It’s been three years since my mother joined the light, and my grief continues to evolve. Most days I am whole, planting my feet on the ground, paying my bills, feeding my children.

It happens still though. Sometimes in the quiet of solitude. Sometimes in the piercing morning light, when the beauty of a snow-covered mountainside is so startling that it brings me to tears. I remember her love of everything. Everything. And for a moment I cannot breathe.

It never goes away, but I have learned to live with my grief, to welcome it even. It no longer bowls me over. In fact, it reminds me to be gentle, to stop and soak it all in, to be in love. With everything.

My grief goals for 2023 are to treat my sadness tenderly. It is my connection to her. But it is not my only connection. My body still walks this earth. So, how do I heal, when it continues to be so complicated, so messy and uncomfortable? Like a wound that begins to itch, even as the scar takes shape?

Tonight, I came home and found my boys in the living room, snuggled together. A hundred places to sit in this big house, and they chose the same small chair. Why? Because they love each other (despite what they may say). And when things are too big, too uncertain, too unfamiliar, they huddle together and find comfort in their shared experience.

How do I heal? Just like this! With another person who loves me, who understands me, who shares my insecurities. A collaborator, a partner, a brother, a friend. We listen to each other and provide solace. I reach out to the people who will fill me up. The ones who are still here. I need the people who will cry when I cry and laugh when I laugh.

I find my coconspirators, my allies, my tribe. We don’t do this alone. At least not completely alone. There are still moments I indulge in a solitary cry in my car. I dwell in my fear for my children and my planet. I let myself get lost in the minefield of my mind.

But then I open my mouth. I speak my loneliness. And it spills out and is replaced by hope. By connection. By a belief in something bigger than myself. We learn to trust first by trusting. We learn to love others when we, ourselves, are truly loved. I have learned to love others because I have been truly loved.

And this is how I grieve, tenderly, and with reverence. By allowing others to see my sadness. By showing up and being vulnerable. And maybe… this is also how I heal. Maybe this is how we all heal. By showing up and being real.

Read more from Sara Striefel on Open to Hope: Through the Holidays, Grief Just Is – Open to Hope