Carrying Grief and Talking About Loss

A Banyan tree in Florida with roots wrapped around its trunk photographed by Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York. “ … I will remember you forever. In this way, because I got to live, you will too,” my daughter, Marika, wrote to her friend who died. She was going to carry Jake with her forever.

My aunt sits like a small island on her couch and listens as my mother tells her, “He’ll always be with you.” My aunt shakes her head No, considering the husband who was with her for over sixty years, the empty seat next to her in temple now, the lonely apartment.

I watch her, wondering if I dare mention that she brings my uncle back to life for me when she tells us about their time together. After my daughter died I needed to talk about her. Having people listen was better than hearing them tell me Marika was watching over me. Can I tell my aunt my daughter is stamped all over my heart and that as long as I live, a small part of her will be kept alive too? Can I say that I will carry and keep Marika with me until the day I myself am carried out of this world?

“You still have you,” is my standard line for someone who tells me she has lost someone or something. But it takes a while to recognize this as something of value. Over time it has become my mantra, “I still have me.” What I really want to tell my grieving aunt is, “Live.” Live because life is a gift. A time-limited offer, it will not last forever. Non-transferable, it cannot be given away to one of the many who fight for each breath and each hour. Live and discover how you’ve grown in his love.

I say little during our visit. Instead, I listen to my aunt’s stories.

And outside her living room, the trees in Florida hug themselves with outstretched roots that wrap around their trunks and cling. Each tree is a small community that holds itself up in a celebration of life.

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15 thoughts on “Carrying Grief and Talking About Loss

  1. Pingback: Good Grieving with Friends

  2. Pingback: What is Grief?

  3. SusanB

    Hello Robin, how well you said that life is precious. Except after someone we love has died, and I gotta say this having lost many I’ve loved, especially when it’s a child, the life we are living isn’t a life we want. You did well with your words to paint a picture for me. To remind me that our children danced in the rain and in dancing too we honor their memories. I’m signing up to follow you. Keep up the great work and I wish you the best of luck in publishing your book.

    Reply
    1. robinbot Post author

      Thank you SusanB. I really appreciate your following my posts. “Children dancing in the rain” is beautiful. You said it,not I. Thank you for that image and for all the memories it brings up.Cheers!

      Reply
  4. Robin Botie

    Thank you, Gwen. I always loved stories with pictures and I try to make the two jive. Some subjects are harder and I end up trying to make an abstract in Photoshop. But I really like when it all works together to connect. And it’s so neat when somebody notices. Cheers!

    Reply
  5. Gwen Tuinman

    Beautiful and eloquent writing, Robin. I appreciate the way your words and visuals connect to each other.

    Reply
  6. Rea Ginsberg

    Listen. Everyone has a story that needs to be told. Listen because it soothes and respects and affirms life.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Shared via Elaine Mansfield – Carrying Grief and Talking About Loss | ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE – EVEN JOY | Loss, Grief, Transitions and Relationship Support

  8. Elaine Mansfield

    Beautiful, Robin. It might take a while for your aunt to learn what you and I know–people we love stay in our hearts and move with us while we “get a life.” I agree you’ve named the best way to support a griever–Listen, listen, listen. I always have to remind myself to listen rather than tell my own story. Not easy for a born talker. Great post. Glad to share it.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie

      Thanks again, Elaine. Now I understand how you always have the most perfect things to add to any post anywhere. I had no idea you were a born talker. What a great trait to have for this social media stuff. No wonder twitter isn’t your fave. Being limited to 140 characters works for me, the non-talker. Cheers!

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie

      Thank you, Nancy. Another really good uncle gone. I hope you had one. Or more. They really give some of those old memories a bunch more color. Cheers!

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie

      Well, I wouldn’t admit to that. I’m just getting better so you might not notice my PS all the time. I mean, sending a photo out without some photoshop is like leaving the house without deodorant. For me anyway. Cheers!

      Reply

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