By Mary Cucarola – 12/10/20

Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be.  Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose.  Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go.  Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”~Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

This is the eighth holiday season without my son. The contradiction of healing is that it is both holding on and letting go.  I hold on to memories and then let them go.  I hold on to feelings and then let them go.  I hold on to an old way of being because it feels comfortable and am forced to let go to the reality of feeling uncomfortable.

I remember my past self, who resides in the memories, and at the same time I must live in my present self, who resides in a new normal.  I wish people understood this contradiction better.  Every Christmas song I hear reminds me of the happy memories.  Every Christmas card I receive reminds me of precious family time.  Every Christmas gift I wrap reminds me of how it felt to see my son smile. The past melds into the present in every moment.

I am not going to deny this year has been harder than others. The isolation that coronavirus has brought about is not good.  Isolation is the worst-case scenario of grieving.  Pain needs to be shared; avoiding feelings gives over to dwelling on the past.  Grief can be a very anti-social state if left unattended.  It takes over the heart and is occupied by the finality of it all.  Avoiding it makes it pile up day after day.

I feel this mountain of mourning starting to crumble as we approach a new year with the promise of less burdens.  I allow myself to continue to be changed by my son’s love and death.  I know he exists beyond the boundaries of my imagination.  Love connects us forever and his spirit lives deep inside of me.

Recovery from my grief is marked by an acceptance that my wounded heart is still beating – remembering the life of which I am still a part, not a small, lonely existence, but a full, confident life I have created for myself.  I don’t have to let this odd year of isolation define my progress toward healing. Tucked away in my awareness is evidence that despite the loneliness, there are paths to finding joy.

There is a mystical force honoring my common human experience with all of the others who have lost their loved ones to this disease.  I never doubt the power of compassion. When the sadness of one person leads another deeper into her own experience, all of us move out of the darkness. In understanding the absolute value of a human life, I have come to know meaning and purpose. Grief can bring about the unexpected.

The reality is I will grieve forever and will never get over it.  I will have good days and bad ones.  I will heal and hurt, too.  I will be whole again but never the same.  It’s the nature of the contradiction of healing and a sacred opportunity for acceptance.

Mary Cucarola – 12/10/20

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