Finding Ballast

by luciditewriting

For my mother, as she honors the memory of her mother this Mother’s Day.

I am incredibly fortunate to have lived 33 years without losing one of my favorite people in the world. That means when it happened, I was woefully unprepared when it came to understanding how it all works— how to deal with the waves of emotions that become stingingly intense at their peak, before washing out into a state of calm, of acceptance.

My heart has always gone out to those who are grieving. I like to think that I’ve offered them support, remaining open and available when it came to what they needed and when. However, the grieving process itself was never something I understood. Not that I completely understand it now—given the intensely personal nature of grief, the topic as a whole remains elusive—but at least I feel capable of starting to write about my own experience. Perhaps it will resonate with you, too.

Processing the death of a loved one is a delicate balance between hurting, healing, and preserving the memory of that person. Sometimes these elements converge messily, and feelings well up without warning. Sometimes the emotional tasks involved with each stage are crystal clear, leaving us wondering why we couldn’t view them this way mere moments ago.

This is our challenge as the ones left behind: to get to a point where the memory outshines the grief—where we live in a state of cherishing instead of a state of sadness. For those of us who admit we don’t fully understand the afterlife, this project can be even more daunting. We trust that our memories—both the ones we have of those who have left us, and the ones we are in the process of making with those who remain—will get us there, one day at a time.

When milestones approach that leave us bobbing in the expanse between pain and the desire to honor our loved one, we find ballast in the form of a favorite saying, a familiar scent, or a luminous photo. We continue on our journey, living the lives our loved ones would want for us—in doing so, we honor them, and they are never far from our hearts.