The millennial grief paradox

2 min read
16 Mar

I'm staring at my Facebook cover photo. It's a quote from a loss mom, and I've had it as my cover for over four years. 

"As I became accustomed to the grief, I was able to see that she was a gift. A painfully, beautiful gift that will keep on giving for the rest of my life" (Sarah Wells.) 

When I first read those words, it spoke to my soul. It was almost as if the author had summed up exactly what I felt before I even knew it myself. 

There was something about the quote that captured that time of my life. It was grief, loss, and pain, all rolled into one big ball in my heart. I would come back to my page and read the words again and again. Each time, the words soothed me like a blanket on a cold Winter's day. 

As I stared at my cover photo today though, something deep inside of me was different. I didn't feel the tug of my heart or the grief spilling over. I felt... healing. It was such an odd juxtaposition for me. Where had the pain gone? 

In an instant it occurred to me: this was another way I was wearing my scarlet letter. I was the "proud loss mom" on social media. Yet I know that regardless or not I have a quote up, my loss isn't any less significant. I used to think I needed to shout my daughter's name from the mountaintops to continue her existence. I'm starting to realize that I don't need to give her permission to live on. 

She already is. 

Everything I do in honor of her has merit, yet not doing something doesn't take her away. Scientifically speaking, her cells are still in my body. I read a medical study somewhere that said that children's cells can actually aid a mother's healing years after birth. It's incredible to think that while we do the honor of giving them life, their energy in a small way gives us life as well. It's a beautiful circle. 

I put a lot of emphasis on social media. It's the millennial in me even though I'm a few years older to be considered one. It is human nature to want to surround yourself with others that have commonalities. In the loss community, we rally around each other in a tight circle of protection. I wouldn't be at the stage of grief I'm at without other loss mom's holding their light and guiding the way for me. It has been mainly through social media that I have formed these deep friendships. It is through this connection to the community that I found a safe haven from the storm that whipped around our family. I was proud to post the cover photo, proclaiming my grief as well as sharing the burden of the pain of loss. I needed the pain stated, even when it was tucked deep inside of me. It described me without having to say a word. 

Yet, I can still be a beacon of light without having that visual image. If my butterfly tattoo were removed from my shoulder, I would still be P's mother. If I stopped going on social media altogether, nothing would change the impact she continues to have in my life. 

There comes a time in grief, however where we aren't as afraid to let go. It is different for everyone when that time comes. Sometimes, it never happens. Pain is entirely unique to the individual, and there is no judgment for anyone's path. 

I am choosing to let go. Not because I do not honor my daughter's memory, but because I accept her in her present form. 

Her present form is magical. It is the hearts that I inevitably find everywhere in every place. It is the pennies that find their way on to my seat or even a doctor's office table. It is the first butterfly of the season. It is the children and adults with Down Syndrome that somehow flow into our life without rhyme or reason. 

I honor my daughter as she is now, not who she was. 

Honoring her presently means something different than it did four years or even six months ago. As we grow, our grief evolves with us. It is through this evolution that I feel comfortable in making what to me personally, is a bold stance. It is one that I will do while not realizing I am holding my breath until I exhale. 

Change is scary. Moving on is hard. Grief doesn't care how long it has been, it holds you in memories of deep, guttural emotion. You will never forget those days afterward you lost your loved one. No one ever does. It becomes deeply entrenched in our memory, similarly to a song we start singing that we learned in the sixth grade. We cannot forget, even if we tried. 

So if we cannot forget those moments, why are we afraid to let go? Our grief is not helping our loved ones. They are right there next to you, probably wondering when you are going to go out to that dinner with friends you keep putting off. Our grief does not help ourselves, it only holds us in deep emotion. 

I don't need the emotion to know how much my daughter was and still is loved. I am assured of her continued part in my family as I am convinced of my next breath. It is automatic. She will always have a seat at the Thanksgiving table, even if I don't leave an empty chair for her this year. 

I must continue on. 

I once again go to my Facebook profile and click the "update cover photo" button. I search for stock photos for the first word that comes to mind:


I make an agreement with myself to pick one of the first photos I see, and there it is:

A sparkler of light. 

Sylvia Browne once said we were all, "sparklers of light in a lonely, dark, desert" and there is my sign. 

"I love you P," I say, as I take a deep breath, change the photo, and let go. 

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