Growing up I thought I was jaded when it came to death and loss. I experienced several deaths of loved ones at a young age. So much so that when a new family member passed, while I was sad, I had come to know the feelings all too well and moved on quickly.
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I really started to understand and process loss in a different way. While in college my uncle died by suicide. That loss was different and immense, but again, I moved through it. However, his death created a domino effect of change in our family. We all found different ways of coping with this new loss, and as a result, it deeply affected the dynamic of one of my closest familial relationships – the relationship with my mom.
Growing up, I was always a mommy’s girl, but this new loss brought so many changes to our relationship that we struggled to connect on the same level. I couldn’t wrap my head around these changes and eventually reached out to a therapist to help me navigate these emotions. My therapist told me it was okay to mourn the loss of the relationship with my mother as I knew it. My first thought was, “How do I mourn a loss of my relationship when my mom is still right here?”
The Stages of Grief
My therapist pushed me and encouraged me to try the exercise. For months, she walked me through the five stages of grief:
- denial and isolation,
- depression, and
She helped me process this loss and by the time we finished with stage five (acceptance), I was identifying new ways to connect with my mom. I also learned to set some new boundaries for myself.
Grief Comes and Goes in Many Forms
Grief has a funny way of sneaking up on you, and while it doesn't ever fully go away, it transforms. It can come in waves, ebbing and flowing throughout time. I love this TED talk video by Nora McInerny in which she talks about how you don't move on from grief, you move forward with it.
And so, that is what I did with the relationship with my mom — I moved forward with her. While I still reminisce what used to be, I love and respect what is in our relationship now – and all its differences. A simple memory can bring both smiles and tears. Grief isn’t just about death – it is a loss of relationships, activities, traditions, routines, and ways of life.
As you think about how your life has changed over the past 22 months, there is no doubt in my mind that you have witnessed or experienced a loss that you, too, can grieve. While our losses may look and feel different, I still encourage you to walk through the stages of grief, so that you can experience the relief and appreciation that acceptance can bring.
This blog article was contributed by Kate Borman, Marketing Manager at Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.