I asked grief, how long would she stay? “For as many days as you love him” she answered. “Then we will be sharing my lifetime together”  I said.

Sharing a lifetime with grief. Loving those we love, living or dead, until our last breath.

There is no timeline, just our lifetime. No one chooses to live without those they love beside them, yet, begrudgingly, all of us must eventually find a way to do so. To allow the impact of our loved one’s life guide us as we continue living ours. We learn experientially to share our lifetime with grief. 

I grew up sharing my life with grief. My Dad died one month before I was born, my grandparents before I finished my first year of college, my Mom one year after college, and other dear family and friends since. The death of my Mom 24 years ago remains the most significant loss of my life. Her legacy of invaluable lessons learned through her example of how to live through loss and disappointment with strength, resilience, humor and authenticity carries me. She is with me every day. Not in the way I wish or would choose yet I do find comfort in feeling us share my life together. 

She is with me when I am struggling, feeling down, overwhelmed, or insecure in my humanness… encouraging me to connect to and lead from my strengths, as she did when she was here.

I feel her presence when I am laughing with, encouraging, and connecting with my family of strong, interesting and amazing girlfriends as she once did. Her friendships carried her through the unpredictable and sometimes overwhelming times in her life, and now mine do the same. 

My Mom is with me as I age and worry that time is going fast and that I am not yet my best self living my best life. She, I believe, would laugh at the notion of best self and best life as she was unapologetically present in her true self living her real life every day. Flawed, authentic, fun, strong, accepting of life as it came. She imparted on us the importance of being real, honest and direct, of appreciating the little things, of loving family and of being a good friend, she encouraged us to feel feelings without becoming limited or defined by them.

She is with me as awe washes over me at the seasons change. The excitement of seeing the first blooms of spring. Celebrating summer vegetables grown in my garden. Finding calm in the crisp air and the fall of amber leaves. She is with me when I light the first winter fire while watching the soft snow fall.  She is with me each majestic sunset and star filled night. Losing myself in the beauty of nature, appreciating the miraculous in the simple, connects me to her forevermore.

Her strongest influence is felt as I watch my children with overwhelming love and pride as they create and live their own lives. Her mothering lessons received about the importance of letting your children teach you who they are, of accepting and supporting them as they create their own lives separate from yours. Through her example I learned the importance of boundaries, of recognizing and accepting the need for our children to live the lives they imagine for themselves. I understand now more than ever that parenting can be challenging, thankless, even exasperating but that the love is unconditional and constant. Guilt, pressure, expectation were never a part of her equation. She lived her life on her terms and encouraged her children to do the same and for this I am eternally grateful.

She is with me as I embrace times of solitude, finding respite in my own company, as well as deep pleasure in times shared with family and friends, as she once did.

She is with me in my anger, my joy, my peace, my fears, my sadness, my resilience and most especially my laughter.

I feel her presence whenever I sing along to Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Stevie Wonder or Willie Nelson. She is with me when I watch the movies we once loved to watch together, whenever I celebrate milestones with key lime pie, and when I laugh (roll my eyes) at my husband’s unfiltered sense of humor or feel gratitude watching him with our sons.

My Mom is with me as I embrace her life, her values, how she lived, while trying to live my life forward wholeheartedly and in strength. Each day I try to honor her by remembering, emulating and living well…by carrying on her legacy.

No two losses are the same. Everyone grieves differently and in their own way. For some, the notion of sharing a lifetime with grief is maddening, sickening, maybe even insulting. For others it can feel like a glimmer of light among the darkness of grief…a way to carry on. Maybe even a reason to carry on, an opportunity for our loved one’s light to shine through us, for their legacy to be continued and shared.

We share a lifetime with grief because we never stop loving, for as many days as we love them, for as many days as we are here.