It dawned on our family that today would of been Fred our pugs 17th birthday, it’s been a year since he passed.  On our family walk tonight I wondered if there were a doggy heaven. Or if dogs go to real heaven? Then we decided to make up our own heaven, Fred sitting with my husbands dad who he loved so much.  We pictured him going back and forth bringing joy to the people who we love who are no longer living. I envisioned lots of long grass, sunny days and everyone in good health. 
I thought about my mother. Frozen at 47 the age she was when she died.
I turn 47 this year and its often so sureal.
Sometimes I think we have grief and loss all wrong.  
I have felt this most of my life after losing my parents early.  My father gunned down when I was 16 and my mother 6 years later.
I thought that once you lost someone you love that you grieve and then you move on. Like a formula, and I felt tremendous pressure from others to follow this linear process as well. 
Something in my gut always knew this formula wasn’t true.
Grief has different stages and they don’t come in order or a straight line.
 I learned about the term “the longtail of grief from Hope Edelman and Claire Bidwell Smith at the early loss Motherless Daughter and Parentless Parent retreat I attended in January at 1440 Multiversity
Through different stages of our lives we grieve again. Perhaps we are older, or our children are the same age we were when our mothers died.
A birthday, an anniversary, a smell, a photo, a song or some small thing that suddenly brings that grief front and center.
I am allowing myself to grieve the loss of my Mother as I approach the age she was when she died.
I make an appointment with my grief in my counselors office. Sometimes I just allow myself time to cry.
This is odd and new to me. I didn’t expect it to be so necessary but I am finding it so cathartic. As Mom’s and women we are always taking care of everyone else.
I have unpacked so much Mother stuff that I thought I was done.
This is when I truly understood the meaning of the longtail of grief.
It’s necessary to grieve the different stages of motherloss even long after our mothers are gone.
It’s like holding up two giant boxes in each hand. One filled with gratitude for this life I get to live.  I have so many experiences outside of my grief that are rich with life, sunsets, beaches, service, advocacy and love. 
The other box filled with so much early loss.  Grief, sadness, PTSD, the missing part.  So many moments lost and dreams shattered. 
Holding both of these boxes, one in each hand and knowing that it’s ok to go back and forth between the two.
Most days I spend in the gratitude box.
Lately I have been realizing how important it is to not deny the loss box.
Accepting them both as equals the longtail of grief.
If I didn’t have one I am not sure how much I would fully appreciate the other.
Feeling thankful for the Longtail of grief.
How has the longtail of grief showed up in your life?  Please share below.  
Angela True
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