Oh, the inevitable, as we age into our mid to late 30s and beyond. The natural series of life states that losing a parent will become more commonplace as we, ourselves, continue to age, and I am beginning to see it among my circle of friends. More and more parents passing, and oh, my heart. My whole heart aches and fills with pain for my friends, having experienced this myself three years ago.
It’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt more than you could expect.
The leader of your pack, the glue, the one you turn to when you forget how to boil an egg, when your toddler refuses to go to preschool and flails and hits you, when you have the flu and just need that phone call to cry. Suddenly gone one day. There’s never enough time and life is never going to be the same. Ever. There will always be a missing piece, a deflated family gathering that just simply won’t be the same. Ever. Time can heal and grief gets different. But, it’s there every, single day.
But gosh, you’re going to learn. You’re going to learn how much love you had for that parent. And you’re going to learn that the grief that comes from that pain of loss is worth it. Every day. You’re going to learn that the memories are steadfast, and they are going to keep carrying you forward.
You’re going to learn that they are never really gone. They show up in your children’s snarky remarks, their silly smiles with such familial resemblance, their passions and loves that stream from the influence from when your parent was here.
You’re going to be a mentor to the friend who just lost their mom to cancer. The friend who just found out their dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. You’re going to have so much darn empathy and truly feel what they feel. And though you won’t be able to change it, you’re going to be there for them like no one else.
You’re going to grow closer to your surviving parent and siblings. The loss will sting forever, but the strength in that bond will increase tenfold. You’ll carry each other through the first hazy days of disbelief, the months of disarray and denial, the years of ebbing sadness, and the glimmers of respite and days that are actually full of happy moments again.
Your faith is going to be stronger than ever. Because when nothing makes sense, God always does.
One day, you’ll have the strength to listen to their old voicemails. The strength to sift through all the pictures on your phone. A different time, a simpler time. A time that will forever be documented thanks to technology.
You’re going to reprioritize in the most empowering way. The things that used to keep you up at night? The work or people that used to stress you out or weigh you down? No time for that anymore. You’re going to be so family-focused, so determined to squeeze the best out of life, to focus on the things that truly matter.
You’re going to keep them alive simply by living. As long as you’re living, there’s always going to be a part of them with you. They will be a part of your being, all your fibers, in the best most unerasable way possible. You’ll notice it in your words, your mannerisms, the little quirks blended in with your inner-most being.
You’re going to love so much harder. Because time is precious, and our lives here are so very, very temporary. You’re going to hug your husband. Your kids. Your family. Your friends. You’re going to appreciate your time, your days, your health.
But first, it’s going to hurt.
Life will go on when you don’t feel like going on. Days will be daunting. Sleep will be your only reprieve.
One day at a time. The hurt will be less raw. The sadness that engulfs your entire soul will slowly disperse. One day, you’ll feel your smile muscles smiling and wonder if that’s okay. Is it okay to feel some happiness again?
Fast forward a few years, and the grief will show up at the most unpredictable times. A song comes on at the grocery store, a smell creeps up in the kitchen, a grandpa walking by with his grandkids who could be his doppelganger: all gentle reminders of the person, the love, the parent you once had—the living, breathing, supporting, and leading parent you once had right here on earth with you.
Then, you’re going to learn. You’re going to learn that there were the before times when your mom or dad was still here. And then there are the after times when they are no longer Earthside. And it’s never going to be the same.
But you’re going to make it. You will be happy again. You will see the good through the hurt. You will bring a level of empathy and grace to your tribe. And one day, you’re going to meet them again. After all, this life here . . . this life is only temporary.