By Mary Cucarola – 4/27/24

I often stare at her, while she is not looking and marvel at how much I love her. I thought I’d be damaged for the rest of my life without Cody, and that I could never put aside my grief to love anyone else as much as I loved him. But I have learned our hearts are capable of unlimited love, and grief does not negate the ability to love. We can rise to the occasion despite the life-changing event that caused our grief and open our hearts to love again.

My granddaughter and I bonded for life through my son’s death. I see the freckles on her nose, smooth fair skin, boundless energy, curiosity, and intelligence in her as I did in him. But I also see her need to plan, make her own money, be perfect, and dislike change. She’s never forgiven me for selling my house in the mountains seven years ago. She would have preferred I consult her first.

She is artistic and creative with no desire to consider anyone else’s opinion of her projects but her own. She is not a people-pleaser like her grandma. I love that about her because she is her own person and knows what she wants at an early age. I wish I had been like her instead of making my decisions based on what everyone else wanted me to do. She teaches me, and I teach her. We make each other better – love at its best.

Hard times can build character and amazing people, no matter the age. As Ryan Holiday writes in his book The Obstacle is the Way; “what stands in the way is the way.”  That is why embracing loss and grief can be beneficial for us and give us the opportunity to love again. I am not saying that people who are still alive can replace the one who died. Each love comes to us uniquely. But love is there in abundance, and it can reinvent our lives if we recognize it.

Liv’s Prom Picture

I feel like I was given a second chance with my granddaughter by the powers above, whether it be my angel son or God or the Universe, I am embracing it in full. My task is to translate grief into love and love into compassion and shared vulnerability. Love fosters a sense of trust, emotional safety, and connection. It has the power to endure beyond death and passage of time. It has the power to make positive changes in our lives and in the world. Acts of kindness, compassion, and empathy can radiate that love. It can absolutely change the world.

Embracing my grief has taught me to say and do things that matter. I am not one for small talk or superficial conversations anymore, but I endure them even when they feel intolerable. It is a breath of fresh air when someone asks me about Cody and tells me a story about him.

My point here is to hold fast to love. We can love again no matter what has happened, even when you lose your only child to an overdose at age 26. I have mourned his death every day for ten years and know I am changed by it forever. Our hearts have a limitless capacity to love. There is resilience in our spirit and healing in our heart.

Grief is the price of love, and love is a superpower.

By Mary Cucarola – 4/27/24