My daughter leaves for College tomorrow, and as I helped her pack her life into a few boxes and cases, I found my heart once again in the beautifully painful dance of grief. This paradox of excitement for what's ahead for her and the longing for days gone by has been swirling around in my heart since she began her grade 12 year, or maybe as far back as her first breath.
Each stage of my children's lives has been especially savoured, because watching my children grow is an honour that I never took lightly. You see when you bury a child, you bury with her all of the milestones, hopes and dreams. Each big and beautiful moment with my living children will always be tethered to loss of our youngest. This balance of living fully in the present with a piece of my heart already in heaven is one that I have become a master to in these many years. Yet, there are moments like today that still take my breath away.
After Grace passed away, our family of course changed. We had to learn how to be a family of four after being a family of five. It was of course filled with growing pains, but there were moments of love intertwined. We learned the new rhythms of living life and with time learned to invite the grief in as part of our family.
I feel those same pangs within me now when I think of setting the table for three, or see Olivia's vacant bedroom. At first it felt like I was losing Olivia as well. Grief is tricky that way, it can engulf and overpower like a giant flood, to the point that you don't know which way is up. This feeling of disorientation brought back a lot of fear, but after over a decade of grief I have learned to welcome this flood as a friend knowing that the waves will not overtake me as long as I don't fight them. As I leaned into the raging waters once again and let the process of grief work through me, I realized that although our family unit is changing, it is not over. Once again my faith has been an anchor, holding me steady, helping me to gain clarity and calm within the chaos and despair.
If you are in the thick of family change and you also feel swept away by the grief, I want you to know you are not alone. I am here to walk with you. I am thankful for the other mamas in my life that are also in this stage of adult children. We were created to do hard things, of this I am sure but I am equally certain that we were never made to do this hard work alone.