Hello friends! Today’s post is guest written by Rachel, a familiar face to many of you. When she returned home from her recent trip to see her family, and unpacked the feelings she experienced during this trip, it sparked something in me. When this happens, our next move is to write a newsletter about it, as often times what we find insightful and powerful resonates with all of you.
When I bid farewell to my family in February of this year, I can’t tell you what happened, what I was thinking, who dropped me off at the airport. It was…unremarkable. My mind was probably already thinking about if I could fit in a Starbucks order after I got through security and before my plane boarded as I hugged my family goodbye. I wasn’t present. I didn’t hug them like it would be the final time I would see them. I didn’t fully take in the moment when love is transferred from a hug that only a parent can give their child. I thought I would see them in just a couple months, and so the whole ordeal felt transactional.
I had no closure on saying goodbye to my family. This thought weighed on me day in and day out as I sat alone in my home in Oregon. With each calendar month and earth-shattering world event, I could feel my panic and guilt rising steadily. I didn’t really say goodbye to them. I wasn’t really present for every moment for those days back in Iowa. And I had no definitive answer on when I could see them again.
When the smoke socked in Oregon for days on end, I reached a new low. I called my parents and hatched a plan: I would be coming to Iowa for a week. At some point, my mental health had to come before my low risk tolerance. I would travel as safely as possible and spend every waking moment inside my parent’s home. When I booked my trip, I saw it as a band-aid for my mental health. I was lonely, exhausted and craving the love and connection of family. I knew a week back home would carry me through a few more months of isolation.
I went on my trip. And I promised myself I would try to be present for most of it. I memorized the moment when my 5-year-old nephew first saw me and shouted, “Aunt Ray Ray!!” I took a mental picture of the six of us around the dinner table. I let my heart feel the fullness of sitting by my sister, talking about nothing and everything.
When I returned home to Oregon, my loneliness was gone, replaced by the feeling of love from my family. But as I unpacked, literally and figuratively, from the trip, I stumbled upon this idea of closure. I knew when I hugged my mom goodbye, it would be the last hug for quite some time. I knew when my dad waved goodbye to me from airport departures that I wouldn’t see his red truck for many months. I had finally received the closure I needed to wade through the undefined future. I had the release of guilt and felt the clarity of really saying goodbye to them.
As I talked about this with the team, we brought up all the examples in our lives that had no closure: Teresa and her children not having a proper last day of school. The team leaving the studio one day and not coming back the next. Those big and small places, rituals, people, and moments that make up our lives suddenly ceased in the span of 24 hours. And our focus suddenly shifted to pivoting to live without all these things. But in the sudden shock of it all and grasping our way to a new normal–we didn’t bid farewell to those important things. And maybe that is part of the struggle of all of this. How can we move forward to an uncertain future when we haven’t said goodbye to the past?
I went all out on getting closure with my family. I recognize that’s not feasible or safe for everyone to do. As we’ve talked about many times in this newsletter, it’s about exploring what is possible to get closure; finding those big or small ways that you can let go of what may be weighing you down from the ‘before’ chapter. Whatever you do, I hope it feels as soul-filling as when I hugged my mom goodbye (SNoW Co. knows that Judy gives the best hugs!) May you feel safe, supported, and healed knowing that you can move into the next chapter of life.