Grieving a Loved One as You Age

My daughter will never look older. For that, I’m really not thankful.

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Aging feels odd when we notice the loved ones we’ve lost won’t be aging anymore. It is even stranger when we live beyond their age. Recognizing these moments in our aging process may or may not be helpful or comforting.

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When my daughter first died, I remember thinking “She’ll be young forever.” I don’t remember if that brought much comfort at the time. Recently, I was thinking about where I am in the aging process as compared to my loved ones who are no longer here on Earth.

Grieving a Loved One as You Age

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My father passed away unexpectedly, at age 49, of heart disease. My maternal grandmother died at only age 57, from untreated breast cancer. I’ve outlived both their ages. Tragically, at the young age of 22, my daughter walked on unexpectedly.

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My personal aging process is in full swing. When I look in the mirror, I see my grandmother. Yup, I skipped right past looking like my mother. Each time my heart takes an odd beat, I freak out that it’s a massive heart attack like my father experienced. More often now I forget what I am about to do and find myself standing in say . . .the kitchen, wondering why. Just when I think I’m accepting aging, a new body ache crops up.

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I recognize the changes caused by aging and try to accept them, but I don’t have to like it. For example, I don’t like how age is changing my look to be less similar to my daughter. It hurts when I no longer see as much resemblance. Her beautiful Native American features came from her father, but I still long to see more of her in my mirror than a grandmother’s face.

Thankfully, her voice and mine are a match. Not in terms of the topics we chose to discuss—hers were much more interesting than mine—but in the texture and inflections and maybe even our choice of words. That is why speaking the eulogy I wrote for her celebration of life service felt especially important. My voice has aged since then yet the similarity is still there. When I giggle or say something silly is when I hear her the most.

Do you ever wonder what our loved ones see or hear when they observe us from the other side? What might they say or think if they saw us today? I’m convinced they surely do look. And if this is true, do they see this particular bundle of aging human molecules or something else? Metaphysical experts say our loved ones who’ve passed away connect with us through soul energy to our thoughts. I’m not a medium, but feel there surely is a connection on some level. If this is not so then, for many of us, the loss may seem even worse.

When I have thoughts of longing to see my loved ones, my hope is that I’m drawing them near. It is an emotionally soothing form of self-support and often manifests in physical comfort as well. While I don’t imagine they see me physically, I like to think they feel what is in my heart. Assuming my feelings and thoughts have energy and being hopeful that my loved ones can sense that energy, then surely the new wrinkles on my face and body are not what they see. And is it not the soul energy, my channeling muse, that brings these words to the page?

Recently, my daughter visited me in a dream. She was maturing and appeared to be in her 30’s, which is what she would be now had she lived. This dream was my first where she is not her 22-year old self. While sitting at a vanity applying makeup and arranging her hair, she said, “I don’t want to get old.” If only she were still here, I’d join her at that dressing table sharing beauty tips.

My experience of aging has changed as a result of my grief. And that change has sometimes been uncertain. For example, my ever-changing decision of whether to color my graying hair. In a larger way, my experience of aging has changed in how, where and when I choose to spend time. Following my daughter’s death, my husband and I purchased and then sold two homes, downsized our possessions, became expatriates, repatriated, and are planning extended trips around the U.S. and Europe. Holy restlessness, Batman!

What is the driving force of this restlessness? I want to experience as much as possible for “them” because my dearest loved ones’ lives were too brief. Any relief I feel for still being here is offset in knowing it is a very real possibility that I could also die young. And this drives me to seek experiences I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Being mindful of how aging feels in connection with the loved ones we’re grieving can cause us to pause and remember them. I have found the act of remembering is good even if it is painful. My daughter will never need hair dye or wrinkle cream. She won’t ever wear sensible shoes and support hose. I would have rather liked her to be here to point out my gray hairs, help me shop for stylish age appropriate clothes and commiserate about our aching joints.

My daughter will never look older. For that, I’m really not thankful.

Monica Sword

Monica Sword is an aspiring author and artist living a meaningful and soulful life. Through her writing and art, she shares with others how they can mindfully find their way to a more fulfilling existence.

Following the early death of three family members, including her daughter, Monica struggled for years balancing home and work life. Once she discovered how to apply her conscientious and high-achieving personality to honor her passions, to be mindful of her emotional reactions and to focus on self-care, she developed a creative mindset that produces her most meaningful life work.

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