Grief and Milestones in Life

While travelling in Alaska I spoke with a woman who at approximately aged 65 shed tears as she talked about the milestones experienced in her life without the presence of her parents who died when she was aged 4.

I am certain her situation resonates with some of you and provides a better understanding for others. Imagine the number of milestones in a life time not shared with someone who is no longer in your life.

  •      Going to school for the first time
  •      Your first time riding a bike
  •      Your first time of anything in your life
  •      Excitement of doing something new and different
  •      Changing from a child to an adult
  •      Getting your driver’s license
  •      Graduations
  •      Your career
  •      Getting married
  •      Having children and then grandchildren

Her story continued with the milestones that were magnified by the sad and happy times in life; the moments that took her breath away and the moments that inspired a sense of awe and wonder.

I could tell by the look in her eyes and the tilt of her head, this woman was back in time to the moments the milestone events occurred.  Her heart still tugged as she displayed sadness at not knowing her parents. This sadness also encompassed the fact her children and grandchildren would not know their grandparents.

When you read this, it is easy to see how grief can last for decades, a lifetime.  This is not good or bad, it just is what it is.  This woman openly shared some of her experiences knowing I would understand.

For yourself, you can think of numerous milestones that you have shared with others and some that no one knows about.  Everyone has their own idea of what is significant in their life.  The events that do not seem important at the time, may be memories that surface when you least expect it.  Sometimes, these are triggers caused by watching others doing things you have done.

Perhaps, the woman I met is like the rest of us.  Her experiences shaped who she is now.  Watching her family grow up, I wonder if she sees what she missed and is sad about this or if she is living these events through her children and grandchildren for the first time. 

Being able to listen to someone’s story of grief and loss is the biggest gift you can offer another.

Few words are needed.

Listen when you can.

All my best,

Barbara Gillett Saunders

Grief Counsellor/Thanatologist