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The Price of Unconditional Love


My first experience with unconditional love happened the moment I saw my beautiful daughter, Alexandra. I thought I knew what love was, but I instantaneously realized that I had known nothing about love until the moment I held her in my arms. One of the miracles of having children is their instant ability to expand your capacity for love exponentially. Some experience this expanse of love in other ways; my experience happened the moment I became a mom.

This miracle of overwhelming expansiveness hit me three more times, with the birth of each of my two sons and when I met my love, Adam.

The cost of loving someone more than you can possibly express in a lifetime is inversely proportionate to how much you grieve them when they die. This is the price I am paying for unconditionally loving my youngest child, Jake. For I loved him so completely that I am now swimming within the exponential depths of grief. Some days, I am drowning; others, I am floating with effortless peace. There is no algorithm to reliably predict where I will be on this spectrum from one moment to another.

Many who are grieving, which we all will — it’s as certain as taxes and, well, I am talking about death — want to find meaning. Grief is meaning; it’s nothing but meaning. [re: “meaning” is interchangeable with “significance”] Grief is also very personal, even though it’s THE MOST commonly shared experience on the planet. 

Did you know that courses on grief and loss were not available in the curriculum for psychology majors or social workers — all of whom may be therapists — until about a decade ago? And these classes are optional — OPTIONAL! No wonder there’s such an opportunity and demand for grief counselors. The number one most commonly shared experience, and most therapists did not take classes on this subject. I now have an experiential PhD in grief and have more knowledge on this subject than I ever wanted to know. (Note: This does not mean that licensed professionals are not qualified to counsel someone on grief, but I advise inquiring about their experience and education on this important topic.)

There’s a painful, unknown process that’s difficult to describe until you’ve experienced the loss of a child, which is letting go of the pain associated with grief while moving forward with love. I’ve read that grief is love unexpressed. I am not sure that’s true, as it sounds more like an excuse for being in a state of vulnerability. 

The unexpected loss of a child is an unnatural event. This loss signifies something so horribly maligned with parental expectations that your entire life is offset from its foundation. The trust I once had in the universe has been under meticulous review. The first thing I felt when I learned that Jake had died in a car accident (unsanctioned road trip with some friends) was complete and utter devastation — coupled with the knowing that I could not possibly survive the loss of another child. Yet parents experience this very thing — this loss is so terrible, so tragic, there’s no word for it. Vilomah is the closest thing we have, which is Sanskrit for “against a natural order.”

Grief never leaves you, but you can have a cup of tea with it. I am an earth sign mixed with water signs in my astrological chart, so I am grounded and experience all the feels (ok, I’m muddy). This, combined with the influence of having been a Girl Scout, implies that I am happiest when I am helping others. My natural state conflicts with the necessity of going inward and taking care of myself before I can be of help to others. 

When I traveled on a plane for the first time with my daughter, I had a seat for her next to me, but I kept her in my lap. When the flight attendant gave the requisite instructions about parents applying their oxygen masks first, I was offended to my core. It took me years to understand that this is the best piece of parenting advice EVER.

My advice: seek the peaceful side of the grief pool, but don’t fear the depths. If you are caring for yourself, you have nothing to fear.

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