The Tangled Truth of Love


bethany suckrow -the tangled truth of love-3

“Enmeshed.” That was the word she used. She intertwined her fingers and tugged her hands, but they didn’t come apart.

“It sounds like your identity was wrapped up in hers. When she died, a part of you did too.”

I nodded, crying wordlessly.

“It sounds like you need to rediscover yourself, as your self. Separate from her.”


There’s a part in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that has always stayed with me as a reminder of what grief really is, at its core. Harry and his godfather Sirius Black are about to be attacked by dementors (evil creatures that will suck the souls out of their body) when he sees someone he thinks is his dad–even though he knows, cognitively, that his dad died years ago. The shadowy figure performs a Patronus Charm that chases away the dementors and saves them from a terrible fate. It’s only later, when Harry and Hermione time-travel back to that moment, that Harry realizes it wasn’t his father that saved them; the person across the lake that resembled his father and performed his Patronus Charm was Harry himself, right now.

Entering my 30’s without my mother feels like that moment when Harry realizes that he has to save himself. They’re not coming back to rescue us, it’s just us. We have to learn to take care of ourselves.


The sixth anniversary of my mother’s death is just a few days from now. I’ve been thinking about that session with my therapist and what it would look like, to really live my life as my own. In the six years since Mom passed, I’ve been slowly unraveling a million tiny choices that I made, because I was trying to live up to who I thought she wanted me to be. I don’t think my mother ever meant for me to feel as entangled as I am, to feel bound to her and her illness the way that I have. How do I let go? Is it really possible? Do I even want to? How do I carry her love forward with me, without taking all the rest?

All of these questions are not dissimilar from the ones I’ve been asking myself about my faith, having left the evangelical tradition I grew up in. It is a loss I’ve grieved, and I’m trying to discern the identity of my faith without it, pulling at the strings to understand the millions of tiny choices I made, trying to live up to it.

There are no easy answers to these questions of untangling.

Maybe this is just the messy, tangled truth of love. Our identity, our choices, our beliefs, all become knotted together, enmeshed in ways that we can never fully separate. Harry’s father will never come back to rescue him, but it was the power of love between parent & child that made it possible for him to rescue himself. There are some ties that death cannot sever.

Bethany Suckrow
I’m a writer and blogger at at, where I shares both prose and poetry on faith, grace, grief and hope. I am currently working on my first book, a memoir about losing my mother to cancer. My musician-husband, Matt, and I live in transition as we move our life from the Chicago suburbs to Nashville.
Bethany Suckrow
Bethany Suckrow

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  1. Stacey Pardoe says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Bethany. There are no easy answers for this kind of loss. Your words deeply touched my heart today, and they were a good reminder that it’s ok not to know what untangling the mess needs to look like. It’s a process, and it can only be untangled one strand at a time.

  2. My mum passed away in 2017, so I’m just beginning to sort all this out. Thank you for this tiny glimpse of your road map.

  3. Melaney G Lyall says:

    Wow! My Dad passed in 1999 and my Mom in 2003… reading this made the sacred waters flow… I’m so thankful for the sacrifices and great love they revealed through my life. I’m thankful for those reminders, triggers that bring that love to the surface that dwells in my core…their love is what has gotten me thus far in life… thank you for being a reminder for me during this big transition in my life now xoxo love and blessings

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