We all live, we all love, and we all inevitably experience loss…no exceptions. This is the story of my daughter Misty and how I miss and honor her every day, while also readjusting to new ways of living without her.
“Bye honey, I love you!”
“Bye Momma, I love you more!!”
For years this was our parting signoff after a visit, phone call, text, or Facebook message – multiple times a day. It was Misty’s favorite way to end our conversations, and I adored that she never stopping calling me Momma with her slightly Southern lilt.
On August 1, 2012, Misty, my big-hearted beloved best friend 35-year-old daughter, decided to end her life. After more than 20 years of battling emotional challenges and addictions to alcohol, cocaine, and pharmaceutical drugs, she overdosed.
For her entire lifetime I’d fought for her, with her, never for a moment believing we wouldn’t persevere and ultimately win over any and all challenges. Even in the darkest times of her extended absences and the deep depths of her addictions I believed we would overcome.
Misty’s absence left behind a HUGE empty space. There are so many detailed memories I shared with her that still want to be reconciled – and never will. They leave me wondering what I might have done differently. If I’d chosen a different doctor, a different medication, a different way of dealing with a crisis. It’s endless…the wondering and regretting.
Grief evolves. Early grief crushed my heart and imploded my spirit. In the months that followed her death, grief could be brutal, coming sometimes with such intensity it collapsed my limbs and dulled my senses. Grief paused, paralyzed, and at times even sedated me.
Guilt is different. Guilt says mothers are supposed to protect their children at all costs, no task too difficult, no hesitation, no exceptions. I felt the deepest of shame for not taking better care of her. What more could I have done? What should I have done? Most of all… I miss her.
There are of course respites, moments of peaceful loving thoughts…and my heart aches in a good way. As the saying goes, “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been any different.” AND, that healing begins to take place when the “what ifs?” are replaced with “what now?”.
I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness. Forgiving others is so much easier than forgiving myself. The deliberate act of self-forgiveness is an ongoing process for me. As memories surface and my self-judgement takes over, I notice and stop. I make an effort to explore those thoughts and remind myself that, while I can’t fully embrace that I always did my best (sometimes I was lazy, imperfect, neglectful, angry, hurting, and selfish), I tried. I tried really hard. And with the same compassion I extend to the grieving families that I sit with, I offer love to myself. Consciously forgiving myself again and again, remembering my unquestionable love for Misty.
My close circle of community has become very small. I share with compassionate loved ones. I’ve learned to be cautious of who I share my grief with. The most well-meaning, loving people will say deeply hurtful things, ignorant to the pain their ‘words of wisdom’ and solutions inflict. I see their discomfort with the pain of my grief and their efforts to relieve me of it…they want the “old me” back, and that person is forever gone. My child died and I am forever changed. Despite their own discomfort, I ask others to accept me and my tears, allowing me my true feelings as I adjust to a different way of being.
As this shift evolves, I am making some peace with aspects of my grieving. Grief has claimed a part of my heart, one of the containers of the love I have for Misty. And I have and will continue to grow around that sacred space.
Expanding awareness around grief, allowing the vulnerability of loss has directly affected my capacity to LOVE myself and others.
Supporting others in presence, understanding, grief education, offering resources, compassion, and personally relating to through my own loss is how we will walk this path together. Truly one breath at a time, hand in hand and heart led.
You are not alone…