One week ago today, my friend’s mother passed away quietly and peacefully at her home, surrounded by family. She was 89 years young. She had suffered a mild heart attack a few weeks prior, and was unable to recover. My friend comes from a large family and they honored and celebrated her mother’s life in grand style at the funeral.
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of my oldest and dearest gal pal’s mother. When I spoke with my friend not long ago, she said she was surprised at how teary-eyed she has been at the approach of this day. She has already experienced many of her “firsts” this past year. First birthday, first Thanksgiving, first Mother’s Day. But for some reason, this “first” was hitting her harder.
I told my friend there is no specified timeline for grieving the loss of a loved one, and especially not the loss of a beloved parent. And I shared an experience with her that I had almost a year to the day after my father had passed, when I was a young 20-something, setting out to conquer the world.
Every day my father would call me at my office and tell me the most campiest and silliest and stupidest of jokes. But they always made me laugh, and I know that was his intent. And after he passed, every day when my office phone would ring, my first thought was that it could be my dad. My second thought was that it could no longer be, and a sense of sadness would pass over me.
Then one day as I was driving home from work, I suddenly realized that every time my phone had rung that day, I had not expected it to be my father. And within seconds, the tears were streaming down my face, and I had to pull off the road because I could not see to drive. As I sat along the shoulder of the highway, I came to the understanding that it was not the loss of my father that was prompting my tears.
That had been the first day that I had not thought of my dad. The first day without that familiar sadness for my father’s passing. The first day that I had laughed and joked with my co-workers without any feeling of remorse. And I suddenly realized I was not grieving the loss of my father. I was grieving the loss of my grief.
Sounds a little odd-ducky, I know. But grief can become like a comforting, warm blanket we snuggle up in to keep out the chill of a winter’s night. It can become so much a part of us, that we forget we can let it go.
As I told my friend, there truly is no specified timeline for grief. We all handle our grief in our own way. And when the time is right for us, we can let it go. And continue with our lives, remembering all the good we shared with our loved one, knowing that they will always remain in our hearts.