The kindest thing someone once said to me went something like this. “That swing is empty. That hurts. That is a loss. No one will ever fill that swing again. Nor should they.” For the very first time, in that moment I felt the gift of space. I was given the space to feel the loss. I was given permission. It felt so right. And in that moment, something that had been silently screaming inside of me, was finally given the space to breathe. To be heard. To be witnessed. There was more healing in that moment than I knew at the time. Validation is powerful.
At the time I was in the middle of trying to come to grips with my loss of a mother. I didn’t have words but through creating art I began to find a way to express it.
All of our stories may be different, but there is one thing none of us have escaped. Loss. So this is for you. You, who had to say goodbye to someone too soon. Whoever you are missing on the swing beside you. If you find that your swing is empty. Vacant. Do not discount the loss. Give room and space for the loss and the grief. It matters. That might be the best gift you ever give yourself.
My journey of grief and loss has been complex and messy at best. It still feels new to me to say that I have a story, and that mine is a story of loss. For much of my life this far, I minimized, I didn’t acknowledge the loss. Partly because I didn’t know how to and partly because I was terrified of it. So why not ignore it and let it go away by itself, right? (Yeah, that didn’t work out so well for me.) I finally got tired of running.
If you have a loss that you know you need to process and work through. Find someone who will validate it, sit with you in it, and not try to fix or compare. Trust me, it is worth it.
For me, dealing with a loss that happened prior to my ability to remember or verbalize has been complicated. How does one grieve a death of a mom they don’t remember? How does one start a grief journey over 25 years after a death? Especially when it seems everyone else has moved on and forgotten. To honor a memory and a legacy of the one who gave you life without memories, it gets complicated.
A word on pre-verbal memories. They are real. They happened. I’m learning these things can have long lasting influence. Because I couldn’t remember my birth mom, it felt like it shouldn’t hurt and it shouldn’t affect me. If I didn’t have memories why would I grieve? If I didn’t know who I lost, why would it hurt? I found the quote below profoundly relate-able as I starting to accept the impact of an early loss of a parent.
“People who have survived these early experiences usually cannot recall them verbally, while they cannot forget them non-verbally. They may live lives of quiet desperation, reacting to every stress with a silent scream.” –Dr Linda Gantt (I’m not sure if this is Gantt’s original quote. I wrote it in my journal a few years back- I believe I got it off a video of hers.)
All grief is messy and complex really. There is no easy way around it. Ever. Yet, there is a way through. And for me that road through started once I gave space for that empty swing to be there. Painfully empty. Achingly vacant. If you need permission to start to acknowledge- here it is. Your empty swing matters. Your story deserves to be heard. Maya Angelou says it well. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Tell your story.