Learning To Let Go: Walking with Mama

Grief is not something we only encounter when someone dies. Grief is the process we go through any time we’ve had to accept a different reality than we’d hoped for. The greater the chasm between our perception of what “should be,” and what is, the greater the process it requires to let go.

Thirteen years ago today, I said good by to my mom. Even with more than a decade between me and that day, I still miss her often. I miss her when my children make me proud, and I miss her when I feel lost and wonder what pearl of wisdom she would have shared with me.

Grief comes in all forms, and no one is immune. It doesn’t matter what loss we’re grieving, or how long it takes, or whether it seems “valid.” Our losses are ours to define.

At the same time, getting lost in grief is not the productive use of energy we may think it is. I imagine my mom telling me that partings are natural parts of life, whether by death or by other circumstances, and that to regret when it happens, or to try and cling to something that’s no longer there, simply extends the suffering we may feel. She would have said it more eloquently, but you get the idea.

We would have made a good team, she and I, because after she would have shared her thoughts on the matter, I would have responded by saying, “It may seem callous, or heartless, but I think we can ease the process of letting go with a simple phrase like, ‘I wish you well.’”

We’d listen to the pebbles crunching under our feet as we walked along the waterfront trail in my home town. I’d go on to say that every time I find myself dwelling, or wishing, or hoping things had gone differently with someone I’ve lost, that I simply visualize that person and say to them, “I wish you well.” I’d tell her that this surprisingly simple phrase had brought me a peace of mind and clarity that no amount of ruminating ever had.

She’d be thoughtful in her listening, considering my words carefully. We’d stop and let her dog Lily sniff at the trees along the path, and then she’d bring it all together with a final bit of insight.

But isn’t that often the case, Hon? Doesn’t the simple most stripped down versions of compassion alleviate just about any kind of suffering, even when we direct that compassion towards ourselves?”

She’d wink at me, and that cheeky smile of hers would signal that she’d had the final word on the matter, and it was time to let it go. The jangle of Lily’s collar clinking against her leash would bring with it topics about friends, the weather, and the latest prices of avocados.

My mom, and my dad for that matter, and even my little brother, have taught me that life is full of meetings and partings — with people, places, even different versions of ourselves. And when life feels tinged with regret, or a desire to hold on, we can remind ourselves that we will forever be changed because of those people we loved, regardless of how it unfolded or how it ended.

My mom may not be able to share her words of wisdom with me in person, but she’s always here. I wish you well mama; my offering to you this day. Thank you for crossing my path, and helping me become who I am today.