Love after Loss ❤️‍🩹

Cat Li Stevenson
5 min readNov 6, 2023
Solo tree night sky

It’s been a minute since I missed my dad or “thought” much about grief. It has been nearly four years since the night he left, and until recently, I thought I had been doing pretty well tending to and meeting the waves of grief that bubble up without notice.

The first year was a thick fog, and I had felt torn apart in sadness over and over again, a mixture of disbelief and a piercing ache that seemed like it wouldn’t ever subside. Then a whole mixture of Life (with a capital L) happened — COVID, intensities of social justice with the death of George Floyd, a family member in crisis struggling with mental health, visitation struggles and battles to see my half-sister.

2020 to 2021 all swirled together in a survival of stuff. I survived. And in many ways felt the companionship of the collective grief, tossing around in the losses and separation we were all feeling together.

Then came 2022 and 2023, all the big loss and Life stuff seemed to fade. The grief was not as piercing. My family member stabilized. Our visitation rights for my sister took momentum. I began to slowly find a way out of the fog, and not feel completely enveloped in the dizzy waves of grief and overwhelm of life circumstances. I started working a full-time job in 2022 and felt I was returning to modern life as a functioning mother, wife, sister and community member.

I had officially traveled off the island of hard stuff marked by those COVID years and moved to the shore of “back to regular life.” For the last year and a half, I have been moving in daily life with this idea of carrying on — living on the shore; the island of hard stuff far in the distance.

Last month, I decided to take a Friday afternoon off and do nothing but lay in bed and rest. And the lay in bed to rest didn’t include scrolling on my phone, checking emails, or reading a book. I just laid there, resting, reflecting. With a bit more space, my heart came more fully online.

I saw how much I have been trying to not think about my dad. That I had unconsciously put up a little wall in my mind (and consequently blocked my heart) to not go there, so I didn’t have to miss him anymore. I also saw that I have been telling myself I’ve departed the island of hard stuff and that there was little left to do or to feel.

There is a story I’m recycling of “Been there, done that! Moving on now!” I’ve been wanting to close the chapter. And the fact is I have been there, I have been doing that (missing him, grieving him)… and I no longer wanted to keep that longing alive anymore — it felt too painful to keep going there.

Dad with Maya (my daughter) at Christmas 2019

As I saw more clearly how I’d been managing, internally, and the (wise?) desire to not want to be caught in the storm of missing him anymore, these questions began to emerge in that moment:

How do I still love him, while accepting he is no longer here?
How can I open up to the love I have for him still?
How can I surrender my heart?
How do I not “resign” my heart?

In some ways, this last one — resignation — landed as the truth of how I’d been holding my love for him. I’d chosen to cope by “manage my missing” and also unconsciously then chosen to close my heart, too. I didn’t know where to express my love or where to put the love now that he is no longer here.

Lately, perhaps developmentally appropriate as I am stepping into mid-life, I am seeing that life is constantly dying and changing. This is especially evident raising a young child. This dying and changing is the brutal truth of our limited time here.

And so, with a heart that wants to be more surrendered and open, I am exploring these questions. I don’t know exactly how this journey with my dad will unfold next, and somehow feeling into / staying with these questions, I am trusting that wisdom will emerge.

This last weekend I stayed in the Russian River at a friend’s home, and was deeply inspired by her love for her husband who passed away last year. Around the house there were photos of her beloved.

I feel inspired to bring my dad in more, into my home, and put up some favorite photos on our currently pretty white apartment walls. I want to remember, share, and bring in all of his goodness — to cherish and share memories more within our family.

I’m seeing, I suppose, a turning where remembering and honoring my love for him doesn’t just mean sadness and grief of him no longer being here. There is a different energy of celebration and honoring of all who he was during his time. In trying this on, I feel how my heart can more fully open again…

I suspect that as I continue to open, the heart will close again in protection, and that is her wisdom. And, the lesson I’m learning from laying in the bed that Friday afternoon is I want to manage less. I don’t want to keep putting up the walls in my mind. I want to allow my love for him to flow through —and trust in the heart’s boundless capacities of both deep sorrow and big joy.

Dad with Maya in our SF apartment



Cat Li Stevenson

SF via AZ. Explorer of the human journey, and waking up in Mamahood. I write about healing, mothering, grief, & love.✨