How an Unexpected Grief Opened Me to a Unexpected Joy

by | May 7, 2023 | Parenthood transitions | 8 comments

I decided to take the long way home.

I had just dropped off our younger son at a sleepover, and our older one is in Kenya for two weeks on a service trip with his school. My husband and I would have twenty hours without children in the house – a rare occurrence – and I was looking forward to our time together.

But I also felt something tight around my heart, and I’ve come to know this sensation as the casing that protects against grief. This wasn’t a fully conscious knowing. Rather, it was the part of me that led me to the long way home, which required driving through Boulder Reservoir.

As soon as I turned onto the long, dirt road that winds through the reservoir, I felt my heart catch in my throat. Grief. How much time our older son, Everest, has spent in this part of Boulder over the years.

Of earth and sky, Everest gravitated toward the part of Boulder that has the largest body of water. This is where, at nine years old, he first separated from us when he went to sailing camp one summer.

Having been homeschooled his entire life, there was no real reason to drop him off before that point, and we didn’t know how he would feel. Fully in his element, he took to the boats like ducks to water, just like he takes to the sky like the eagles and owls he loves so much. He waved goodbye as I stood on the shore and he didn’t look back.

At twelve years old, this is where he first learned to fly RC planes. Oh, how many hours I sat at the RC park watching layers and galaxies of regulation fall into place as, once again, he stepped into his element.

This summer, at nearly nineteen and his last one at home before leaving for college, he will work as an instructor at the sailing camp, guiding young people, hopefully inspiring him to love one of his passions, and keeping them safe on the water.

Of earth and sky, in a few months, he will begin his service in the Navy, moving toward his dream of flying fighter jets and landing them on aircraft carriers.

The memories curved through my veins like the road I drove on, and tears filled my eyes.

Grief is good medicine.

As I approached our house, a joy filled my heart: twenty hours with my husband! Twenty uninterrupted hours! Nobody needing us. Nobody calling for us. Nobody asking for food.

How blessed we are that we still enjoy each other’s company, that even as we get ready to launch one son into the world and another into high school, we can see the empty next on the horizon and know that, as painful as it will be when both of our birds fly into the world, there will also be new vistas to explore together.

With every loss comes a new birth.

With each door closed, another one opens.

With every grief grieved, a new joy arrives.

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8 Comments

  1. Love this Sheryl. And the poem that came in the email was exactly what I needed. Especially those last 2 stanzas!!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this Sheryl. Sending hope and healing through this grief. And congratulations to your inspiring son!

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  3. So beautiful. The poem in the email rang true and gave me goosebumps – it’s so true. It’s so brave to be born. And this blog post fills me with hope. And with bravery to open to grief. And joy! Thank you.

    Love, Jamie

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    • Beautiful reflections as always, Jamie. Thank you ❤️❤️❤️.

      Reply
  4. Great

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  5. Hi sheryl,

    i love this post and the ending that plan A worked! i do have a situation though that i have been going through that i would love to have your feedback on related to relationship anxiety. My boyfriend i have been together two years and he is the best thing that had every happened to me. He is the most loving, doting, respectful and peaceful partner i could’ve ever dreamed of. Our honeymoon phase lasted about 1 year and half to about 2 years but just recently i have been hit like a mack truck by relationship anxiety. Our relationship has always been good and we are super close and spend much of our time together and i just felt like everything was healthy and right for so long and just knew he is the one i want to marry. (we are both in our very early twenties btw.) We were planning on moving together and i was super excited and we had bought stuff and even looked at a couple houses and had everything planned out. Well a few months ago i had made a little mistake that i didn’t really pay much attention took to at the time but came back to kick me in the dirt recently. I had an ex reach out to me and i had responded and let the conversation get to somewhere it shouldn’t have gone. I know my boyfriend is extremely loyal to me and would never do something like this which makes me feel even worse. It was something i knew meant nothing in the moment but later something had triggered it and i got hit with the most guilt i have ever felt in my life. it sent me down a spiral of depression and anxiety that caused me to lose a lot of weight, cry almost everyday, and even throw up from the anxiousness and nerves. i felt like i needed to tell him what i had done but everyone around me and even deep down in myself i was told that i shouldn’t say anything and i just need to accept the mistake and move on because it would only hurt everyone involved. after a short time of dealing with this excruciating anxiety and guilt, i really started going through the relationship ship anxiety so perfectly described in your blog posts. questioning my love for him and if we are meant to be and how being around him and thinking about him would give me so much anxiety and i would freak out even more because i was so sad i didn’t have those feelings of love. i pushed him away and started thinking i have to break up with him and i don’t deserve him or our relationship. Things have gotten way better since then and i feel way more love for him and know deep down i want to marry this man so bad. Everything about us feels meant to be except for this guilt of hiding this from him. I know the logic and pros out way the cons in this situation because in reality i did not meet up with anyone, i didn’t physically cheat, i didn’t have any intentions of carrying anything out with anyone else, and i blocked and never spoke to that person again after it happened. I know that i did the right thing and i’m doing the right thing by protecting the person i love and myself (he knows about me texting my ex but not the extent of the conversation) by keeping this from him. I just can’t help but still get anxiety that i don’t deserve this love or that i need to tell him but i know telling will do way more harm than good. i do not want to be the reason he doesn’t believe in love anymore or gets his heart broken for the first time. Do you have any advice for moving past this so it can stop affecting my happiness and my relationship from progressing? thank you sheryl i would really really be so grateful for some advice

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