“Sometimes I touch the things you used to touch, looking for echoes of your fingers.”

—Iain Thomas

I have accepted my daughter’s death. It hasn’t been a quick and easy kind of acceptance. I am 28 months into this crazy grief journey and I have stopped wishing that things could be different. I know this is simply the way they are. I will never see my beautiful girl again, hold her close, smell her hair, or listen to the sound of her laugh; all of those physical things we grieving parents miss the most. Recently I heard discussion over calling this experience of grief a “journey” at all. Journeys have a beginning, middle and end—but grief truly has no ending. I will grieve the loss of my daughter until the day I die. I have accepted that as well. 

Despite acceptance, the longing to see my child continues. I had a reminder of that fact a few nights ago when I went on a Costco run with my husband. We were approaching the bakery section when I saw a young woman in front of us. She appeared to be with her parents. She had her long blonde hair up in a bun on top of her head, just the way Emily would wear it. She had on a jean jacket and yoga pants and a cross body purse, just like what Emily typically wore. Even the curve of her face resembled Emily’s. I pulled at my husband’s shirt as we headed toward the fish aisle. “Look,” I said, ”That girl over there… she looks so much like Emily!” My husband looked over at her and tears began to well up in his eyes. “She does…,” he trailed off. 

I felt the stinging in my eyes and I looked down. Below me was the fish counter and I stared directly into the eyeballs of a dead Walleye. “I can’t believe I’m crying at Costco!” I stammered, grateful for the fact that I was required to wear a mask, which hid half of my face and my emotional reaction to a young woman who reminded me so much of my daughter, 

Just as quickly as she came into my vision, she and her parents turned to walk out of sight. I took a deep breath and thought of how I longed to see my daughter again. Acceptance is one thing—longing is another. I don’t ever expect that longing to subside. I often think about our lunches together preceding her death. I would plan my lunch break on when she could meet me at my house, so I could prepare something for her. I’m so grateful I had that time with her, but I long to do it again.  

I long to see what kind of woman she could have become, had she broken free of the chains of addiction, rather than be poisoned by fentanyl. I long for the grandchildren I will never know. I long for the mother-daughter shopping trips and yoga classes. I long for what was and what could have been. Longing is a deep ache in my heart that refuses to subside. 

Emily and her puppy, Willow, in 2017

When I lost Emily, I lost a part of myself—a better part. Emily was so much more than I could ever dream of becoming. She was smarter, more creative, funnier, more athletic and more beautiful. I saw some of myself in her, but it was a much improved version. As parents we have so much invested in our children, not just because we nurture and care for them, but because we see them building upon the foundation of our love to create lives we never could for ourselves. For Emily, drugs derailed all of that. I accept it. But I can’t help but long for her and the future I can never know.  

So the next time you see someone fighting back tears at Costco—or wherever you happen to be—just know that grief doesn’t know any timeline or appropriate place to rear its ugly head. It just shows up in the moment you see that girl who looks so much like the one you lost 

Faith, Hope & Courage,