We try to separate the two.
We want to draw a line that marks when one ended and the other began.
But it’s impossible. Because grief and love are of one piece.
Grief isn’t what comes AFTER love, grief IS love.
Grief is love with no place to go.
It’s what a heart is left with when the person upon which that love would be lavished is no longer available to receive what is offered.
We celebrate lifetime love. We make much over marriages that survive the years. We applaud the lost pet that pads his way home in spite of miles and misery to lay at the feet of his master.
Yet we want grievers to give up their sadness and bottle their tears because it makes US uncomfortable. It reminds us that next week WE could be the ones left with unspent love in our hearts.
But grief can never be small where love is large.
I’ve never really been much for lots of tears.
Most of my crying before Dominic ran ahead to heaven consisted of silent tears slipping down my cheeks and onto my chin. Every now and then I would have a good, old-fashioned sob.
But between April 12,2014 and that October or November, I cried every day. I cried so much I thought surely I would run out of tears. I cried so much I needed to drink more water to remain hydrated.
Then it stopped.
The ache settled deeper into my bones and tears no longer came as an easy outlet for the pain I was feeling.
I still cried a few times a week, but not as long or as loud as those first months. I could tell (most of the time) what had triggered the tears-a photo, a song, an item his hands had touched, a memory or even a whiff of someone who wore the same cologne walking past in a crowd.
Then THAT stopped.
I got so good at stuffing the immediate emotional response I hardly ever cried anymore.
Except that sometimes-random moments-the heavy lid I keep screwed down tight on all those feelings comes undone. And I am helpless as the sorrow, missing and horror of child loss creeps up my spine, raises my heart rate and settles as a silent scream at the back of my throat.
A sob escapes. The tears flow. Usually I’m done for that day-left a quivering mass of emotional jello, unable to pack it all up and get on with things.
And that’s OK.
I don’t cry every day anymore, but when I do, it’s a necessary and important part of the healing process.
I won’t apologize for my tears.
“Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth it has always been a sign that you are alive.”
~ Charlotte Bronte
“There is a sacredness in tears, they are not the mark of weakness but of power. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love. “
“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien
My parents live in another state so I call each morning just to check in and say hello.
We usually chat about what we have planned for the day, what we did the day before and share any important family updates.
Yesterday my dad mentioned that he had been to the grocery store, came home and when putting away the food he bought decided to clean out his refrigerator. He joked that he found some things from years ago tucked in the back where they’d been forgotten.
I laughed and said, “Yeah-I did that sometime last summer.”
And then my heart froze as I remembered another fridge I cleaned out three years ago.
I went on to say, “I threw out all the old stuff except what I took out of Dom’s fridge when we cleaned his apartment.”
And then the tears broke loose.
I don’t know if it was Mother’s Day “hangover” or something else.
The full weight of the FACT that my son will never share a meal with me again, that the jars of food I saved still had his fingerprints on them, and that it is oh, so, so WRONG I had to clean out his apartment to begin with just fell on top of me and crushed my ability to stop the tears.
Papa asked me what was going through my head.
I told him I was thinking no mother should ever be saving old jars of pickles and jelly as some kind of keepsake of her child. That this is a terrible burden and that even three years later it is just as heavy-although I am better able to carry it.
I am still surprised sometimes by what opens the floodgates.
I won’t be tossing those jars anytime soon.
It happens when I least expect it.
I try hard to manage life so that I’m not blindsided by grief-that I don’t find myself in the middle of people when I can be sure some trigger will start the flow of tears
But you can’t prepare for what you have no way to predict.
So even three years down the path of child loss, there are times I am overwhelmed by a wave of grief and cannot stop the tears.
I used to try to hide them. I don’t anymore.
I will not be ashamed of my tears.
They are proof of my love.
They are evidence of a heart that refuses to grow cold, hard or bitter even though the frost of death has blown hard across it.
They are testimony to the promise that God is collecting them in His bottle and that one day all this will be redeemed and restored.
I will wear them as a badge of honor until I see Dominic again.