Another year started, another year without our son, another year as a grieving mom walking around with an ever-present-yet-carefully-concealed broken heart. I started thinking about giving up on writing about grief. It's certainly not the most fun topic to write about and surely isn't that great to read about over and over and over. I'm sure my friends and family are often confronted with their loyalty every time I post something new. Some are very dedicated to reading my sad stories, commenting with something supportive, or maybe sending up an extra prayer or two for me. Others, I'm sure, cringe and think, "oh no, another sad story about how sad she is," and I don't blame them. As I said, grief is not the most exciting subject and no one wants to dwell in it, least of all me.
I thought about setting grief as a writing topic aside and trying to write more essays about parenting experiences. The fun ones with my living children. Or trying to write that children's book that I always wanted to publish. Except all of my children's book ideas have terrible, often sad, endings. Titles for a few of my children's books include: The Lonely Cricket, The Lonely Christmas Tree, and The Ugly Vegetable. As my writer friend once told me, you as writer don't always choose your genre. Usually it chooses you.
The reason I started writing about grief was mainly for my own benefit, to get some of my thoughts out of my head and onto a piece of paper, and also to educate others on what it is like to live with the grief of childloss. But I recently had an experience that reminded me of the bigger reason for my writing.
I had a few extra copies of the book that includes one of my essays, Surviving My First Year of Child Loss. I asked my friends on Facebook if anyone knew where I could donate them or knew of anyone I could give them to. I was humbled when within minutes I received several private messages, texts and comments from friends who knew someone that needed one of those books. I was astounded that so many of my personal friends knew so many others that were not only grieving the loss of a child, but were in their first year.
One person that received a book through a mutual friend is someone I cross paths with on a regular basis, but I didn't know that she was grieving and she didn't know I was. I was reminded of how we loss moms often walk around out in the world with those carefully-concealed broken hearts. Attempting to hide them like the sunspots and blemishes on our faces. Disguised under our cute clothing, long hair, or new leather boots.
This person stopped me one day and with tears in her eyes, told me face-to-face that she sat down and read the book in one sitting. That she had no idea so many people were walking around with the same pain she was and that it felt so good to know she was not alone. I was at a loss for words, as I often am when talking out loud about grief (I personally like to hide behind my keyboard when grief comes up). I told her I was sorry and that I am here for her if she needs to talk. I told her how happy I am that the book really made a difference for her.
I knew that the things I'd written had touched people, or educated people. But I'm not sure I fully believed they actually helped anyone in any way. Or I never understand to what magnitude. I needed to be told in person, by someone I barely knew, to get it. I left our conversation blown away by the power of words and their ability to heal. If I can ever take one minute shard of pain away from another loss parent, I will and have a renewed hope that through writing I can.
Grief isn't a topic that anyone loves. It's painful and sad. It makes people cry and our culture likes to turn away from it, or disguise it. The first words we often say when we cry are, "I'm sorry." Apologizing, concealing, hiding is our national way of dealing with loss. My goals are to reach my fellow grief-concealers and continue to say, "Me too."