Complicated Grief

Complicated grief… a phrase I have heard for years… especially as a counselor… yet I never really understood it until the last few months… until I started to live complicated grief.

If I am honest, I thought by my mom dying by suicide it made it complicated, and it did, yet it got even more complicated the older I got. My mom died over 23 years ago. I was 19 and I walked through the grief journey as best I could. I learned to make my way through a life without a mom. I worked through feeling like my mom abandoned me. I sought counseling when the feelings of guilt I pushed aside finally come to light. I felt I was doing all the work. I was in counseling for years. I journaled. I was self-aware. I was honest. But nothing prepared me for this last few months. Nothing prepared me for the complexity.

October 2, 2021, my step-mom died suddenly. She had been married to my dad for 17 years. My dad has been devastated and his world turned upside down. Unlike 23 years ago when my mom died, I am in a place to be with my dad, to help, to support. And what a gift it has been.

What I never expected was the resurgence of grief I would feel for my mom with the death of my step-mom. I never knew the wounds of my heart could be opened in the way they have. I wasn’t prepared, and for anyone who knows me, I like to be prepared… I wasn’t prepared for this, my heart was not ready.

Keaton has grown up knowing my mom is not here… along the road he asked about her.. almost four years ago was a conversation I had dreaded… each step of the way, I have processed and learned along side Keaton. I have done the best I can with helping him to know the woman who impacted me so much.. the woman he will never know.

What I wasn’t prepared for is helping him grieve his Nana as I realize he will never grieve, know the person I called mom. I was not prepared for this complexity of grief. I was not prepared for him missing someone who played such an important part in his life, while I grieved him never knowing the woman I wanted to be his grandmother. I was not prepared for the pain this caused me deep in my soul. I was not prepared to grieve the relationship he would never have with my mom.

At first I felt guilty for these feelings, but at some point I realized and accepted my feelings are my reality and right now they are so complicated. We want life to be simple and free of complexity, but that is not reality. The more we live life, the more we realize, the more we accept the complexity, the more we realize the complexity not only is the grief, but also the blessing… we can’t have one without the other.

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