To my daughter, as you leave for Oxford

Dear Daughter,

In two days, you will be embarking on what may turn out to be the most influential year of your life: 12 months of graduate study at Oxford.

I’m tempted to say how proud I am of you, and to the outside world — our friends and family — that’s what I will say.

But you and I know how much deeper this personal victory, your acceptance to Oxford, truly runs. It is just one example of the incredible inner strength you possess: strength that has taken you through some painfully dark days and has brought you to this amazing turning point.

You’re more than that inner strength, though. You also have a vast and glorious ocean of emotions inside you, some of which are so intense that they can make you feel afraid.

You asked me an important question recently about grief, and how you’ll manage it when the time comes. I didn’t want you to leave for Oxford without giving you my answer.

Grief must be the most agonizing emotion that a person can experience. For you and me, grief means more than mourning the loss of someone we love. It also means mourning a part of our lives that can never be re-lived the way it should have been. It means mourning relationships that weren’t what they should have been, and always asking ourselves how we might have been different had we been given those intangible gifts that so many people take for granted.

So here is my answer: Let grief be a gift in your life. Let it seep in, and allow yourself to feel it fully. Because grief is life’s greatest teacher. It can shine a light on the past, and it can also illuminate your path forward.

Your have such a passion for your life, and you want to make it everything it can possibly be. Part of having such passion for life is also allowing yourself to feel the grief that will invariably come upon you, as it already has.

Don’t be afraid of it, Sweets. Embrace it. In working through grief and the pain it brings, you’ll come out on the other side with an even deeper well of self-knowledge than you already have.

As you tumble through the airports and bus stations this week, lugging all your worldly possessions with you, imagine yourself also holding a small box filled with all the tools you need to sculpt your own life.

Because you are the sculptor of your life, not just the sculpture that is created by your life’s experiences.

I hope I can be here for many more years to see how much more beautiful that sculpture, and the sculptor, becomes.

I love you.

Momma

P.S. And I am SO PROUD of you.

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