"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


It's the middle of the night. I can't sleep. Usually when I have nights like this I move to the couch and read and then doze. Tonight I know that won't work. Actually it's very early morning of a day that will look like any other day. In a couple of hours I'll start the routine of a work day, and except that I may look a bit more tired than usual, nothing will appear out of the ordinary.

That's what's so strange about this particular anniversary. There is no formal marking of the day. No ceremony for this. Last year I didn't even remember the day until a couple of days after it passed. I remember thinking that felt like a victory of sorts, a healing, a moving on.

At the wedding on Saturday, probably because of the whole feeling of family, a bud of memory began to push through the membrane of my consciousness. Kathleen was more on my mind than usual, and  on Sunday walking with Toby in crisp sunshine, I took the time to wonder why. And focused on the date. And counted forward 14, 15, 16, 17 - Wednesday.

Four years ago today, my forty year old daughter decided living was too hard. Her adoptive mother called me to tell me. I went to my family Christmas as though only a small bump had occurred, only realizing much later that I was in shock. The grieving held off just long enough for the new year to arrive and then moved in to the space in my heart that had been Kathleen's since I was eighteen and signed her over to people I hoped could provide her with so much more than I might.

When we met, she was 24 and I was 42. She was beautiful and sweet and funny. She was full of love and life. She loved to cook and give gifts and shop. She loved cats. She loved her kids. And beyond all possibility or expectation, she loved me. She was also mentally ill, a reality which took some time for me to grasp because she worked so hard at hiding it.

Our reunion went from romantic to rocky in less than a year. But there was always some contact, and that contact always included a sharing of love. She always called me mom. I always called her my daughter, even as I doubted my right to claim either declaration. While I was often sad and frustrated and afraid, there was always hope. I was grateful to have whatever part of her I could have in my life. I believed in the possibility of healing.

I think about her mom and her husband and her kids this morning, and wish for a world where we might share this grief. I don't wish for the grief to be gone. Because what then would fill the Kathleen shaped space in my heart? I don't mind the sadness. I know I can live with it. I know how much light really does shine through the cracks of a broken heart, both ways. I wish, oh how I wish, I could have given her that wisdom.

Because I really do understand I had no power to save her - if she couldn't stay for her kids, she wasn't going to stay for me - it's easier to just miss her. And so I do. With love.


My life so far said...

Thank you for sharing this.

DJan said...

These anniversaries are hard stops in the yearly calendar, and four years is hardly any time at all. I knew that certain days during the year would always be hard, but enough time has passed since my son died that I remember mostly the good anniversaries, like his birthday. And when I read this, I felt a momentary guilt that I had forgotten that we share this loss together. Sending you lots of love, Deb.

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm so sorry. I believe grief is a way we remember those we love. You were blessed to have found her--shared with her but as you say, you could not change who she was. I cannot imagine how hard that news was to get. Awful, devastating and yes it would make me question my part if I could have helped. Good that you see you couldn't. But you can remember her with those that loved her. Blessings!

Linda Reeder said...

I did not know the story of your loss, only that there was one. thank you.
We just recently became aware of the battle with depression that our 39 year old son has been hiding from us. Taking his own life has been considered, perhaps more often than I want to know.
Stories like this one worry me. We have reached out to him but he wants his space and he wants to protect us from worry. Would that he could. He is in therapy and getting help and I know that ultimately he will make his own choices. But, Oh.

yaya said...

Nothing I can say will be a help, but my heart and prayers go out to you. I'm always moved by your words and the deep feelings you share with us.

kario said...

I can't believe it's been four years already. I hope that you begin to give yourself permission to freely call yourself her mother. You are such a mothering person, so nurturing and wise and compassionate to so many and I am certain that the years after you two met were warm and comforting to her.

A very wise woman I met a few months ago talked to me about the difference between being broken and being broken open. She believes that we have the power to allow ourselves to choose which of those two scenarios we will live, and I think you've chosen to break open over and over again, to let your light out and to let the light of the Universe in. You are a more amazing person for it and a gift to us all.


Anonymous said...

Suicide impacts all the people left behind, it truly does, they always wonder what could I do to save them, usually and then the reality is nothing at all..My hubs brother his baby brother always said if he lost his 3 kids he would take his life, they were taken away and adopted by a loving family he was never to see them ever again, he tried to kill himself, but he did not.We helped as much as possible the thought of it choked us up a lot..His own mother my MIL always tried shit on her family cause she married a man who never was around, she got over it with help & my hubs to take care and take charge..Mental depression and loneliness in our society are not addressed a tall, many go years with severe depression and don't get the help they dearly need. I am sorry your your loss and also for her husband and family and the people who adopted her, it is something one never truly gets over at all, will pray your holiday season is not a season of more grief and sadness...ciao!

Barb said...

Death steals everything but our memories. I hope Kathleen's children grow up strong and well. I've enjoyed reading through your posts, Deb. I'm sending a hug to you from Colorado. Have a good school break - rest and enjoy. It's snowing in Breckenridge.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

The loss of your daughter happened twice to you. Unfair. However, I know you are grateful for the reconnecting you guys did when she was 24, and the years that followed.

Grief and loss are horrible, but I'm so glad for grief when it keeps the hole vacant for the one who is missing. To me, that's how they are remembered.

Have a wonderful Christmas. I'm looking forward to being away from the school environment for a bit. I must or I might not go back. :) I know you understand this.

Linda Myers said...

Thinking of you today, Deb.

tricia said...

I love you my friend. <3


This was a tough one to read to know that you too have gone through such pain. There are no answers when one of our loved ones needs or wants to leave us and this world. I try to understand the pain they must have experiences. WE lost a son in law, who left my triplet grandbabies. But God is still good and he sent my daughter a husband who loves them like his own. We all have some pain in our lives that we have to figure out how to live with. Just know you are not alone - ever. Hugs, Barb

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Deb, I'm just catching up and I am so moved by this. I'm sorry for your pain and glad to know that you can be grateful for getting to know her.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"- if she couldn't stay for her kids, she wasn't going to stay for me - it's easier to just miss her. And so I do. With love."

I"m so sorry it has taken me this long to read this emotional post. So powerful are your words.

"Because what then would fill the Kathleen shaped space in my heart?"

I hope you've had many good nights of rest since that night.

Sally Wessely said...

I'm just now reading this. I hope that my comment today, long after you felt the feelings that led to the writing of this, will bring comfort for where you are today. Your grief is complex for so many reasons. Loss of hope for the future is most likely the reason for the intense grief one feels on anniversary dates because we know that hope and a future was literally yanked from our hands.

"I don't wish for the grief to be gone." A doctor once told me that we cling to grief because that way we still have the one whom has departed with us. I don't think she is right. I have these feelings that you expressed here because grief for that dear one is all we have left to accompany memories.

I am working through a journal for survivors of suicide. At times, I wonder why I want to reopen old wounds. Now, I know that the grief has not really ever gone away. We just don't touch it. When we do, we heal a bit more. It is all part of the journey. Love to you, dear Deb. Love to you.