Forget me not…

Recently I have been struggling with letting go of the past.  It seems to haunt me like a bad dream.  I repeat all of the mantras that I’ve read about living in the now, and I do stop and take time to do short meditations to try to center myself in the present.  But it just keeps creeping back in.  All of my yesterdays- and the frustrations of not being able to change them.

One dilemma that I’ve noticed with this letting-go-of-the-past thing is that as we live each moment, some of what we did or that happened in the past is bound to be apparent in what happens today.

For example, as I look around my house and see all of the things that are not done as we had planned-  the second floor bathroom that never got put in, the kitchen cabinets that desperately need replacing, the huge unfinished basement that was supposed to be a great family room but the kids are now grown- all these things are glaring reminders of that past that I am supposed to be “putting behind me” so that I can live today and be happy, you know, not live in the past.

If we had not been overwhelmed by grief and the subsequent chain of events that came in its wake, then at least some of those things would have gotten done.  So they are constant reminders of a past gone awry.

It is hard when I look at my 2 kids and think about how they have been affected by growing up in a home filled with grief and pain.  I can’t turn my mind away from the reality that it has had an impact on who they are and how they view life. Each of them was effected differently I know.

We did have good times- fun and happy things too but I must be honest and say that the struggles to grow through life in those years following my daughter’s birth and death were very, very hard and in that, asked a price of my other children that I will forever regret.

Now, I can step back and look at that rationally and say that doesn’t make sense, life happens, life is not fair, I did the best I could, blah blah blah-  I know that is all true.  I really did do the best I could.  I worked very hard to give them the best, most normal, loving life that I could.  I was always honest with them about what was going on- I never hid anything from them and our family is close.  I know that there are lots of things that influence who they are, not just this particular thing.  And I know that emotions aren’t rational. That’s part of our human struggle.

I also know that there are positive things that they have gotten from this as well.  They have learned that life is not perfect.  They have learned that there is great joy and great sorrow.  They have seen their parents struggle through difficult emotional times and stick it out and work through their problems and still want to be together, that love can abide.   They’ve seen persistence, strength, endurance, commitment, faith, loyalty and trust.

I believe they have learned good things.  Things that will serve them well as they move forward in their lives.  Of course, it’s hard to know what they really think and what they will tell their kids about their childhoods.  I know that I definitely never promised them perfection.  Thank goodness!

I know that as my days go forward, I will continue to breathe and meditate and try to focus on the moment I’m in.  I will look  for the positive results of my past and try to heed my own advice on all the rest- forgive yourself, be gentle and kind to yourself, accept that you did the best you could and that you are only human, think about all of the good things that you’ve done and don’t be so hard on yourself.  Sounds good.

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The Natural Order

I was having lunch today with a friend who I haven’t see in quite a while and we were talking about life events that have had a major impact on who we are now. Of course, I had to talk about how much the loss of our daughter has impacted both me as an individual and our life as a family.  I found myself drifting back, as I occasionally do, to wondering what life would be like now, if that hadn’t happened.

We talked about that- about how life gives us things to live with that effect us and change us (and those we love)  in ways that we could never imagine possible and all we can do is stand there going “hmmm”.  We kind of chuckled about it which is good.  It’s good to be able to do that now and then- just step back and say “hmmm”.  I think there’s a song that says something like that- “things that make you go hmmm”.

She told me that her parents had lost a baby who was 6 months old, her sister, who had a hole in her heart.  My friend was 2 at the time so she doesn’t remember anything.  We talked a lot about that too.  The truth is it probably had a great impact on her life that she isn’t even really aware of.  She said her parents never really talked about it which would be typical for that time.  People don’t talk about it that much now but back then, it was definitely something that just got “tucked away” as she put it.  As we talked more about it, the reality that her parents’ grief would have been palpable in the environment became more evident.

People often say that a parent is not supposed to outlive their children.  It’s not the natural order of things.  To me, it’s as though nature has turned against itself- like a wrinkle in time.   When it happens to you, that wrinkle warps your whole sense of being from then on.  The change is permanent- survivable, adaptable, workable-yes…but it affects everything around you.  Like it or not, it’s a shared experience.

Unfortunately many families don’t recognize that and don’t really talk about it.  It can be really tough to know how to handle it if the other children are little or come along later.  How do you fit in grieving when you are trying to be a parent to your other children?  I know we tried very hard to give our other 2 children as “normal” a life as possible, but it’s tough when you are dealing with so many unknowns and intense emotions every day.  And now I can see that at least our older son was probably effected a lot more than I would have thought was happening at the time, if that makes sense.

The up side of this is that I am a believer in self-forgiveness and that honesty and openness brings great healing.  Life is imperfect and terrible things, like this kind of loss, can happen.  Most of us usually do the best we can so when we make mistakes or things don’t go well, we need to talk to those to whom we cause distress and tell them why we did what we did  and how we will do better.  Working together with those we love, especially through the most difficult moments, can ease that bumpy ride toward “normal”.

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