Well, that was unexpected. It seems, even when dozens and dozens of years have passed, grief, and what triggers it, can still surprise me.

I’m writing this on Mother’s Day. I’ve been motherless since I was seventeen years old. It was a quiet day today in my neighborhood. As I stood in silence, watering some succulents that seemed a little thirsty, two women walked by, each carrying a single rose and holding hands with a boy and a girl.

“Ah, a Happy Mother’s Day must be in order here for both of you,” I said. I like to engage with people. Just the other day, I learned how to properly prune lavender after sharing hellos with a woman who was gardening and demonstrating, clearly, she has a mastery of it that I do not.

“And, to you too?” the younger woman replied.

“No,” I responded, “my life took a different turn.” More like careened off a ledge eighteen years ago but I wanted to preserve her Mother’s Day happiness.

“Well,” she added hopefully, “YOU must have a mother.”

“Not since I was seventeen.” And there it was…the trigger. Sadness washed over me. It seemed awkward for her, so I shifted the conversation and wished them both a good day ahead.

And there I stood, hose in hand…mother-less daughter, child-less woman, husband-less wife. These are the painful moments. Missing both what I had and what I never had. Being without can feel like a life with less if we fail to look at the ways we recreated ourselves after loss.

Changing Perspective When You Can’t Change the Past

My losses can make me less than or I can choose to focus on how I became more than my grief. I’ve made the most of less – and I will keep doing so. I have birthed an amazing coaching business helping others. I have nurtured clients, friends, and business associates. I have fought for change as a patient advocate. I’ve educated about more empowered ways to walk through grief, chronic and life-threatening illnesses, and caregiving. I have changed my life. And, I’ve helped others to also do so – and will continue on this path to transforming the patient experience in healthcare.

While I felt, just for a moment today, less than – without my mother, without my husband, without the opportunity to become a mother, I choose to focus on how my hard work and efforts to heal from my losses has transformed them into being someone who makes a difference for others.

It’s important to grieve, to feel sad, and to miss our loved ones. It is just as important to grow, to heal, and to share our gifts with the world so the less than becomes more than. I am more than I ever thought I could be and that is enough.

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Tambre Leighn

Tambre Leighn is a published author, speaker, and outspoken patient/caregiver advocate. Her background as a professional athlete and her personal experience caregiving for her late husband along with her struggles with grief-related depression after being widowed inspired Tambre to become a coach. After years of coaching individual clients, she now provides consulting and training to healthcare organizations to improve the patient and caregiver experience. In her down time, she enjoys dancing Argentine Tango and writing.

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