All of us experience loss during our lives. That’s inevitable. Cherished pets die. Longstanding friendships rupture. Beloved jobs end. People relocate and say goodbye to communities they adore. Every loss matters, of course, no matter the depth. But it seems fair to say that some losses are much harder to bear than others. For many of us, the loss of a parent – whether through death, abandonment, an adoption plan, or alienation – is among the hardest to accept. There is something so binding, so intimate, and at times, so complicated in the relationship between parent and child that this loss is so very poignant. And that’s what we hear from Lauren Jordan.
The last few days of my dad’s life were spent peacefully in hospice. As the nurses walked in and out of the room, my family would ask them question after question and every time they answered, they would say, “It is all part of his journey. Everyone has their own journey and each one is different.”
Two weeks later, I began my own journey. One without my father. One I had never experienced before. One I never anticipated two months earlier as my father’s health rapidly declined and his own journey ended.
Grieving is a journey.
I am now navigating life without parents. I am parenting without parents. The magnitude of this weighs heavily on me every single day.
The grief and loneliness come in waves, but I am inspired by my nine-year old son to keep moving forward. Adopted from Ethiopia as a baby, his own grief and loss journey has taught me more than I realized until recently. EJ encourages me to find hope in the joyful memories and reminds me not be afraid to cry when I need to. His own wonderful memories of my father have helped keep my dad a focus of our lives and still very much present. EJ’s strength and faith have given me insight into how powerful love and relationships truly are.
I think we name experiences “journeys” to help us believe that our pain is actually a process that will result in strength and learning. And maybe it will. But it doesn’t make the journey any more bearable. What does make it more bearable are those people with whom we take the journey.
My family and I are all grieving in different ways. We honor and remember my father in different ways. We look at photos, tell stories, share laughs and comfort each other in moments of pain. We smile and continue with our lives while still holding on to our disbelief and denial. But we do this together. Our journeys are all our own and all unique but intertwined in the shared goal of keeping our memories and our love for dad alive.
And while this shared grief doesn’t fill my father’s absence, it does make this journey a little less lonely and makes me a little more hopeful. Through this I’ve learned that what really matters is not how we grieve our losses but rather how we find peace and strength in our own unique journey.
Lauren Jordan, Director of Advancement at the Rhode Island Historical Society, lives with her family in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.