Every Christmas for 15 years Fred’s favorite spot was under the tree. When this photo popped up on my Facebook Memory feed, I wanted to reach through the screen and hug this little man just one more time. He passed away almost one year ago.
That is the crazy thing about grief and loss. We never forget.
Especially around the holidays.
There is so much pressure to be Merry and joyful around the holidays.
Greif is an old friend to me.
It’s been a part of my life since I was 11. That is when my mother almost died the first time.
Then at 16, I watched the murder of my father unfold from the television in my living room, on the 5:00 news.
My father was shot once and then when he tried to run, his killer made him ly down and ended his life with a gun to his head.
Graphic, I know but this is gun violence and I don’t try to sugar coat it. I used to in fear I would traumatize people reading it but I am well over that now. Especially because 93 Americans are shot each day in the USA.
Six years later my mother died for real after 11 years of hospital visits and near death scares.
I never really grieved the loss of my parents until I was in my early twenties.
Boy did it hit me like a giant Mac Truck.
Grief has no warning or flashing lights, it just shows up with its heavy darkness, and it moves in fast, plants seeds in your space and stays there.
Sometimes it’s your living room, your bedroom but mostly it’s your mind. Greif feeds and grows like a garden swallowing up your tears and despair festering and burying it’s self-deep in your cells.
Changing your entire operating system and research is showing trauma can even change your DNA.
If you have been there you know this.
Maybe you are there now, and you thought you were over it.
You thought grief packed up its bags and moved out of your home.
You have been told over and over again that time heals grief.
For you, it may have been a while and your wondering why it still shows up?
Why you still feel sad?
Oh, the pressure to move on!
You think you’re doing ok, and then, wham, it’s back again.
Here is the thing about grief. It is not something you get over.
You don’t just feel it for a moment, it waxes and wanes like the moon. Comes in and out like the ocean tides. Floating around in your body.
A picture, memory, for me witnessing a mother and daughter share a moment. A commercial, your mother’s favorite recipe. A sound, smell, thought, memory. They don’t go away with time.
We carry those things around like tattoos.
Forever stamped in the blueprints of our lives.
What I know now after 30 years of living with grief is that I treat it like an old friend.
I recognize that it doesn’t always knock and there is no rhyme or reason when it comes.
It’s just there.
But now, I know. I pull up a chair. I give grief its moment. I don’t’ let it take root and plant gardens in my space anymore.
Instead, I give it a voice, I feed it a little with my tears and I listen.
Then I quietly show it to the door like an old friend.
I recognize that my old friend grief is a part of my life always.
But I get to chose how long it stays.
When I do this I take away the power grief once had over me.
I remember those dark moments I lived and survived.
I am reminded of how I crawled out.
How I started to smell the flowers again.
Those moments I started to recognize my own laugh again.
I was different after grief, how could I not be?
You will be different after grief visits you too.
You will feel deeper and wider than you ever thought was possible.
You will never take one ounce of your life for granted.
When someone you know loses people they love you will get it on a cellular level.
So this holiday season if you are grieving know that you are not alone.
That grief will never go away 100 percent.
That it will visit you often after your loss over and over again. Time doesn’t make it go away.
It needs to have the stage.
Pull up a chair and give it a voice.
Listen to it and feel it.
Let it be exacltly what it is.
An old friend, that stops by for a chat, a cry, a moment, a day sometimes even a week. It’s ok.
You are not alone.
Maybe just maybe it’s your loved ones way of letting you know they are there, with you, cheering you on and wanting nothing more than you to just be. Loving you through it.
Happy Holidays Friends.
You are not alone.
This evening I went into the beauty supply house to get shampoo. My boys needed hair gel. I started talking about my middle school boys and the women and the counter said,”I had a twelve year old son, but he passed away”.
To some this would be an awkward moment but to people who have lost someone it’s more than that.
“What happened?” I ask.
He was playing with the gun in the locked cabinet and he shot himself. My husband found him.”.
“I am so sorry, you know they say that one can’t measure pain but I think you can in your case. There has to be nothing worse in the entire universe then losing your child.” I am so sorry. I can feel my eyes well up.
“I had a 10 year old daughter at the time so I had to go on”. she said.
“The PTSD and trauma this has caused all of you has got to be so difficult. Tell me about how you made it out? What did you do? Are you and your husband still together? How do you survive and crawl out when you get this kind of news?” I ask.
“For a long time I didn’t come out of my house because I was that Mom that lost her son. I couldn’t handle the grief. It was a dark time. However I had to get up, and keep going I had a daughter who needed me.
My husband and I are still together. The last thing my daughter needed was to lose a brother and to lose her parents.
I want to show you something. My husband just starting painting again. Its been 7 years.
She hands me her phone and shows me photos of her husbands paintings. “These are so beautiful, I wonder if he would of made something so beautiful if he hadn’t seen such darkness?” I ask.
No I don’t think so, she says.
I hope you have a show or do something with those paintings in your sons honor. You are a beautiful resilient person. Your story of survival will help so many. Do you write?” I ask.
I have journals and journals but I put them down.”
“I never thought I would be a writer but I had a story to tell like you but different. A story of losing my father to gun violence. My mother shortly after. My story ended up not being about what I lost but more about what I found. How I dug myself out of the darkest days of my life.
I hope you write, because imagine the lives of the mothers you will touch that have gone through something similar and have no road map. Your story matters.” I say.
The woman comes out from behind the counter, were both teared up. We hug each other tight.
His graduation would of been this week. I decided to take the day off. I stand with her in her pain holding space.
“Your a beautiful person”, I say. “So are you” she says.
I came home tonight pulled out my book and told myself come hell or high water I will finish this mother.
Distance and time away are so helpful. Moments like this when you know that your purpose is so much greater than you know. The world is connected in more ways than we know. Sometimes you find it in the most unexpected places. Buying hair gel for you boys.
#gunviolence #writing #stories #lifeafterloss #resilience #trauma #ptsd #healing #journaling #loving