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The Fear of Letting Go of My Grief After My Mom’s Passing

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Letting go after a parent has died can bring about feelings of heartbreak, relief, sadness, guilt… In my experience, all of these emotions can come and go, with some stronger than others. But it’s what grieving has been like for me.

Throughout the year after my mom’s passing, I went through the “typical” stages of grief — not in order, and not always to the extent everyone thinks they should occur. Grieving doesn’t end or start at a specific time, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Everyone grieves differently; what might help you might not help your friend, brother, aunt, coworker, etc. I had people tell me, “It’s time to move on,” “It’s been weeks already,” but my grieving wasn’t a stereotypical process. I was angry when my dad died, and I was devastated when my mother died. It doesn’t mean I cared about them any less, and no one can put themselves in my place and tell me otherwise. This goes for everyone — no one can dictate your grieving process. That is entirely how you process it, and how you choose to show or not show it.

Letting go after my mother died isn’t something that even crossed my mind until a year after she died. I constantly thought: Would she approve of this? Am I living up to her expectations? Does she think I should do this too? Being in that constant mindset didn’t allow me to let go, to process, to understand that everything I was feeling was OK. I would do things differently or not do them at all, fearful of disappointing someone who would never be able to tell me her thoughts. This constant gray area of “Am I living my life right?” can happen when you lose a parent — at least it did for me.

The last thing I said to her was, “I love you, I’ll see you tomorrow.” But was that even enough?

The last thing she left in my car was her cane. It’s remained in my car for the past year since her death, despite badgering from my friends to get rid of it, and that I don’t need to anymore. I couldn’t part with it because it was a little bit of hope making me feel like she would be back. I finally realized I’m starting to let go when I looked down at her cane wedged between the passenger seat and the seatbelt, just as she left it, and decided I don’t need this in my car anymore. I don’t have to carry this around with me anymore. I don’t need to carry this grief with me any longer. I deserve to move on, and that doesn’t make me love her any less. Letting go is scary but necessary for me. It can feel like you’re giving up on hope that person will come back (which they obviously can’t), that you’re forgetting the role they played in your everyday life. It can feel like you want to be your own person and live your life again, but you feel guilty moving on. It can feel like your memories will become meaningless, and you’re storing them way in the back of your mind. But I know my loved one wants me to move on. My loved one wants me to be happy.

“Time heals all wounds” can be an overused phrase, and it annoyed me constantly whenever someone would say it to me. What if you don’t have time to wait? What do you do when it hurts so bad right now? Even though I absolutely hated the saying, in my experience it has been true. But it can be hard to fully understand — eventually time has gone on, and for me healing can begin.

Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: January 3, 2017
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