This Monday, October 5th, would have been my mother’s ninety-fourth birthday. She loved her birthdays like no one else I’ve known, celebrating with great joy. I will be playing a guest artist recital at the University of Florida on that day, and in my heart, I will dedicate my performance to her. Like everyone reading this, I have lost people and animals that I loved with all my heart, and I have been there for friends who have lost loved ones as well. Grieving is a part of life- an important part- because when we grieve, it means we have loved deeply and have been loved in return. There is no greater gift than that. Through my own experiences with grief, I have learned the importance of being there, letting myself feel every feeling during the process- every single one. There is no timeline and no right or wrong, as every relationship is different and everyone grieves in their own way. My hope is that no one feels that they are weak or less-than because they aren’t back to ‘normal’ weeks or months after a loss. There is no more ‘normal’…we are forever changed by grief and the process of honoring the lost love. That’s not a bad thing at all- it is a natural part of life and the price of the gift of love. I see it as a falling apart and then a falling back together, and in doing so, we have the opportunity to fall back together stronger and more resilient than before…stronger because the lost love isn’t really lost. It becomes a part of us if we are open to it.
Death is the universal experience- we all have experienced the sting of loss, or will. I have lost many people in my fifty-two years; my parents, my grandparents, my oldest brother and sister, several aunts and uncles, cousins, close friends, students, and several special pets. The impact of each and every loss was different, but the loss of my mother was a pain like I’d never felt. At first, I felt like I had to pretend like I was fine, maybe especially because I was sharing the experience on my blog. I thought I was weak if I opened up about the reality of my pain. I realized, though, that I was not being authentic, and it is important for me to share my real feelings and experiences as best I can. I hoped in doing so that it might help others know that they are not alone when facing the sometimes overwhelming tidal wave of grief.
Grieving is not about living in the past, it’s not selfish, it is not a sign of weakness- it is an important human process of navigating an emotional wound created from the loss of someone with whom you had a deep connection. It’s also about being vulnerable, opening yourself up to the myriad of emotions that come in varying degrees of intensity, and of opening your heart to the comfort of friends and family. What a wonderful thing it is to have the support of those who care for you, those who have walked the same path before. Even a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” or an “I’m thinking of you” brightened some of my darkest days. So many people don’t know what to say to someone who has experienced a great loss- it makes them uncomfortable. Just know that saying something- no matter how simple- can make such a difference to someone who feels very alone in their grief. When we face such pain, we are peeled back to our most raw human state, and we crave the healing of connection, of compassion.
I treasure the memories of those I have lost. My life goes on, always moving forward, but my heart keeps a piece of them with me- not to mourn forever or feel regret, but to honor the love we shared and the impact they had on my life. In that way, they live on- through the love that never ends. What a beautiful cycle of life.