I admit I’m full of words. When my mama came to pick me up when her best friend was babysitting for awhile, she said, “You can’t have her yet, she’s telling me all kinds of things!”
More than once my mouth got me in trouble.
It’s still the source of most of my problems.
But for a time after Dominic left I found that the only words I could muster beyond what was absolutely necessary were written in my journal. Because the words I wanted to say were bitter and harsh and tasted bad as they came up my throat and threatened to roll off my tongue.
Honesty is not inherently rude. Even when what’s spoken doesn’t sit well with the person listening to it.
It took awhile for me to figure that out on this journey.
Tone matters, facial expression matters, words matter. But I don’t have to stuff truth in service to the comfort of others.
I never ask anyone to adjust the thermostat in a car or at home unless I’m suffocating or shivering.
It’s a point of personal pride that I can tolerate a wider range of temperatures than most people.
And for awhile, I carried that same prideful disdain for “weaker folks” into my grief journey.
I was determined to endure whatever blows might come my way via comments, behavior, subtle and not-so-subtle attempts by others to circumscribe, dictate or otherwise influence my loss experience. I didn’t want to abandon pride in my own strength by admitting I wasn’t as strong as I wished I could be.
Then one day I realized that being honest was not the same as being rude. Telling the truth was not the same as acting selfishly.
When I wrote it, I was writing my personal feelings after a couple of years trying to fumble through holidays with friends and family. It was an honest expression of how hard it was and continues to be to navigate the stress-filled season of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
I’m not sure I’ve grown any more skillful in fitting all the pieces together-especially as our family grows and moves in different directions-but I continue striving to keep the lines of communication open and to try to acknowledge and accommodate everyone’s needs as best I can.
“I know it is hard. I know you don’t truly understand how I feel. You can’t. It wasn’t your child.
I know I may look and act like I’m “better”. I know that you would love for things to be like they were: BEFORE.But they aren’t.
I know my grief interferes with your plans. I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years. But I can’t help it. I didn’t ask for this to be my life.
I know that every year I seem to need something different. I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating. But I’m working this out as I go. I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son. It’s new for me every year too.“
Every day in this space I write primarily for the bereaved.
I try to share honestly and openly so others know they are not alone, are not crazy and are absolutely within the normal parameters of life after loss.
But I also write for those who are yet not bereaved but walking alongside a broken heart.
As many of us in the child loss community say, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.True enough. Yet it IS possible to help those who have not experienced our pain gain at least a bit of insight into what it feels like.
So I continue to frame my journey in terms and examples that might help them understand.
Just last night someone close to me had an “Aha!” moment.
Over a decade into my struggle with autoimmune disease I was finally able to offer an analogy that rang true with them and connected the pain and difficulty of my daily experience to something they understood and had felt for themselves.
It was glorious!
In a flash, this person recognized (at least on some level) what a struggle it is for me to do things like turn a door knob, hold a coffee cup, lift anything over a pound in weight, button my shirt, brush my teeth or drive a car.
All things they take for granted and do without thinking about them or making a plan.
So I keep sharing and hoping that one or more of the analogies I use for the ongoing struggle of life after child loss will ring true with friends and family and they will have an “aha” moment too.
I send every post out on the worldwide web with a prayer that somehow, somewhere a heart is strengthened, eyes are opened and life might be made just a tiny bit easier for those of us bearing this burden.
Life after loss is hard.
Nothing is as easy or simple as it once was.
I don’t want pity!
But I welcome compassion, understanding and grace. ❤
***What analogies have you used to help friends and family understand this journey? Please share them!!***
I first shared this post four years ago when I was nearly two years into this journey and realized that for many of my friends and family Dominic’s death had faded into the background.
It was a date on the calendar for THEM but it was an ongoing experience for me and my family.
I was reminded of how time feels very different to the bereaved this weekend as I spent the first anniversary of my mother’s stepping into Heaven with my father.
So, so many things remind a grieving heart of the person we miss. So, so many everyday moments transport us back to THAT moment, THAT day.
You might not (I hope you don’t!) understand. It really costs little to extend grace to the grieving. But for those of us whose hearts are broken, it makes all the difference.
You cannot possibly know that scented soap takes me back to my son’s apartment in an instant.
You weren’t there when I cleaned it for the last time, boxed up the contents under the sink and wiped the beautiful, greasy hand prints off the shower wall. He had worked on a friend’s car that night, jumped in to clean up and was off.