By Mary Cucarola – 3/2/23

“Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.”  ~Richard Bach

My teenage granddaughter brought a game with her for our ski trip to Telluride this past Christmas.  It was a game of questions to spark meaningful conversations called Table Talk – she is quite deep for her age.  Probably from what she has been through with her father, but more likely because she is emotionally intelligent, like him.

We played the game in the evening by the fireplace in the lobby on over-sized cushy chairs in the small hotel we stayed at in town.  Her, her childhood friend, and me.  They drank fresh fruit-flavored water provided by the hotel, and I drank red wine provided by me.  Apres-ski experience with teenagers.  It was awesome.

The questions were thought-provoking and suitable for their age and mine. There is one I remember the most for its relevance to me.

“What is the one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they knew about you?”

Both girls answered the question thoughtfully and then it was my turn.  I took my time, but knew the answer right away.

“I grieve every single day.  Not a day goes by where I don’t think about Cody and wish he was here.  It never goes away.  No matter where I am or what I am doing.”

No matter how much healing I’ve done for myself, no matter what changes I make in my life, the grief stays.  A sabbatical does not take it away.  But here is the thing you have to understand, I have accepted it.  I have accepted that my grief and happiness can peacefully coexist.  I’ll never kill off my grief, and I don’t want to.  I make space for the paradox because it is part of who I am. The less I fight against it, the less it fights back.

I respect it is a part of me, so it is never excluded from my life.  It is allowed to have a voice, but not to make my decisions or determine my future or keep me from being free.  It is not the most interesting thing about me.  I’ve had an amazing life with experiences, dreams, and aspirations like everyone else.  I still do.  I still will.

Everyone experiences grief during their life time, some more than others, because grief is a part of the human experience.  I am not special, even though I know every inch of it.  Having survived the unthinkable, I am familiar with the unpredictability of change and upheaval that grief brings to the table.

If grief and happiness can coexist, then how?  First, it’s the guilt that has to go.  I don’t have to feel guilty finding happiness without my son in a life that works, which right now is taking time off.  It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while – I feel peaceful and rested.  I am less cranky and impatient.  I don’t have to analyze it or judge it.  I can just let myself be happy without the guilt.

I have been refinishing furniture, setting up a sewing/craft room, cooking again, re-decorating, writing, and becoming keenly aware of my desire for some creativity in my life.  It’s as if  I am nesting like an expectant mother, creating for myself a safe, calming, and nurturing space to foster the creativity.  I lost that important part of myself along the journey of my son’s addiction and his subsequent death from overdose almost ten years ago.  I let the grief suck it out of me for a long time.

As the saying goes: “Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.”  Why would I want to keep from living a full life because I grieve every day?  Grief and happiness can coexist – holding two opposing truths is important.  Embracing the messy gray in life is crucial to growing and making good choices.  I deserve and have a right to happiness, as do all my fellow grievers.  I will fight for that right.  It will help me find inspiration instead of desperation, which I desperately want.

Table Talk helped me define and articulate what I believe about my grief now.

Defending my grief is not a hill I want to die on.  Defending my happiness in co-existence with it, is.

By Mary Cucarola – 3/2/23

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