My greatest challenge of late with the kids being so far away, is feeling connected to them. I don’t get to hear them call me “Grandma” every day. I see a counselor to help me try to make sense of how to live with their absence from my daily life. She referred to it as “ambiguous grief or ambiguous loss”; it occurs when there is a physical loss and a [continued] psychological presence.
For many people who’ve known me for any period of time, I’m not a huge fan of ambiguity. I can live with some of the gray areas life throws my way. When I’m at work or coaching someone through a life change, I champion the mantra: trust the process. “It will all work out” I tell my teams and my boss.
In my own case, in the case of daily caring for grandchildren for more than a year and half, to having them be 2,500 miles away with limited, if any contact; it’s almost impossible to trust the process. You see I don’t really like surprises, I like to know what’s coming next. I never really enjoyed playing hide ‘n seek as a kid because someone was going to jump out at me. I didn’t like the Haunted House ride at Rocky Point–it was dark and the car would whip around a corner and through a door to who-knows-what. Once on a trip to DC I wouldn’t go down the escalator to the Metro because I couldn’t see where the escalator stairs stopped.
When I looked up synonyms for ambiguous here’s what I found: vague, unclear, uncertain, indefinite, confusing, hazy, wooly. There have most certainly been days that I’ve felt each of those things over the last year. It turns out that the ambiguity comes from the fact that I don’t know when I will see the kids again and I’m not sure how they are feeling about being where they are–do they miss us?
As in any good counseling session, recently, I drilled down deeper into the gray area. It turns out what I miss is feeling connected to them and knowing that they feel connected to me. In the session I was reminded of how I may not know daily how they are feeling or if they know I think of them in practically all of my spare moments. But every day since it came in the mail, I am able to look at the little note hanging on the wall next to my bed. The two-word note, mailed in an envelope, with the address written in pencil, and a stamp drawn on the front.