When my mother was on her death bed and my dad and my sister and I were having a good cry about it in her hospital room, I remember saying “How are we going to live without her?” and my dad responded “I just don’t know.” The days and nights around that time and many months after were dark and dismal, with faint glimmers of joy and laughter, but mostly shrouded with heavy heavy grief.
I’ve been thinking a lot this past month about grief. Not every minute of every day, but here and there it crops up again asking me to digest it a bit more. Last month, my father-in-law died. This month four years ago, my mother died.
Died. It sounds so abrupt. That’s why we say things like “he or she passed away” instead. It implies a slipping into the departed ether, and that feels nicer and more comforting to say. But when a person leaves your life and this material world, it is abrupt. Their voice will never be there again, speaking to you in the same way that it always has. Their earthly touch never felt again.
I’ve been thinking about grief because I’ve been reflecting on these and other losses in my life. In the past nine years, I’ve dealt with plenty of them. And I have grieved them, at times quite heavily. I don’t say that to tally my pain, as much as to acknowledge it. Transformation requires the undivided attention of sitting with the pain, leaning into it, shedding the old, and embracing the new.
Change. It’s such a scary word for many. It’s one of the words that comes up often in autism, coupled with another one. Resistance.
What if we just stopped resisting? What if we recognized that change is simply part of life? What if we didn’t just recognize it, but we learned to embrace it?
This has been my lesson these past nine years. Let go. Stop resisting. Lean into it. Shed the old, and embrace the new. I don’t want to keep living the same stories of loss every day. I want to acknowledge them, and I also want to release them.
What I didn’t know in those heavy heavy days of grief is that grief transforms itself. Like caterpillar to butterfly. With each new day, new hope has the possibility of emerging. Time is not the healer of wounds as much as the instiller of faith that something new and lighter will come. Change.
I won’t exactly compare a special needs diagnosis to death, but there is still grieving. In our case, we were grieving what we thought the childhood and rearing of our son was going to be. It’s turned out to be quite different than we first expected. But it’s also better than I could have imagined it. And it’s definitely what we needed to grow and…change.
Loss is a part of life. Pain comes with loss. Pain hurts. Let yourself feel and grieve that loss, whatever it is. And trust that through your grief, transformation will come. Eventually. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not even soon depending on how heavy that heavy heavy grief is. But someday. Someday it will come.
And you will emerge like a butterfly spreading your wings toward the light once again.