On Predictive Grief
I have a 15 year old son. He’s beautiful and I love him dearly. He will leave our house some day and not live here any more. The thought of him going is something I grieve years before it is happening. Why? I mean, think about it: that means less laundry, less cleaning the bathroom.
But it runs deeper than him going. His childhood is going away. I’m watching him daily begin to shoulder adulthood, like shrugging on a coat to go out in winter. One sleeve at a time. Pulling it on. We owe our children this. To help them do this.
The predictive grief is born in part out of my sense memory of still carrying him in the crook of my arm. His hand resting on the back of my neck as we went about our most important daily business. The past is still right here with me. In the crook of my arm.
I remember a day years ago, when he was getting much taller and I said to him, “Let me try and carry you the way I used to one more time.” I lifted him and his chin was eye level to me.” We laughed and I put him down after a moment. I recall the weight of him that day.
Predictive grief is the past and the future folding neatly in across each other, accordion like. The past and the future, each simultaneously seen from each direction. Did I see today, myself here typing, on that day? Some days it feels like decades are one thin fold apart.
He is growing and changing, I would never seek to inhibit that. His rising power and his increasing separation from me are things I am encouraging. This makes me proud. Both of my work as a parent and his work as a young person. But also of the love that seeks to remain in place.
The love that continues to form itself out of all the confusion that leaving childhood creates. How to hold him now? How to hold me now? How do we mend the rifts that time seeks to foster? “I don’t know the answers any more.” “Maybe if we talk they will emerge?”
I remember my son sitting in the crook of my arm looking away towards something other than me. I take a deep breath and calm the predictive fears that are (possibly) unfounded. His childhood is moving beyond my conscious self into memory, into dreams. That is enough.
Now let us consider what is not predictive grief. Let us consider the moments when his child self appears, giggling. Let us consider the gentle letting go. And the eternal invitation of the child in all of us. “Visit any time child.” Predictive grief is a poetic lovely pain, yes.
Predictive grief reminds us to be mindful of the moment before us. Not to dwell on future losses beyond remembering to appreciate what we have before us today. What do I have? I have a magical mixture of child and adult right here in my life.
I am blessed to be with him. To remind him in his sometimes uncertainty of how proud I am of him. That I am here for him. That he is of me and I of him. Who gets to do this magical thing? Such a gift. Such a gift.
Thank you predictive grief. You reminded me not to be sitting somewhere twenty years from now wondering why I missed my chance to be here for him. You reminded me of who I want to be someday. The person who loved my boy now.
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