In March 2018, my oldest daughter, now 25, cut me out of her life. The why is really irrelevant. The why only serves to pass blame and that is a place I cannot live. I can only live in the now and in faith that one day this will change.
I still vividly remember our last moment. When you lose someone, it's automatically where your mind dwells. I was in a hurry and restless that day, needing to get back to work after our breakfast. I wasn't in the moment, which cost me THE MOMENT. Now, I find myself dwelling in that moment, wishing I knew it could have been my last.
Within a week of that last moment, she was gone. Out of my life as if someone just flipped a switch. I had become the enemy. No explanation, not even a fight, just gone. All attempts I made at communication were blocked or ignored. I still don't understand what happened, but I do know it catapulted me into a whirlwind of grief and growth.
I fought it at first. In fact, my behavior resembled that of a toddler being denied their favorite toy. I kicked and screamed. I refused to believe this was happening. I was spitfire mad. My triggers went into rapid fire, semi-automatic rifle mode. I had no time to recover between shots. The succession of each shot was so deep and so fast that I felt like I was simply left to bleed to death on the floor.
As my grief stages continued, I went into bargaining mode. Please God, if you bring her back, I'll be better. I'm sorry I didn't appreciate her enough. Please give me another chance. I'll do better I promise. I still find myself back here on some days. I still want to see her again. I want more moments with her. I want to be better for her and do better for her. However, my bargaining is no longer conditional. I have to love and trust God and keep my faith in him, regardless of the outcome. Otherwise, I find myself angry at God that he isn't doing anything or answering my prayers.
After bargaining, came depression, which magnifies everything - everything bad. Now, even the smallest things became huge and everything became personal. I was a bad mother. Good mothers don't experience this. I made myself guilty of doing absolutely everything wrong and this was my punishment.
I sat with depression the longest. On some days, I still do. Grief is unpredictable and comes dressed in many different clothes. Some days it's dressed as guilt or helplessness or betrayal. Other days it is simple confusion, not being able to understand. It also comes disguised as regret. It leaves you trying to figure out a puzzle, full of tiny middle pieces only. This puzzle has no picture to reference. It has no corners. It has no edge pieces. It's impossible. You can choose to spend the rest of your life trying to figure it out, or you can choose to give it to God and let him put the pieces back together.
I like to say I've done that. I'm getting better at it at least. It is still a struggle. I have to choose daily to surrender. I'm still grieving. I always will be until we are reunited and I have to accept that may not be in my lifetime. I just don't know. I'm grieving a child who is still alive, but doesn't want me around. That's a hard dose of reality to accept.
I like to compare it to leaving the front door open just a sliver, on a cold winter day. The bitter cold air keeps flowing in, so the room can't completely get warm. You turn up the heat to compensate, but the cold air keeps coming in.
I feel the draft when I see her in a picture on my wall. It slips in when an unknown phone number calls, or when the doorbell rings. It opens more when someone asks about her, or when someone tells you they saw her do something on Facebook. It pours in when someone new asks how many kids you have; where they live; and what they do. The door can't shut, so you have to let go of trying to shut the door, and figure out how to stay warm with it open. You have to move away from the draft. You have to let go of the ideal, accept the reality and move on, but you can't, until you let it go.
I've buried a parent, tragically and suddenly without a proper goodbye. I've survived a divorce, which was bitter and ugly. The ending was tragic and unnecessary. Now, I sit here grieving a child. It feels like a death, but it's not. She could still show up, or she may not. She may actually choose to spend the rest of her life hating me and deciding over and over again to not let me in. And that hurts. It cuts deep. It stings like no other pain I have felt before, which makes no sense to me because she's still alive. And then, one day I realized. This pain is simply as deep as my love for her. It's immense and never ending. It's unconditional love. It's expensive and painful, but it's still worth it. It's still a price I am willing to pay.
From her loss, I have been given a glimpse into the heart of Jesus. I have learned the definition of genuine love and how it relates to forgiveness. If my daughter should return tomorrow, it's not forgiveness I will need to find. When you love someone with absolutely no conditions, forgiveness isn't part of the equation. I don't need to forgive her. Just like the prodigal son in the bible, if my daughter knocks on my door tomorrow, I will run to embrace her and bow down to God in gratitude. Unconditional love doesn't require forgiveness.
Our relationship would still require healing. Trust has been broken and that requires time and rebuilding. There are consequences to all of this, but forgiveness is not one of them. That's the beauty of truly loving someone without conditions. It's how God loves us.
So, thru the pain I can see the beauty. I've been given a peek into his heart, which is all my human heart can handle. We spend way too much time thinking we aren't pleasing God, but, just like a loving parent, there is nothing you can do to lose his love. He may not like our decisions. He may wish better for you, or wish you had chosen differently. He desperately wants to be a part of your life, but no matter what we do, he never stops loving us and he's always waiting for our return.
I've now accepted the task I've been given. It's the heaviest load yet, but it's mine to carry. People don't understand. I don't understand. You want closure, but yet you don't. You want hope, but yet you don't. You want to move on, but you know that means letting go. If I choose not to, I stay stuck. But if I choose to surrender it to God daily, it means I still see it, I still feel it, but I'm giving it over to a Father who knows a lot more about all this than I do.
So, everyday, I light a candle for my daughter. I intentionally let her go and give her to God. She was never mine in the first place. She was just on loan. I still have days I sit with it. I cry. I wallow. I grieve. It is simply the price I am choosing to pay for love.
I pray for all those parents who sit in this space with me. It's very lonely and cold. We aren't allowed to shut any doors. The cold air keeps creeping in, but the heat stays on. Our love continues. It will stand the test of time and though time won't heal this, love eventually will.
Angela Miller is a Professional Life Coach passionately pursuing her purpose to help others remember who they are and how to become their best self. For more information, visit www.soaringforward.com.