Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Letting it Go: A thoughtful commentary on one person's experience with grief and loss

Oh, my.  By now, I’m sure you have heard the song Let it Go from Disney’s movie Frozen. Right?  What?  You haven’t?  Well, I’m sure a quick YouTube search will enlighten you.  I honestly don’t have time to type out (or even copy and paste) the entire song’s lyrics here.  Suffice it to say it is (in this person’s opinion) a song about giving up and just doing whatever you want, regardless of the consequences.

And kids (including my dear daughter) are singing it all over the world.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not criticizing.  I actually like the song.  It’s…catchy.  It’s an ear worm that you wish, after three solid days of singing it to yourself, that someone could surgically remove it from your brain. (I think I’ve even seen a comic panel about this very thing; surgically removing a song stuck in one’s head.)  I suppose most kids don’t really understand what the song is about, and that’s probably a good thing.  But what about those kids who do figure it out?  Will there be behavioral consequences for parents to deal with?

Yeah – really not going there.  And, as much as I like the song, I also don’t like it.  Ugh.  That’s totally convoluted.

But what about that phrase let it go?  And I don’t mean within the borders of a Disney movie.  I mean out there.  In the real world.  What does it mean to let something go?

I tend to be a Let me give you my two cents worth kind of person and I hope that you’ll bear with me.  I somehow have equated this whole let it go fad to my own personal grief and long-standing sadness, so this is a difficult post for me.  It will be difficult, I think, for others in my small but adored circle of friends and family, too, but I cannot apologize.  This has been a long time coming.  I have a story to tell.


I’m coming up on the 25th anniversary of the death of my mother.  She died, after a long, 7+ year battle with cancer, on June 15, 1989.  I was fifteen when she left this world.  I remember that day as if it happened yesterday and yet, I also have blocked it out and after 25 years I think the memory is a little fuzzier.  I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing.

All I can say is it happened on the last day of my Freshman year in high school and I went to school that morning knowing (like some people just know it’s going to rain or how others know when someone is lying to them; instinctively) that I would never see my mother alive again.  I remember feeling wooden, robotic, going through the motions of a fifteen year old girl on her last day of school.  Sitting in homeroom, I knew when Mr. Lagasse’s classroom phone rang, that I was the one the call was about. Sure enough, he turned around and caught my eye.  I started gathering my things.

Molly said, “What’s up?”

I said, “I’m pretty sure that my mom died.”

Who can really respond to that?  She knew darn well I was not joking in any way.  She was my best friend.  She remained silent.

A school resource officer came to meet me at the classroom and I remember being asked to clean out my locker but I don’t remember actually doing it.  Then somehow I was at home and there were people everywhere and someone asked me if I wanted to see her before the coroner came to get her body.

Ok.  I’m done.  I can’t go into that day any more deeply.  I’m struggling hard to maintain a modicum of composure right now.  So let’s move on, shall we?


What is grief?  Going to my source for all knowledge, the great and powerful Wikipedia, Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed…a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone [an] individual loves is taken away. (

I feel like, while on one level that definition is accurate, it can in no way accurately describe how grief feels.  And grief feels different for each person.  Some people can let it go and move on with their lives, and others, like myself, do a good job of faking it but cannot let it go.  It is with me. Every. Single. Day. Of. My. Life.  Period. 

Even now, 25 years later, and after a whole lot of growing up, I still think of something I want to tell her and have been known, on a rare occasion, to pick up my phone to try to call her…only to realize that she isn’t there anymore.

I think the loss never leaves. That the hole it creates is always there, but we learn to fill that hole with other things so the loss (whatever it may be) seems less and less over time.  But sometimes, when we think about it directly, the hole magically empties of all other things and becomes that great loss all over again.  A giant, gaping  hole in yourself that you now need to work to fill again, with other, ordinary, everyday things.

So when I say, “I understand,” when talking with another person about their loss or grief, I truly do understand.  Again, every person’s experience with grief and loss is different.  But very few people have lived the very definition of the word.  I think I can honestly and accurately say I am one of those people.

I had a conversation with a good friend about this very thing the other day.  She is dealing with her own gaping hole of loss, having just lived through another anniversary of the death of her beloved father.  I said some of these same words to her and she encouraged me to write them down – to share them with others.  And I hope, in some way, they can help.  I’m not sure who they’ll help, or how, but maybe they will.


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