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Divorced Mom’s Ordinary Experience of Life, Death and Letting Go

My house, which had so recently been full of noise and young energy, was suddenly empty and quiet this afternoon.  My daughter is away this weekend, and my youngest is away at college and won’t be home until Thanksgiving. The middle son headed back to school after a week at home for fall break. I was surprised to find a few tears as his car pulled out of the driveway. As a divorced mom, it was just me and the animals.

“Letting go is the heart of any spiritual journey…” – Kevin Griffin

This line comes from Kevin Griffin’s book “Recovering Joy”, which I read this morning. I found myself thinking about the cycle of life and death, and the many ways in which I have had to let go over the years, including the dream of “happily ever after” once I got divorced.

I had already planned to visit my parents and drop off a few things, so after allowing myself a few moments to appreciate the emptiness of saying farewell to my son, I headed out for what I thought would be a short visit. I wound up spending the afternoon. We did nothing special, just visited in the kitchen like we usually do when I stop by. My thoughts turned to life and death from time to time during the afternoon, and we touched lightly in the subject when we talked about a family friend who died two years ago, and some others who are ill. Yet the awareness that things could change in a heartbeat didn’t stifle the conversation; it just heightened my appreciation for the time we had.

The past few days have held many other reminders of the cycle of life. Four students at my son’s university were killed yesterday driving back to school. Four people were killed, and others injured, watching a parade before the Oklahoma State football game on Saturday. A friend just lost her grandmother; another friend lost her 13-year-old dog; and another friend’s son lost his best friend in a car accident. And that’s without opening the paper or looking at the nightly news.

The awareness of this cycle of life and death was particularly strong today with the departure of my son, the empty house, and the backdrop of larger losses. All I have is this time, this day, these people, and I want to be here to appreciate it all without turning each interaction into a dramatic discussion or an awkward declaration of love. Just showing up, being present, and staying open to the moment is enough.

I’m grateful beyond words that I have both parents and children alive and in my life today. Yet, as the line from Kevin Griffin’s book says, “letting go is the heart of any spiritual journey.” And while most of that letting go is inwardly-directed, letting go of attachment to my family is part of the journey, made perhaps a bit more difficult because of divorce. There is no one else at home, no one to share those moments of sadness with. It’s yet another letting go.

Though for me, and perhaps for you, the letting go that came from divorce was the beginning of the spiritual journey that gave me a life of serenity and joy most of the time today. Even with a few tears and an empty house.


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