Still Standing

When Grief Surprises You

Grief hit me hard this year on my birthday.

Unexpected grief is always the hardest to handle because it is a surprise. When anniversaries or special occasions appear on the calendar, I can brace myself, somewhat prepare for what I expect will come. The date gives me permission to sink and release. When it’s unplanned, it hits you suddenly, as if being punched in the stomach.

While holidays are always a possible trigger, it was unanticipated this far out in our child loss journey. After ten birthdays without him, I thought I’d be ok. But then I wasn’t.

The fog came settling into my soul and stuck…lingered.  At first, I shook it off as normal, given the stage of life I’m in.  If it isn’t a milestone, adult birthdays can fall flat.  Other than Facebook, few people bothered to wish me well.  In fact, since we somewhat celebrated the weekend prior, my own husband and son failed to even mention it that Monday morning.  Yet, as I found myself teary through the day and began to dwell on the true reason why, I realized it was mostly because I was missing Austin.

Related: Why I ‘Dwell’

With the exception of the first couple years, I think I’ve managed to cope with the loss of our oldest son rather well, considering.  Or at least I’ve learned to make my way through, functioned when I needed to.  Even found a way to have joy again.  So when sadness hit me out of the blue, it surprised me.  But it shouldn’t.

Loss never ends because love never dies.  

I know this.  I’ve lived it.  Yet, every time a wave of grief crashes in it knocks me off my feet.  In some ways, as the sinking begins, I feel like I’ve failed.

A couple of years out from losing him, something pushed me to search for joy.  I started a blog journaling just that and it’s become my life’s mission.  To family and friends, I’m known as the “joy girl”.  When people see something related to joy, they think of me.  So, when grief returns and threatens to settle in, I feel like a fraud.  Or, that I’m responsible for others’ joy and if mine is fading, they will somehow give up the search.

The truth is joy can share the space with sadness.  It’s something I’ve come to learn on this journey, but still need to be reminded of.  Lingering grief or grief that returns as a surprise doesn’t mean failure, it is recognition of loss and the significance their life had.

Related: The Pain of Easing Grief

Though I’ve learned much in this child loss walk, grief is still teaching me.  And I’m finding moments I need to be gentle with myself, even all these years later.  To be ok with not being ok.  To experience the grief fully because it is valid and not apologize for being in this place.  I don’t owe an explanation of my sadness to anyone.

Maybe it just took a decade to finally realize it.


Photo by: MissCaraReads/Pixabay