I've become accustomed to tears. They happen often. Sometimes I'm ready and I know they're coming, and sometimes I'm not. What has surprised me the most throughout this grief process is actually my inability to cry about certain things. Or maybe not cry, specifically, but more my inability to worry/feel badly about certain life situations. I know that this is because the part of me that died that day took this possibility from me.
It is difficult for me to be excited about future events. As a parent, before the loss of a child, I looked forward to those milestone moments that I think we all do. Graduations, marriages, grandchildren. That's not true for me anymore. To me, those are things that highlight what is missing. I know to many, this seems like a very negative way to look at life, but I truly don't feel that way. I just don't dream about those days the way I once did. And in some ways, that makes it easier to focus on accomplishing goals for myself. Losing the illusion of control over those future events for my children has given me the freedom to simply watch them today. Enjoy them today. I honestly believe that this moment right now is all we have. And I believe that thinking that and "knowing" it are two entirely different things.
While this part of my new existence can be helpful in some ways, it also makes it difficult to be my friend at times. I have recently experienced many friends/coworkers battling the empty nest. Whether they are in the beginning stages of that phase of life or are trying to soak up every drop of that last year for their high school senior, the emotions they feel are palpable. I can't get there. I just can't. But, the point of talking about this is not to say that their feelings are "wrong". In fact, it's quite the opposite. I'm so grateful that so many experience those emotions. The alternative to that isn't worth the price you pay. I also want to be abundantly clear that this is in no way saying that you should be "grateful for every moment". People can't live that way. I understand that. What I'm saying, is that when you're experiencing some of these particular emotions, find your people. Talk to them about it, and mourn together. You're grieving too. In a different way, certainly, but your grief matters too. Find your friends, your fellow empty nesters. But that cannot be me. I'm not likely to ever share that view and I do not want to negate the importance of your pain. Know that I'm sorry for the pull on your heart, but grateful for it at the same time.
This is similar to most of the personality changes that come with grief. It hurts family members when I can't connect to their children, my nieces and nephews, the way they wish that I would. It's difficult for them to understand why I distance myself. And honestly, I understand their frustration and their pain. I just can't change it. I'm new. I'm different. Part of me is gone. Part of any grieving parent is gone. You can't retrieve them, they can't even do it themselves. And truth be told...they wouldn't want to even if they could...