06 June 2010


I am recycling my own material because I know somewhere, at some point, I have written about seasons. The seasons of my own life. The seasons of our grief.

But really, the older I get, the more true I find that the seasons of grief matter.

All of us will experience grief in our lifetime.

Short of locking ourselves into a closet and living in pure isolation, we will all experience grief in its rawest form.

But what we choose to do with that grief, how we choose to manage it, where we choose to hold it in our bodies, is all part of our own decision-making process.

But here is the amazing and beautiful thing about grief:

If we allow ourselves to step inside of it and experience it fully, we will come out on the other side, better. Period.

I choose to believe then that this is one of the many gifts our dead leave behind for us. It is not something to come to lightly. And in fact, it is really never helpful or useful to tell this to someone else, especially when they are in the early stages of grief. But I do think it's true.

And it has taken me a long, seven years of my own processing to come to this conclusion.

Stay with me.

Grace died in June, 2003.

I fell into a hole of utter despair and chaos.

I couldn't parent my living children.
I couldn't take care of myself.
I couldn't function as a wife.
Thank god at the time, I didn't have to function as an employee.
I walked around for the first year as what I now come to believe as the living dead. I was for all intents and purposes dead.
I didn't make for good company. Trust me.
I shut down. I went numb.
I questioned every single thing around me.
I cursed.
For the first time in my life, I struggled with depression, anxiety, PTSD--things that I thought only happened to "other" people.

But during this time, miraculous things were happening around me:

Other people picked up my children and parented them.
People came into my home and cleaned toilets and vacuumed rugs. (I can't for the life of me remember who they were.)
Someone appeared in my life (who I've never seen since) and handed me the name of her therapist who helped her after her child died.
I called the number, and even though she had a full client schedule, this therapist took me in.
Weekly, I appeared on her doorstep, curled up in a ball, and somehow, over time, she helped unfurl me.
Don't be fooled. I am not fully unfurled, not even seven years later.
She still allows me to appear on her doorstep.
I have followed her from one office to another across town.
I have uncovered more ugly and dark places in my life.

These are more of Grace's gifts.

Over time, I have discovered that unconditional love really does exist.
I have met other women, other families, who have experienced the tragedy of losing their children.
They share their stories with me fully present, heart-wrenchingly painful.
I listen.
I am awed by their courage.

There is not a week (hardly a day) that goes by without Grace presenting herself to me.

She is fully present in my life and in the life of my family.

A teacher this year told me how she witnessed my daughter consoling another student after the death of this student's father. My nine-year-old daughter was telling a class filled with students that sometimes people just die, and we don't know why. My daughter has become the most compassionate among us. She told the class about her sister, and how sometimes we still feel sad.

Grace is present in our lives.

My four-year-old a few days ago talked about his older sister Grace. It is strange to hear him say "older" sister when she died three years before he was born. When she died at birth and he, at four-years-old, is saying older sister.

Grace is present in our lives.

People have gone out of our lives, weary perhaps of the grief we carry.

But more people have come into our lives.

These are some of Grace's gifts.

They are, I recognize, gifts I would give up in a moment to hold Grace again, to see her take a breath, to watch her grow. I would become, in a heartbeat, my old, broken worn self once again to see her sitting up and looking around a room with wonderment.

But I can't.

And so I find her gifts daily all about me.

There is a heart-shaped planter on my porch this time of year filled with flowers. It is made out of a tree trunk. A group of friends soon after Grace died brought it to our house and filled it with flowers and placed it on our porch.

Last night, my four-year-old and I filled it with this seasons flowers. Yellow and red and blue and white flowers. He delighted in the dirt that filled the trunk, in the water he spilled over the heart, in the flowers that were still miraculously alive and growing taller today.

Grace remains present in all the seasons of our lives, and my grief remains tucked into the crevasses of my body. Sometimes, the grief appears wild and unruly and surprising.

But much of the time now it appears in the form of love.

I choose to believe Grace still matters.

I choose to believe that Grace remains present in our lives.

I choose to believe that she continues to make a difference.

I am still unfurling myself. It is a process that may take the rest of my life. I am willing to take the time I need to do that. And I will keep Grace at the center of that process.

Grace is present in our lives.

Our lives are filled with love.

Grace is love.

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