This post was written for The Grief Toolbox www.thegrieftoolbox.com.
When I lost my mother to a brain aneurysm, I was 26 years old and still operating out of these assumptions. It is natural after all, to hold on to such safety nets as adults until something pushes us beyond them (I still crave those safety nets). A gigantic proportion of grief is really a search for Home as we knew it. No matter how old we are, we want to know that somebody will take care of us; we want to know that there is a completely recognizable place that exists. Even if we don’t get along with our parents, they offer us things deep down that we may not realize, be it as simple as a sense of familiarity when we walk through their door.
Losing Home as we knew it is tragic; it leaves us vulnerable, lost and afraid, feeling like a child again. It is frustrating to search over and over for that which we are missing – there must be some apartment, some vacation spot, some friend’s house that will offer to me the Home I crave! But after my own tiring hunt that has lasted nearly three years, I’m beginning to see what it really means to be an adult: it is to be a Home builder. Unfortunately, factors such as not being able to return to the familiar for a Turkey dinner, or knowing that your children won’t experience your original safe place and your amazing loved one, make the process of building your own Home more painful and slow. While in most circumstances you have time to develop blueprints and move gradually from your childhood Home to your adult one, losing a parent can feel like you are suddenly standing on top of a pile of wood and nails without a backup shelter.
Right now my husband and I are literally setting up a new home for ourselves. It feels good; it’s progress. However, I know that for me it’s going to take a renovation of mind, body and spirit more than it will paint and furniture. It’s going to be a long-term project; I will have to build and tear down and rebuild and adjust as life develops. I will need to add new rooms as I have children, as my career fleshes out, as I try to become the calibre of woman that she was in different life situations.
It can seem almost as hard to re-enter a phase of normal, home-building, happy life as it was to leave it, and unfortunately, the first step involves letting it sink in that Home is gone – letting it hurt. It’s almost a separate grief than that of missing a loved one and it is just as painful. But once it really sinks in, I believe there is a freedom to be felt that relieves the necessity of constant searching and allows all energy to be put into the positive, constructive process of creating a new safe place.
For me, it is getting time to stop searching and to start building. From one unschooled architect to a group of others, I clumsily arrange my building supplies and think of you who are surveying the same sort of chaos. You can do this. I can do this. It is likely to be slow, messy and less polished than the normal building process, but it will happen. It must, because the Homes we build are those that will bring comfort, familiarity and love to others in our lives now and in the future. Our own foundations must be poured and passed on.