When you see me, pull up a chair beside me, and open your heart and ears to the truth of my experience. At first glance it might appear that I seem ungrateful, but I beg you, look again. The depth of my gratitude runs deeper than you know, for I know more than most how quickly my greatest blessings can be taken in an instant. I know the immeasurable pain of being robbed of my greatest joy. I don’t take a thing for granted these days, so please don’t patronizingly remind me to be thankful for my blessings when I share with you the truth of my sadness. I’m not sad because I’m choosing a negative frame of mind, I’m sad because I’m grieving the loss of my precious child. Those are two very different things.
Trust me, I am thankful, grateful and blessed. And I am also still grieving, hurting and sometimes a mess. I wish people could understand that grief lasts forever.
Please don’t assume because I’m sad that I’m not grateful, or that because I’m smiling I’m not still sad and greiving that my child isn’t here. And keep in mind, some days I may decide to close my eyes tight and not move from my bed until that day passes. I’ve clawed my way from the depth of unimaginable pain, suffering and sorrow– when the joys come, however and whenever they do– it is a joy that reverberates through every bone in my body. The love, the grief, the joy, the pain; I feel all of it, deeply. I live from a deeper place. I love deeper, too. The little bits of joy I experience now are far deeper and more intense than the joy I experienced before my loss. Such is the alchemy of grief.
Ask me about the empty chair beside me and I’ll gratefully tell you all about the beautiful boy who should be sitting next to me, the one who taught me how to stretch my love far and wide enough to span the gap between heaven and earth. Ask me about the boy who taught me how to gracefully keep my balance while juggling the impossible. Ask me about the boy who showed me how to love beyond all time and space, how to survive the unimaginable, how to live for both of us.
Ask me about my greatest blessing and my deepest sorrow– ask me about my child.
Remember him with me. Invite him to the table this year, too. I need to know that you remember he lived. Share his stories, his memory, his life, his love. And if you’re open to blessing my aching heart even more, I invite you to say his name out loud with me. Often. And without hesitation. To hear his name is to hear the most beautiful sound there is. May it always be on the tip of your tongue like it is on mine.
Remember that for some of us the days, especially holidays can be very painful and lonely– not full of the cheer they once were. Take a minute out of the hustle and bustle of ever-gratefulness to simply be real with me. Climb into my skin for a while. Feel uncomfortable with me as we wade in the waters of grief. Embrace my grieving heart with tenderness, with compassion, with love. My heart will forever be broken. Remember to treat me gently.
It takes everything within me just to show up some days.
Let me know you’re thankful I did.