My daughter Chloe joined the Coast Guard last year and the moment I let go of the death grip embrace I had on her and said “see ya later” … it felt like my legs had been turned to jello and my heart broke into a gazillion pieces… there went a piece of me... a big piece of me... I had suddenly reverted to 1997 when I had lost my first-born daughter. Her name was Kaitlyn and she had passed away when she was 7 years old. I felt a similar emptiness. Why was I feeling like this? Chloe wasn’t going away forever, this was “see ya later” not goodbye... I was going through a grieving process... even though she wasn’t gone forever she was still gone... my life as I had known it was suddenly changed… I had a new “normal” ... but it certainly did not feel normal... I felt like a crazy lady with the uncontrolled crying spells, missing the daily chats we would have... these things that were taken for granted were no longer there. No phone calls, no texts, no contact. My “logic brain” was trying to tell me that this is now your life, your life as you knew it is gone, but my “heart brain” was telling me… what the heck just happened, why on earth did you just let go of her?
I was also thinking about my 17-year-old son, a Senior in High School who is hell bent on joining the U.S. Marine Corp when he graduates this June, I shuttered with fear as I thought about having to go through this process again with him... Did I have another one in me?
My projections into the future catapulted my fear into the present. The depression set in and there were days when I couldn’t even get out of bed… let alone get dressed... I was beginning to learn quickly that the grief was sitting there... lying in wait for me … waiting for me to put on my big girl panties and deal with it because every time I pushed it away it grew. I could sense that it was getting bigger and sucking the life out of me.
So rather than doing the 20-year plan of denial and not dealing with it I decided to take it head on. I invited the grief to come and I would sit in it… I had to sit in the pain and as silly as it seemed I would visualize rolling around in it. No matter how hard it was or how much it hurt … I made myself feel... ewe feelings... it hurts to feel, but I knew if I didn’t make friends with the pain it was going to take me out. I was starting to realize that when I pushed away the pain ... I was pushing away my happiness. I had to work through the pain to get to the other side of it… I had to take a little time each day and I jokingly named it “The Heather grieving hour” ... I learned to heal through my feelings (ewe... there’s that word again).
The only thing I have control over is the present moment. I have learned to embrace the right now. It helps me to look down at my own two feet and see them planted on the ground beneath me, I can tell myself that right now my feet are on the ground and everything okay… right now. I started being of service to other mothers who have children in the Service and became passionate about doing research on a local level to see what I could do to help our Veterans with the issues they face when they come back home such as homelessness and PTSD. I had to get out of self and stop feeling sorry for myself, being alone in my head is a dangerous place to be.
Today my daughter is in Central America and I remind myself that she is right where she wants to be. I remind myself that she chose this job and serving her great Country is what makes her happy... after all ... isn’t that what we all want for our children is for them to be happy? She does have sad moments and just the other day she was able call me while she was at port... she was crying and sad that missed her little brother’s 18th birthday and I had to remind her that is how it is today. It’s not how it is going to be forever ... this is today’s truth... not tomorrow’s. At the end of our conversation, her tears had stopped and she said “Thank you Mom” ... a little reminder that no matter where they are or how much they are becoming adults... they still need us…they still need and love their Mom.
My son has since then told me that he is considering becoming a Firefighter rather than a Marine, not going to lie – there was a huge since of relief but still a dangerous job, so rather than fear the future and the unknown, I enjoy and savor the moments that I do have with him ... because the present moments are the only moments that are guaranteed… it would be a shame to spend those guaranteed moments in fear.
Worry doesn’t help us - it robs us of happiness. We are just being mean to ourselves when we worry. Right now… everything is okay.