October 7, 2016

What to do when Someone we Love Dies.



“In the end, we’ll all become stories” ~ Margaret Atwood

364 days a year, I’m fine.

I’ll hold it together as if my mom never died. I use her memory as a guidepost. I allow her laughter to fill the emptiness and tell her story.

Have you ever lost someone you love?

There are so many of us silently grieving, pretending it is all okay. Attempting to manage.

We wonder how life goes on and yet as we look around, it just does. People are working and our children and partners need us.

Death is inevitable. It is guaranteed that we will all experience it at some point. Yet, why is death still a subject most ignore. We are blindsided by the harsh reality of death, no matter how transformed, trained or spiritual we are. Sure, we get it, death is a part of life. Knowing this doesn’t really help though, in the moment. We can have faith, amazing communities, families and friends, but in the end, it’s just us and our grief.

When we’ve lost someone we love, our friends don’t know what to say and our partners may tiptoe around us. The world interacts with us like we are unpredictable. And we are. There is no manual for this. No one informs us of how to get through losing someone we love—there is no right way. It’s kind of like having kids—the build-up in the beginning draws crowds and the sleepless nights and tears, although they must be felt, usually happen in the shadows. As our kids grow up and go on with their lives, ours will never be the same.

My heart aches a few days a year—anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, special occasions. The memories flood in, right when I least expect them.

Have you also lost a loved one? You are not alone.

Let yourself be. Let your emotions flow from you like a river. Allow the fear and loneliness to move through you. Call a friend, cry on their shoulder. Share with the people around you, build community. It takes a village. Don’t unpack in the grief. It won’t envelop you, no matter how much it feels like it will. Somehow, one day, you’ll wake up and your life too will be moving along. The space may never go away, but life, life will continue to amaze you and provide miracle after miracle.

This is a letter I wrote to my mom who died of cancer five years ago, when my son was five months old.

Dear Mom,

I’m resisting writing this. I know, I need to.

It’s been five years since you left. It continues to feel like yesterday.

Since I’ve turned your death into my biggest life lesson, it should’t be so hard to open my eyes without the gaping hole where you used to be. I’ve become more masterful at living without you.

You’re everywhere. In everything.

I wanna share the victories, the losses, the ups and the downs—oh we know how we so appreciated each other in those moments. Now, they arrive, in the empty space you used to fill. Some days it’s no problem. I can rely on my extensive community (you’d love them) and other days, I can’t find the words to open up.

I miss the moments you’d look at me and just, get it. You were the only one who got me.

I’m angry that I didn’t get to tell you how much I made up about you, and then tortured you with in my story. How much I thought my life’s outcome was your fault. How much your death saved me. How selfish I felt about that.

I wanna hear you tell me I’m doing a great job, that I’m a great mom, that there isn’t a manual. I probably miss this the most.

I forgive you. For everything. Parenting sucks balls. Most days, my love falls flat against sugar and iPads. I wish you were here to hold me when I’m sad, taken over by shame and guilt and the never-ending belief that I suck at motherhood.

I forgive you for everything. For not being able to handle us. For the breaks you took, that I always took personally. For the moments you considered suicide. I mean, I get it. We hated you. You gave us everything you had and so much that you didn’t, and we were angry little thankless jerks. Kids.

I wish I could tell you that I get it now. I see why you left him, and him and him. I see it had nothing to do about us. I see how scary it is for a mother to fall in love.

I wish I could celebrate my life with you. We would travel somewhere exotic and never worry about paying the bill. I’d never worry about paying for anything—knowing you’d always have my back in times of need.

I wish you knew I forgive you, and have you see it. We would hold eachother.

It’s crazy that another year has passed. You’re no further away than the day you left. Just a memory, a person no one knew. (It’s heartbreaking, since you were such a light.)

I miss the space to fall apart. To be loved in all my messy-ness, no matter what.

No matter how many amazing loving relationships I have, you are still missing.

I love you. I’m sorry. I get it. Please tell me I’m doing a great job. I’m listening.

Love, Sarah 



This is the Best Response I’ve ever Heard about How to Process Grief.


Author: Sarah Sihota

Image: Pixabay

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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