Our Only Task

November 27, 2009

When Jenny died, I did not only lose my daughter, I lost my whole family.  Well, not really, but that’s how it felt.

I had been a single mom for so long, and then I had met Jeff.  He was the single dad of one of my daughter’s best friends.  We fell in love.  Jenny and I moved in.  Our daughters became sisters.  They were starring in their own romantic comedy!  Jeff traveled with his job half the time.  We missed him, but the girls and I had delicious girl-time together.

For four years, I experienced the chaos and joy of raising a family with the man I loved.  Then Jenny was killed in a car accident.  My stepdaughter moved back to her mother’s.  Jeff’s work continued to take him away fifty percent of the time.  Our home, which had been continuously filled with kids and their friends, turned into a void overnight.

After having lovingly guided her through puberty, I turned around to discover my stepdaughter had disappeared from my life.  I feared that in her own adolescent anguish she was blaming me for my daughter’s death.  I had reason to suspect that certain other people were feeding that cruel notion.   I couldn’t fathom that anyone could possibly speak ill of a mother who had lost a child.  I was caught in a fire of self-righteousness, trapped in a net of regret, lost in my story of being terribly misunderstood.

I reported all this to my therapist.  “Your only task is to grieve your daughter,” he said.  “Love her.  Focus all your attention on her.  These people who are denouncing you are not worthy your precious attention.”

These were the magic words that freed me from the spell I had fallen under.  I shifted my focus back to Jenny, and I loved her with all my heart and all my soul and all my might.  I grieved her.  I thanked her for gift of her life entwined with my life.  I dedicated myself to helping her embark on the mysterious journey away from this world, away from me.  The purity of this task was a tremendous relief.

Everyone I encounter in my grief work seems to suffer from a version of this story, something that complicates the loss and distracts them from simply loving and mourning the deceased: the family of your loved one who do not acknowledge your central place in his life; the doctor who refuses to take responsibility for missing the cancer in the blood test; the money, the property, the secret affair.  It’s easy to lose track of the sacred assignment you are meant to do.

It’s never too late to do it.  Start now.

Your only task is to grieve.  Put down the burden of what other people think – or what you think they think – and lift your eyes to the one you loved.  Those other concerns will be waiting for you (or they will have fallen away) when you have done your real work.  Send your loved ones on their way with your blessings.  Bless them with your mindfulness.  Mindfully remember them.  And in remembering them, honor them.  They deserve it.

Or even if they don’t, you do.

4 Responses to “Our Only Task”

  1. Gabriele said

    Dear Mirabai,

    I often check back to your blog because you always seem to say something that I need to hear. I have lost my mother a year ago and I am trying to stay connected to the mourning and honoring. Work always takes over and I am trying to disconnect from the web I am caught in. I like to stay with the wonderful embrace of honoring my mother’s life and the gift she gave me. Thank you for your words, they always nodge me in the right direction.


  2. Thank you, sweet Gabriele. I am going right to light a candle for your mother, and for you.

  3. Jo said

    I had never thought of losing a family in the loss of a person. How tragic. In our world of blended families, the balance depends so much on the parts.

    I lost my soul sister, followed by my mother, followed by the move of my only daughter and only grandson across country. Within 6 months. That was 2 years ago and I am just now coming out of the grief.

    I have found that doing something with my hands while I think about those I love and miss helps me keep the tide of overwhelming grief at bay. I guess it is in either creating, maintaining, or restoring that I am reminded that there is still hope. Weird, huh.

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