s failing time and time again, and hoping each time to see an encouraging text message appear on my phone.
It’s needing a hug, but knowing that no one’s embrace is quite as warm and inviting as hers.
It’s making difficult decisions that feel life-changing, and making them without the person who provided you the gift of life.
It’s having a birthday come and go, and realizing that another year has passed in which she didn’t sing to your phone’s voicemail.
It’s receiving good news and not quite knowing who to share it with, because the first person on your list can’t receive your calls.
It’s learning and growing every moment of everyday, all without a significant piece of your heart and who you are.
Now I know that the sadness I once spoke of is not abstract. It is here, and it is so very real. On the heaviest of days, I can feel it entering my body demanding to be felt, desperately looking for a home within me.
The tragedy of it all is this: that my happiness cannot come without simultaneous sadness. That everything I experience is felt through the realities of loss; a grief that only reflects a deep, undying love with nowhere to go.
A lost love that knows it can never fully return home or be felt in the way it once did.
I am reminded with every moment of joy, that as life grows fuller and more beautiful, my yearning grows ever deeper.
I am growing into more and more parts of who I am, without the presence or guidance of the one who made me. The challenges of this never fade. This is forever.
I wish we prepared young, bereaved women for the reality of motherless life. I wish we had a language to speak about these experiences without shame or guilt, or without the fear that others would be made uncomfortable. I wish we had a better network of motherless daughters to hold one another’s pain.
If you are here, I am here.
I am holding your pain with mine.
Your grief beats alongside mine; it is home here.