How to Say Goodbye

Since my childhood, I’ve learned death has many faces – some of which, we never see again even prior to the passing of this earthly life.

Struggling for years to learn how to grieve healthily, due to a lack of healthy conditioning to help me grieve, I turned to unhealthy copings. Drinking, smoking, and promiscuity (always under the influence of alcohol) in my late teens and early twenties became my main methods in seeking to escape the gaping void that dwelled within.

Once I put away these copings, the anxiety, codependency, and perfectionism emerged in their place, often revealing themselves as anger and depression.

Taking nearly nine years to come to a point where I not only acknowledge these unhealthy ways, I now seek to work on making sure I manage myself through God’s strength so I don’t fall as hard as I have in the past. And when I do fall, I have a soft enough landing that I don’t shatter – but I feel the pain. Which is good, because if I don’t feel the pain, I won’t get back up and seek to keep moving forward.

Stunned into immobility at times, I find myself fully aware of the pain and my surroundings. In turn, I pick myself up off the ground, dust myself off, catch my bearings, and get back on that stubborn, bucking horse called life.

It’s not easy when life brings a face of death you’ve never encountered before.

My encounters with death have come in various forms since I was six years old upon losing my first pet – a goldfish due to overfeeding (a lesson learned on various levels). Then came the passing of a pet desert tortoise and a horned toad that were not of my doing. Then the unexpected passing of my grandmother when I was eleven, and the expected passing of my grandfather just an hour and half past midnight after my fifteenth birthday (I held his hand as he passed).

Along with all this grieving experienced in my youth, I also encountered grief from the loss of friends in High School due to car accidents, suicides and abortions some went through. I also encountered various losses of friendships, which extended it’s uninvited stay far into my young adult years.

It confounds me that with all this loss I’ve encountered, in my forty short years of life in this world, that I would struggle so severely with the loss of a relationship. Because…well, I’ve danced this dance before. Right?

Wrong.

Because this dance to dance was now with my own flesh and blood – my parents.

The beginning of 2013 was when I had to learn how to start dancing the dance, along with the loss of my father-in-law three months after the loss of relationship between us happened. Amidst all this, I was working on finishing up a seventeen-year journey to finish my undergraduate degree. Needless to say, it was a painful time – but a victorious time, because I did graduate.

Now, here, at the beginning of 2018, has proven equally painful.

This past holiday season was deeply saddening for me. Though the last four months of 2017, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. I know the holidays can bring a complexity of emotions for many, but this was a deep, down to the heart and soul sadness that I had never felt before.

The other night, I texted a trusted friend and she shared with me her experience with grieving the loss of a relationship with a family member who still exists. And four words that reverberated throughout my soul when I read them were liberating beyond measure.

“I finally accepted it…”

Wow. She accepted the reality that even though it’s family and they’re still existing, she had to say goodbye and grieve the loss. She learned to accept that she couldn’t do one thing to change the circumstances, nor the other person (try as she may). So her only resort?

Let them fully go to God through accepting this reality, and that God is the only one who can handle any and all of this.

When I read her texts, I immediately remembered Elizabeth Kulber-Ross’s and David Kessler’s 5 Stages of Grief, and acceptance is the very last stage of grieving.

It’s been five years since I uttered the physical words to my parents, “Let me know when y’all are ready to work all this out between the three of us. I love you both. Goodbye.” But here I am now needing to live out these words.

What has hung me up all this time has been their response, hovering in the background of my mind, “You do this, it’s permanent.” Hanging up the phone after that, and breaking down in the kitchen in excruciating tears in front of my husband and four-year-old son, was mind and life-altering.

The projection that all this was on me, has kept me burdened – and stationary in one spot for the last five years. But it is time to let go and move forward, as much as it ails me to.

This is a pain I don’t wish on anyone.

It’s a pain that completely changes everything about your life. This is a pain of no turning back seeking some kind of comfort to soothe the ache. The only comfort for this pain comes from living in the present, in God’s hands, and moving forward with Him and His direction as He handles all of the messes of life.

As painful as all of this has been, and as painful as it is to take this next step of grief in living out acceptance, the reality is, it must be taken for grief to be complete. To finally allow God to have every bit of the mess in my life, as well as every bit of the mess in my parents’ lives and mess between us.

To say goodbye:

There’s no turning back.

There’s no opening the door which has been closed.

There’s only movement forward; and if another door is to open, it will be Jesus opening it.