By Tabitha Montgomery
I’ve had to live with more death than anyone should, but Life doesn’t care about should. These losses brought years of grief and growing pains. Later they brought empowerment, a process still in the making. At first I couldn’t get out from under the heavy weight of heartache and darkness. I couldn’t catch my breath. I believed I’d never be happy again.
When I fully surrendered by feeling all the pain the losses caused, my life began to shift. I found a different path. Even my bonds with my lost loved ones returned. We reunited in a new way. These are the high and low lights about four of the many lives and deaths that taught me to find the courage to grieve, and then to move on.
“He was able to mend his wings by being back with his family before his death,” the priest said about my dad at my father’s funeral. My dad came home to be with his family because he had nowhere else to go. Years of drinking and shooting drugs damaged his heart and liver so much he had to stop using. Two years later, a heart attack brought on when he relapsed on alcohol and drugs caused my father’s death. He was 53 years old.
But my grief didn’t start when my father died. It began so long ago that when my dad lost the battle to alcohol and heroin, I could finally let go and release him in peace. I barely got to know him those brief couple years, but it must have been enough because my father’s homecoming mended my wings too.
Then my best friend of 20 years passed away from a fluke overdose. She wasn’t an addict, although sometimes she socially used ecstasy or other recreational drugs. At a party one night with friends, she got out of her league when she experimented with heroin. She didn’t understand the difference between opiates and the other drugs she had used.
The drug took its toll on her sensitive system. My friend went home and drowsy from the heroin, she went to bed. That night she quietly died in her sleep. She was only 28 years old. Her death made me look at my life. I began to make healthier choices. My new life path helped me accept her death. Eventually it also helped me feel our bond of love again.
When my daughter turned four, her father died after an evening of drinking at home with friends. The alcohol interacted with painkillers, medication he took for an old injury to his back. “If Daddy loves me, then why did he die?” my daughter asks. It’s a question I can’t answer. I still struggle to accept that there’s nothing anyone could have done to prevent his death.
My mother — my life mentor and role model – continued to grow spiritually despite or maybe because of all her pain. Her humble example showed me how to get through the most difficult death I’ve experienced yet — hers. Seeing how she handled grief and loss gave me the courage to survive when she died suddenly from lung cancer at age 63. I didn’t realize how much I depended on her emotionally until she left. But by remembering her faith in me, I know I can depend on myself. Now when I need her the most, I can feel my mother wrap me in her arms to let me know she’s close.
I don’t believe I have to completely let go of my deceased loved ones. I do need to move forward and see what Life holds for me next. I renewed my bonds with the people I love not to cling to yesterday. These people aren’t just part of my past or who I was. They’re part of who I’m becoming and who I am.
I’m 41. Besides these deaths, all my elders are gone now too. I’m not happy these people died but I’ve become happy again. I also learned to breathe into and through the pain. Although I appreciate our new bonds, I still miss the people I lost and love. Life thoughtlessly stole many precious gifts from me but gradually it returns some of what it took.
By grieving, gently I become transformed.
From the desk of Melody Beattie
Originally posted 2010
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