Stealth grief

My first-born turns twelve this week, and I realized today that I’m having a hard time with that. In retrospect, it’s clear now that I’ve been having difficulty with it for several weeks — all sorts of random and dissociated behavior suddenly makes sense.

I found myself weeping this morning, inconsolably wracked with a grief that I didn’t see coming. I recognize it now that it’s swallowed me: something I cherish with every fiber of my being is passing away, and the pain of that loss is immeasurable. Once again the excruciating process of parenting has cracked me open, spilling my soul and leaving a hollow place for something new to grow. I wouldn’t stop it even if I could, but that doesn’t mean it’s a pleasant experience.

Why now, and so suddenly? I don’t know, but I’m quite certain it has far more to do with me than with my son. The changes will continue to find us gradually, as they have from the moment he was conceived. Something within me has shifted, though, and that difference is what grieves me most.

Nothing has ever kindled such fierce joy in me as mothering this boy; what if mothering a young adult, a young man, requires me to let go of that? I will do so without hesitation if needed, but I refuse to dishonor such an amazing experience by pretending that it costs me nothing to relinquish.

It seems as though I’m not giving up much ferocity after all. I suppose I will just have to trust that the joy will take care of itself.

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