My son graduated on Friday. It was a good day.
His graduation is not about grief. But, just like everything in my life, his graduation got me thinking about Mike. And, I feel incredibly guilty because not everything has to do with Mike. Except that it does - for me.
I purposefully avoided social media this weekend because I didn't want to see photos of happy families celebrating their children. My family feels incomplete now; and, I didn't want to observe what I no longer have. It is beyond difficult to live on the outskirts of my old life. I constantly ache for what I've lost. And, especially during family events and celebrations, I desperately want what I no longer have.
What I've lost was loudly pronounced at my son's graduation. And, I know that some others who gathered also felt their own sense of incompleteness and discontentment. But, at the time, this was little comfort to me.
I am keenly aware that life has unfolded differently than planned for many people, not just me. I am not unique in this; and, I know that I am in good company. I acknowledge and I understand that many of the people who sat in proximity to me were also grieving all sorts of different things. I wasn't the only person feeling out of sorts at this joyous occasion. I could sense many heavy hearts hidden behind smiles.
In the crowd, there were a lot of blended families. Many men and women came to the convocation ceremony because they are in love with the mother or father of a child that isn't biologically their own. And, many of these people love that child, like their own. As I sat in my seat, I wished Mike was there with me, taking his position like the other step-parents were. He should have been there celebrating and loving a child that wasn't his. But, well, he's not like the other step-parents. Mike is dead.
He can't occupy the seat next to me anymore.
But, I know he can still love my sons.
And, that has to be enough. In fact, it's more than enough.
Love is enough.
The convocation ceremony was about the students and their achievements; but really, more importantly, it was an event about LOVE. Family gathered together to celebrate children that are loved by them and who love them. Love was present all around me. It was tangible. And, because the person I am in love with died, I sat alone. I know this is blunt; but, there isn't a way to pretty it up. I am not writing in a tone of pity. The words are not meant to be overly dramatic or sad. This was a family event; and, again, Mike was not there. And, at all future events and milestones, he will be absent as well. I wish it was different. But, nothing can change it. It is what it is.
Never in a million years did I think this would be my life. Sure, I know that I am not the only divorced person who attended the graduation of their child - on their own. And, I also know that I am not the only widowed person who attended their child's graduation - alone. I am however someone who understands these people. I know, like me, they didn't imagine their life like this. I know they didn't expect to be sitting alone celebrating their children's milestones.
There is naturally a strong kinship among those of us who occupy single seats
because we understand what others can not understand.
This said, I am truly happy for the "normal" families who sat together to love on their child; but I guess, if I am being completely honest, I am sad for me and my son. We don't fit neatly into that life anymore. I am divorced. And, I am widowed. And, our family isn't picture perfect. This was obvious and very palpable at my son's graduation.
My son's father and I are happily divorced.
He attended our son's graduation by himself too.
We didn't sit together, but we joined together to celebrate our son.
And, this is a really big thing that deserves acknowledgement.
I am grateful that love is stronger than endings ~ in death, and in divorce too.
There is no longer a sense of companionship between my ex-husband and I, and that's okay. I don't miss it, and I doubt he does either. We are just two people who share a past that includes our two sons. If it weren't for the boys we would probably never occupy the same space; and this is not because of animosity, but rather indifference. We have long out grown one another. Still, there are two human beings who call us their family and this is why we continue to be in each other's lives.
My ex-husband and I have been divorced for long enough that we know how to attend public functions without any real awkwardness between us. We've stood along side one another at other events for our children. And, in the past, Mike stood with my former husband and I as we supported our sons. I am thankful that we usually manage to put our differences aside and the boys come first. Our sons deserve this. It's the least we can do for them as their parents. And, in the future, I know that my ex-husband and I will separately attend all the big milestones our boys celebrate. That's what family does.
Family comes together in love, even when love has ended.
Graduations, are about endings, and they are also very much about beginnings. In this way, my son's graduation was related to and similar to grief. Like in grief, after graduation, life continues. Time will not stop and wait until my son gets accustom to adulthood. Similarly, time did not stop when Mike died. I have to learn how to navigate this new widowed life on my own. And, likewise, moving forward, my son will also have to independently find his footing as he travels the path to adulthood. Of course I will help him along the way, but this is very much his own journey going forward. It is his right of passage. It is his life to live. My son's graduation is the beginning of whatever he wants. Life is waiting for him. Opportunities are his for the taking. And, in this way graduates are similar to us widowed people. Life goes on in spite of endings. And, life is whatever we decide to make of it moving forward. And, this is what makes life beautiful.
The proud mom of a kind human being who graduated this weekend,