The Space In Between
The Space In Between: an Essay on Loss
For those who don’t know me personally, I need to start with who died. Not because you know her, but because you should have. Laura deserved to be known and loved by everyone. She was a prosecutor. While admirable in any circumstance, Laura was the fiercest “protector of the realm” in that she put child abusers in jail. Laura advocated for children and women her whole career and she was the best at it.
The more important thing you probably don’t know is that she was that one friend, sister, mother, mentor who pushed you to live without fear. To be brave and celebrate. She had the loudest laugh and the biggest hug. Holidays brought her great joy. She made everyone feel loved. Her spirit filled every space she occupied and now that space is empty.
Beyond the obituary
Laura died suddenly and unexpectedly and entirely too young. Her family is left processing logistics that simply don’t exist when someone lives a long and full life. On a positive note, this provides an extensive “to-do” list, that which keeps us busy in the void. That list is a crutch and often a welcome distraction. I like “things to do.”
Every grief guide warns you of the FIRSTS: First holidays, birthdays, milestones.Within weeks of Laura’s passing, we faced Thanksgiving—a holiday that she OWNED. Bracing ourselves, we had a plan. We gave ourselves so much TO DO. My husband (her brother) and I are good at holidays and he is an epic planner. We gathered together through the holidays, we decorated our homes in celebration, we found ways to laugh, and we remembered. During this time, everyone checked in—”how are you holding up? We know the firsts are so hard.” We adapted to this new normal with a huge community in tow (Laura’s friends have become our family and we are forever grateful).
What NOBODY cautions is the day AFTER, the space in between. It is so painfully QUIET in that place–taking down the Christmas tree, the day AFTER her birthday (where you gathered with friends for a beautiful tribute), whatever. While I also believe this champion of women and children deserves every award and honor she receives posthumously, coming home after to stare at a crystal statue in the silence is painful when you want to celebrate these achievements WITH someone.
The space in between is extraordinarily lonely. Each loss journey is so personal that connecting is a challenge. Someone lost a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. Each feels it so profoundly that we hesitate to share it. I, for one, feel almost guilty on my saddest days—that I don’t DESERVE the feelings I have because she was ONLY my sister-in-law. We wade through this place with our own quiet tears so that we don’t make someone else’s day sadder if they’ve found a day’s peace.
Perhaps the greatest challenge I face is that I am here. The questions are constant and my inner critic is relentless: am I doing enough? Did I help her mother, her daughter today? Did I acknowledge the pain of my husband or her friends sufficiently? And the harshest: did I think about her today?
Monday was six months from the day we lost her. I actually planned to honor this FIRST, even if just for a moment. Again, the firsts are welcome tasks. Yet as my day progressed, it never happened. While my mood was extremely and inexplicably (I thought) low, I plowed through other items with seemingly higher priority. I put out the necessary fires that arise daily in motherhood, I rolled laundry, I nursed a kid with the flu. I didn’t call anyone or reach out. And no one called me. Before I knew it, I was picking up my new car and zipping around town, exploring the new toys and gadgets.
Joy. Life. Survival. Until I realized a day, a most important FIRST had passed. The guilt weighs heavily on my heart in this quiet day after. Is this the “new normal,” the harrowing shame of not doing enough in the quiet times?
I do not have powerful answers. I am new to this place and muddling through. I guess we will find out as we travel and attempt to fill those spaces. And I can put “finding answers” on my to-do list.
Donna Montini Perella
Sam you couldn’t have written anything more true. I relate because I have had to find my new normal from loss many times. Laura was the most amazing person from the time she was little. She filled the room with her heart and soul just like her mom does. Such big personalities and really genuinely cared. I pray daily and see her with Uncle Tape and Aunt Iola every day. They are always together and never ever sad. What wonderful guardian angels!
Thank you, Donna. It is your loss as well. You have helped me more than I can say these past six months.
I sat and watched Laura’s tribute at the PAAR Teal Ball and thought about you and her mom and brother and daughter more than anyone else. I loved what you wrote here…it captures so well some of the stages we go through after a loss like this. I am thinking of all of you…I still get tears in my eyes when I think of how different board meetings were with Laura there…..much more fun and much more meaningful.❤️
You really wrote a profound tribute to Laura and to the whole process of missing someone and the pain it can cause. You know I faced a profound loss in 2008 and the grief turns to a dull ache, but is never gone. However, I’ve been told by a trusted source that your love for the person that has passed is not measured or proven by the time you are knee-deep in your grief: I wish could make it easier for you, but I do know that there are others that understand how you feel.
THIS is everything! WOW! It’s soo much truth and soo moving and a really inspirational and beautiful piece! xoxo
Thank you Friend!
I really appreciate this, my friend. It is not a journey that one chooses, but it is comforting to know there are others who understand.
Thanks, Sue. I was sorry to miss that event I heard it was beautiful.
Oh my dear friend! Seems as though we suffered in tandem. My 5 year old Granddaughter died tragically Oct 8 2018 5 days after turning 5. She leaves her sister, 2 brothers and younger twin sister, all of whom witnessed her death, her Dad (my Son), Mom, and full complete contingency of Grandparents; 2 Great Grandmothers, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and school community. I have found immediate PEACE knowing the GOD that gave her life has received her joyful rambunctious SPIRIT. Yet to comfort her Dad and Mom, both I have known their entire life, has challenged me.
Then again, in tandem, this same Son, my youngest was hit by on drunk driver Friday before Mother’s Day on his motorcycle. He is fine yet I keep checking my self for the wounds & bruising I feel. Nothing indeed is possible without FAITH. Therefore, everything is possible with it. Keep trusting and know your dear awesome Sister-Friend forever lives in you all guiding and directing. I feel little Camira especially in the dark. 😘
Oh Lisa, I am lifting you in prayer. Such loss, yet such a show of faith.