Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saying Goodbye, Grieving & Living

photo: Alyssa Hampton, AJH Photography
(This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Daily Review Atlas.)

Saying goodbye is hard. Never getting the chance to say goodbye is even harder. That is what makes the death of a friend and loved one so grievous. We wish with all our heart that we could have made our last exchange more memorable.

I don't think we're meant to know when our time on earth is done. This uncertainty is what makes death so uncomfortably mysterious. Sometimes, some of us get the chance to say goodbye when old age or sickness afflict our loved ones and death is obviously imminent. However, for most of us, we never know if a kiss, hug or "I love you" will be our last. And I think it's supposed to be that way. It doesn't make it easier. Death's sting remains, but I do think it is best. For I fear if we treat each exchange as if it was our last we would miss out on joy and expectation.

You see, I can't believe that those who have gone on before us would want us to live in a constant state of anticipated mourning. I think our loved ones would want us to take each day that we're given, smile, laugh, work, eat and be kind to one another.

And yet, when we lose one we love too early, too unexpectedly, it causes us to look around at our lives and hug our loved ones tenderly and our friends eagerly. It is how we comfort one another. But with the passing of time, when the sting is a little less painful, we must continue on. We must continue as if we'll wake up in the morning, that we will arrive safely at work, we'll eat our meals together and tuck our children in bed only to do it all again tomorrow.

We do that knowing none of those things are guaranteed, but we proceed with bravery and normalcy because those are the million, small little things that make up a beautiful life.

When grief comes I encourage you to yield to it because there is a time to mourn. Someday though, when the time is right, dry your eyes and then get back to it. Get back to your life because there is a time for joy as well.

Wouldn’t the worst option be to live life dispassionately because our loved ones can't live at all? Their memory isn't honored by our suppression of joy or laughter. Their legacy lives on in us; in our stories, memories and hearts.

Do we wish our last hug, kiss or phone call was more eventful? Of course! But if that were so, our sadness and grief would have come prematurely. We would have cried when we were meant to laugh. We would have held too tight to the moment instead of being free. We even might have lived less, fearing the future rather than embracing it.

photo credit: Annie Pittman, Review Atlas
This is how I think we honor the memory of our loved ones; we grieve them after they've gone and then live each new day we have left engaging those still with us. Don't be willing to exchange today's joy for some day’s grief. Live happy, live with hope, spread love, forgive and comfort those who mourn. Why? Because I'm the Mom and I said so. That's why.

Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District, a mother to five children and she is very thankful for the life of Tracey Williams and the amazing impact her life had on the students and faculty of Monmouth-Roseville High School.

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