Life is for Living

Janie and Janina, Summer ’76 Clingman’s Dome, Tennessee

How do you let go of someone you love who has passed away?
How long a mourning period will provide the proper time to heal?
Is it possible to let go but not forget them?
How do I live without them?

If you’ve ever lost someone you cared for, these questions may sound familiar.

I lost my oldest sister, Janie, back in 2007 on this day, April 20. She was 47, and I was 44 years old. She died of a stroke after living a life of burying trauma so deep she had no recollection of it.

Death is a part of life. It’s the one constant we know will one day happen to ourselves and to those we love. But accepting it, embracing it in a healthy way doesn’t mean you are morbid, or weird, or callous and unfeeling. It doesn’t mean you will not miss your loved one, not cry or be lonely for them, or forget them all together.

Accepting Death as a part of life can be freeing. It can be transformational. It can be healing.

Sometimes we cannot bear to live life after we’ve lost a loved one because we spent a lifetime loving them so deeply that it’s hard to figure out how to even breathe without them. Other times, we may have loved them, but didn’t get to see them or be with them as much as we wanted to, or believe we should have. And now that they are gone we not only miss them and their life essence, but also all those stolen moments we thought we would one day make up for with more visits, more hugs, more time.

Sometimes we are consumed with grief over our loved ones who have passed away because all we are left are regrets, unfinished business. Of things we meant to say but never got around to it. All of these scenarios are valid, real, painful. And very, very human. They also keep you from doing what your loved one is now no longer able to do.

It keeps us from living.

It keeps us from singing, laughing, embracing life, and yeah, sometimes even breathing easily. We wrap our grief around us like a thick Mohawk Valley early morning mist, unable to see the life that is blooming all around us. And that isn’t healthy.

I handle grief by writing. By lighting candles by their photos and talking to them. By remembering birthdays and deathdays and sharing meals with them on occasion. I ask them for help from the other side. I celebrate my successes with them. I give them thanks for watching over me. I keep them alive in my heart.

And I allow myself to let go of all the what if’s and all the things I didn’t do right.

I look for signs, whether it’s a song, or license plate, or hotel room number, or a balloon floating down from out of nowhere. And I know that they are not gone forever, just away.

Death is a part of life. But Life is a bigger part of life. Something that is too fleeting and too fragile to waste. So remember, honor your loved ones who have passed. But honor yourself as well. And remember…

Life is for living.

Blessed be.

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