When the One You Love Is Gone

Grief Process

Yesterday afternoon, in between rain showers, I took a walk around our neighborhood. I walked quickly, knowing that I only had a short time before leaving to pick my son up from school. The fresh air felt good, and I let my thoughts drift as I walked and listened to my music.

I thought about some of the things that had been weighing heavy on my heart and how more than anything I wished I could see and talk to my mom. I wanted to hear her soothing voice, telling me everything was going to be okay. I just wanted her.

As I began to walk the steep part of the road close to our home, I found myself gasping for air. Tears started streaming down my face and as I tried to catch my breath, I began crying harder. A couple of cars drove towards me and I did my best to hold it together, walking as fast as I could to get home. Once home, I collapsed onto our entryway bench and sobbed. I wanted my mom more than anything, but she wasn’t there.

I went into the house, knowing I needed to find something. I needed to see her, hear her – something. In my bedroom, I keep a box filled with letters and cards I have received over the years. I hastily opened it, as if I were looking for some lost treasure. I sorted through the cards and letters, opening them up, looking for her distinctive handwriting. And, finally, I found them. Towards the bottom, I found the card she had sent to me when I was in high school and she was away taking care of my grandpa; the card she had given me when I graduated with my master’s degree; all the cards and letters she had written me over the years. And, they all expressed the same thing – how much she loved me, how proud she was of me and the happiness she wished for me.

And, I felt myself breathe. I felt my body relax because this is what I had been looking for. This is what I had needed from her. She wasn’t physically there to give it to me, but she was there in spirit and memory. Her words spoke what she couldn’t physically say to me. And, I knew everything was going to be okay. I knew I was truly loved. And, I knew that she had loved me more in those short 27 years of my life before she died, than most people experience in a lifetime.

I am so grateful for those years.

I don’t share this because I want you to feel sorry for me. Far from it. I share this because this is what grief looks like. No matter how much time has gone by, it sneaks up on you and punches you in the gut when you’re least expecting it. I share this because this is the type of thing I used to drink over. I didn’t want to feel the pain and sadness and loneliness. I didn’t want to feel anything.

But, now, I don’t have to drink. I don’t have to keep shoving my feelings down, deeper and deeper. Because, the truth is, they never go away. Those feelings are always there. Now, I let myself feel. I cry because I’m sad and pissed off that my mom’s not here.

And, then I find ways to feel close to her. Because, she’s always with me; I just have to open myself up and look for her. And, there she is – just waiting to tell me she loves me.




12 responses

  1. I am touched by this, Chenoa. I haven’t had anyone close to me die (yet), so while I can’t relate to searching for that soothing balm, or having that punch in the gut moment, I certainly do understand that feelings never go away. I tried drinking them away too, or damping them down hoping they would dissolves in the vitriol of my spirit at the time, but alas, no. The only way I could deal with them was by *dealing* with them. And that’s where growth and freedom come from.

    Thank you for sharing this…wonderful stuff.

    Love and light,

  2. I saw this quote and thought of you: “Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

  3. Grief is always there. It doesn’t matter how much time has gone by. Thank you for sharing this. Your mom sounds like she was a beautiful part of your life and I know she would continue to be proud of you!!

  4. This is great reading here. I felt your pain as I read and love how you can acknowledge your feelings as a gift. One of the greatest gifts of sobriety is the ability to feel again no matter how painful because the pain inevitably opens your heart up to the healing, the peace, and the serenity which are the gifts your mom blessed you with as you read. her letters and cards. She was right there , sista.

    • Thank you for your kind words! I agree, the ability to feel – really truly feel – is by far one of the best gifts of sobriety. It’s not always easy, but it’s so rewarding to go through the process.

  5. Thanks for sharing this moment with us Chenoa,

    I haven’t lost anybody close to me (in terms of death) but I did go through a divorce after being with someone for close to 20-years.

    We parted and I moved on and fell in love with someone else, and then one day I just broke down and cried until I swear there wasn’t a drop of liquid left behind my eyes.

    I didn’t know what the hell was going on…and then I finally got it.

    I was grieving.

    I wanted to write his to show that grief can show up even without the accompaniment of death, and the risk of relapse is never more present than during these most vulnerable of times.

    My only relapse in four years came in the aftermath of my divorce and whilst I was unknowingly grieving.


    • Thanks, Lee. As you said, there are MANY reasons why we grieve. Heck, I grieved (I think we all do) when we give up drinking. In many ways, it’s like saying goodbye to your best friend, your confidant. Now, what I’m grateful for is that I let myself feel those feelings of grief and sadness. It’s so much better than stuffing them all down with alcohol!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this, Chenoa. You did so beautifully, I could feel myself tearing up just reading your experience, so you truly have a gift. I love how you showed this experience as a positive, you are a wonderful example of recovery for all of us. Your Mom is beaming as she watches over you!

    • Awe, thanks Josie. That means a lot. It’s so healing to be able to write about my grief surrounding her death. I still have a lot of stuff built up inside, and slowly it’s making it’s way out. All in time. Hope you had fun at the waterpark! My in laws are taking our kids in a few weeks and they’re beyond excited!

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