There is a vine of morning glories that has crept into my neglected garden bed (and a little bit into my heart). Actually, it’s crept into, and out of, and up, and around. They’re sort of unwieldy little beauties – so much so that many gardeners consider them a nuisance. But I have found them to be an unexpected gift as summer ends, and a new season begins. They greet me each morning at the foot of our worn and weathered deck stairs; so interesting to observe as they stretch over the stone border, choking out their weedy neighbors as they declare, well… their glory.
These blossoms only last a day. You wouldn’t necessarily know it because the vines are so productive. At sundown, they close their wide-shaped mouths forever, and new blooms greet me the following day, alive with promise and hopeful expectation. Every evening they wither, and each morning – new life.
With their heart-shaped leaves, they’ve been known to symbolize love, rebirth, and renewal; hope, and new beginnings, and fresh starts. It seems like an appropriate metaphor for this season of life that I find myself in: reimagining my faith, watching my teens stretch their not-so-little limbs toward adulthood, the birth of new projects for me. So many new beginnings, and lots of letting go. (I’m not always good at that.)
As we wind down our homeschool journey, I see that my role is changing. My job description is shifting – from “manager and CEO”, where I once made almost all of the decisions about my kids’ lives, to “guide” or “coach” as they develop more and more autonomy. Parenting has been, and is, the most challenging and sometimes heartbreaking, yet beautiful and rewarding call on my life.
I often tell my kids that they are my heart walking around in the world – my very best creations. And even as I say that, I know that they are not “mine.” They are their own unique beings, and my job is simply to love them and guide them. I watch with hopeful anticipation as they continue to explore their passions and learn more about themselves. I’ve done my part – teaching, supporting, advocating – allowing them to grow and mature at their own pace and encouraging their interests. And now I remain that safe space that they can come home to, where I can continue to love and guide and encourage as they lean into this next phase of living. I think all moms want to hold on just a little bit longer, but they’re ready. I think they’re always ready before we are.
Part of me grieves what was. These brisk fall mornings remind me of time spent at the apple orchard. Play dates with friends, pumpkin pie playdough, Thomas the Train tracks lining my hallway, matchbox cars in hand (always). It’s true what they say: “It all goes by so fast.”
These blossoms only last a day.
I’ve felt this kind of grief before. I suspect you have, too. Grief over someone who has passed away is expected – a natural, human response to having loved someone so dearly. That deep sadness is sacred; holy and enduring – oftentimes relentless and unpredictable. And yet we know that there is grief for the living losses, too. We tend to minimize these losses because they may seem small in comparison to what other people go through. But loss is still loss, and I want to acknowledge that.
❥ A medical diagnosis that now divides time into “before” and “after.”
❥ A loved one struggling with addiction, or other mental health conditions that impact how they relate to others.
❥ Family estrangement
❥ A move
❥ The loss of a marriage, or a job –
a faith community, or a friendship.
Grief over life changes, past experiences, dashed hopes and dreams, and unmet expectations – all of that is hard, too. We don’t often talk about that kind of grief.
I’ve experienced many living losses over the years, and I’ve tried to manage that grief in so many different ways. But I’ve only found one thing that actually works:
I have to walk right through it. I have to let myself really feel it. Pull up a chair, and sit with it.
Cry. Rage. Mourn. Vent (to a trusted person). And when I can, I practice gratitude. No numbing, no avoiding, no distracting (anymore). Just wading through the messy, exhausting, uncomfortable feelings of grief. I tend to myself gently: sleep when my body calls me to rest, eat nourishing food, engage in gentle movement like walking or yoga. And I ask for help when I need it.
After the shifting and the changing, the twisting and turning, the fear and the uncertainty, the discomfort and the pain, comes a new way of being. Like the end of the morning glory, and the awakening of fresh blooms – a new season. On the other side of grief there is another place that will hold beauty, too.
I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been alone in my house in the past five years. And even though I welcome a little extra space, the stillness feels new to me. That first week of school, my spirit led me to the apple orchard – the same one where we once took wagon rides, and picked blueberries; where we planted peach trees and spoke gently to horses as we fed them grass through the fence. Those memories are tucked into my heart, as new memories are being made. I whispered a word of gratitude, and found my way to the farm stand. As I selected the perfect ears of corn for supper, I thought of those wild and free toddlers, now turned responsible and determined teenagers, who would be gathering around our dinner table later that evening. Conversations now shifting from Matchbox cars to Honda Accords; from Halloween costumes to Homecoming dresses.
Things are changing,
and there is still goodness.