My Grandmother was one of the most wonderful parts of my childhood.
She took care of me at times and loved me like crazy- from the typical things that a grandparent would do as well as the things a parent usually does for their kids. In my house my mom couldn’t always manage things on her own, so my grandmother shared the responsibility and picked up where my mother left off. I spent every summer with my grandmother, learning from her and listening to her stories.
She could tell a story that would leave you begging for more. She was so funny, with a rowdy sense of humor. Her stories often centered around how people underestimated her and how she proved them wrong through humor and her clever-good girl, but with a sort of an in-your-face style. She was a fire-cracker before women were given matches and loved to share her, and I’m only guessing here, at least slightly exaggerated stories.
She died of breast cancer when I was about 24 years old- one of the most painful deaths I’ve ever recovered from. Although technically she passed from breast cancer, by the time she was dying the cancer was in her lungs and affected her ability to breathe.
Within a week of her death I had pneumonia, my lungs and heart felt like they were both on the brink of collapse. I recovered from the pneumonia and my lungs felt better, but the heartache took longer.
I remember about 6 months after her death I went to retrieve some Christmas decorations from a community storage area in my apartment complex (all the units were so small that lots of us used this shared space in our community laundry room, which was locked- only tenants had keys.) When I went to find the box, the one that I’d hidden back in the back so no one would mess with it, it was gone. The box was filled with lots of ornaments, party lights and more, but the one thing that really mattered to me was the silver, engraved Christmas ornament that my grandmother had given me when I was maybe 5 years old.
That little trinket was nothing special to look at, just a tree, with a circle around it, that said my name and the year. A very standard holiday ornament, but it was from my gramma, so it was very special to me. I remember mourning the ornament too, or better said, it was the trigger that brought all of the pain up again. Even as I write this now, I miss that ornament a lot, just like my grandmother. She was the adult that was the most stable thing in my life: bought me school clothes when I was little, sent me holiday cards for every single holiday with a little money inside, updates and her stories, and that ornament was a representation to me of her love.
This is how loss works- first the big blow that brings you to your knees, with aftershocks when you don’t expect it. You don’t just get over loss- you learn to live with it. And then when you think you have it all worked through, BOOM! There it is again. It takes time.
Loss is universal and it can take on so many different forms: jobs, relationships, homes and more. Loss is very possibly the hardest of life’s lessons.
If there is a silver lining to loss it’s that it allows us to see the precious beauty that is life. When we are reminded of the impermanence of almost everything, it gives us a chance to find a deeper appreciation of what we do have, here and now.
Excuse me, while I go hug and kiss my family now.
I have watched a lot of women in my life go through some serious losses in the past couple months, and although they weren’t my own experiences of loss, they have affected me.
My mom lost her job. My good friend lost her beloved dog at the same time her relationship of 5 years is dissolving. And my oldest friend from high school lost her mom to cancer that came far too swiftly.
It’s been a hard couple months of worry, stress, confusion, sadness and fear- and that’s just on my end, from an outside perspective! I have such empathy for the situations of those close to me, but at the same time, can’t really understand how they must feel, how hard it must be.
And I have felt this constant reminder on my shoulder that nothing is forever. That life has so many more twists and turns and unexpected things to come, and that holding on as tight as I can to the people, pets & experiences I love is not going to keep them in my grasp forever. At some point, I’m going to have to gain experience in letting go.
I’m reminded more than ever that now is all we have. Now is what matters. Goals and plans, expectations and hopes are all good- they can help us create movement in the present, giving us something to move toward- but they’re also extremely liable to change. So the more we become attached to that future thinking, the harder it is to deal with the shifts and sweeps that can happen at any moment.
Being so future-focused doesn’t seem worthwhile, in the long run. Loss teaches us to focus on here and now and appreciate all that life offers us in the present.
And in watching my mom and friends over these last hard couple months, I’ve also seen another positive side-effect that loss brings out- innate strength.
Loss reveals the kind of strength you don’t know you have until it’s tested. Strength from the depths to go on despite the loss of the life you thought you were going to have. To go on despite the hole in your heart. It’s a strength that comes when we feel at our weakest that shows us what we’re really made of, and reminds us of our great capacity for resilience.
I haven’t suffered a profound loss yet in my short life, but I know I will someday. And I can only hope that when I do, I can be as strong as the women in my life have shown me is possible.
We know this is not as lighthearted as our usual fare, but we want to be real as possible around here and loss is something we all will experience in our lives.
Do have a story of loss you’d be open to share with us here?
What insights did it reveal to you?
Does fear of loss in some way hold you back from living the life you want here & now?