As your heart screams with sadness, let it stand as a testament to your capacity to love deeply.
At some point in time, we will all experience heartache.
For me, the moment is clear. I sat on the floor of a new-to- me apartment filled with stock furnishings in a city where I knew no one — not even my two roommates — and wept. A month earlier, I had returned from living in Africa to attend graduate school. Now, just as I was about the start the next chapter of my life, I was facing a loss.
While it is devastating to lose a loved one, there was nothing unexpected about my grandmother’s death. Almost a year after her stroke, my grandmother moved on. I had written her long letters three to four times a week for the past 12 months. There was nothing left unsaid. She was out of her misery. A widow for forty-two years, she was moving on to see her husband and to reconnect with her eldest son whose life had been robbed far too early by a drunk driver.
Despite his own grief, my father offered a simple lens that shifted my experience of grief. He said, “Sweetheart, notice your heart ache and celebrate it. The depth of your sadness today is a reflection of the heights of your love. You and Nanny shared a very special, unique relationship. Day in and day out, you made her feel like royalty — like a queen. Not everyone can feel or love with that intensity.”
As your heart screams with sadness, let it stand as a testament to your capacity to love deeply, fully, and entirely.
Although the alternative — to be without emotion, investment, or connection — was never an option to me, my father’s perspective that day shifted me. Rather than dull emotions, I found new meaning. Rather than simplify the complexity, I wondered what else this might mean? What else I might experience, understand, or explore?
Many years later, as I was struggling with infertility, I was again reminded of the peaks (jacked on drugs, in a space of possibility) and the pits (as I would start to bleed and the depths of a hormonal depression set it) that come with grieving. Being able to be with, see, and feel all the different
emotions on the grieving spectrum gave me the resilience to keep moving forward. Now, surrounded by my own children, I’m reminded of the value of that resilience everyday.