I have to be honest with y’all. For a while now, I have been MAD. Not at a person but at life. The past few months, I have let my anger steep to a point that I can’t always think clearly, give grace, or be kind to others. I have been consumed by a kind of rage I haven’t felt since early in my grief journey. I have felt cornered, frustrated, and alienated. And here’s the thing: it’s no one’s fault and it’s not about the royal “you.”
Imagine your life as a movie. One day, your cast–your precious family–is in your car, driving along the tree-lined highway roads on a perfect sun-drenched day. Birds are chirping. You’re playing the license plate game. Life is good. Then, out of nowhere, one of you is erased, but the other three of you are still stuck in the car. In the rear view, you see your world collapsed. Your lost family member is on the other side of a deep, dark valley that you can never cross to get to him, not in this life anyway. But your car–your life and the people in it–just keeps rolling. No one can truly understand the depth of that hole behind you, except you. No one else sees it. And when you meet up with other people again, to them, nothing has changed. They try to empathize, to be understanding. They want you to be “all better.” But in your family–you feel like no one else ever got the full script.
I can’t emphasize enough how badly it hurts to have your grieving judged. I cannot tell you how disappointing it is to have anyone outside your car make what happened to your family about them and their feelings–what one might do if they were “in your shoes.”
You’re not. in. my. shoes. Blessedly. Trust me.
Some people might argue that if you don’t want to be judged, you shouldn’t put your story out there. And that’s fine. There is some truth to that. But I wanted to take a moment to clarify what writing means to me.
I write for the weary. As hard as it is to be in our car, there are other casts like ours–other shitty movies being made all the time. There are women all over the world who are waking up in unimaginable pain, feeling alienated, alone, and hopeless. I write for those women, who may think that in their moment of grief or despair, it would be easier to just disappear or to give up. Don’t. Because I see you. I know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and wish you were anywhere else or nowhere at all. I know what it feels like to be terrified that you will never, ever feel joy again. I know what it feels like to miss someone so badly that your bones ache. I write to remind these women that they are not alone. They are strong. They are worthy of happiness and forgiveness. They deserve a voice. They deserve to be happy. Just like me.
I speak the truth, even when it’s hard. Grief and loss are ugly, and hard, and beautiful all at the same time. This journey changes you to your core. It alters your life lens. Sometimes for better, sometimes not so much. You cannot stop the change–even if you wanted to. I try to share all of the parts, not just the politically correct ones. By being honest about how it feels to be thrown a platitude, to have someone compare the death of a child to the death of a pet, to be the gossip in someone else’s thoughts on your tragedy, or to see how life seems to have moved on without you, maybe I’ll help someone else be a better friend, a better listener, or more understanding of loss and adversity.
I’m documenting our journey. Just as I have been for the past 15 or so years. Some of you have been following along all this time. Thank you. For me, writing here is a way of remembering where we were and seeing how far we’ve come. And that’s a good thing.
Brene Brown said recently that the word courage first meant something different in the English language. It meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Sometimes that’s a complicated task after losing a child, and especially under the microscope of the military community. But when I write, here, in this place, I do my very best to bare the deepest, most intimate parts of my soul. And sometimes that hurts people’s feelings unintentionally. I just ask folks to remember that I’m sharing not to hurt but to heal.