One of the things that has been the most helpful for me was to finally tell my story. Everywhere I could. I told it to my friends, I told it to my co-workers, I told it to strangers, I told it to fellow congregants at church. And every time I did, someone cried. Sometimes it was me. Sometimes it was them. When I tell it now, I choke up, but rarely cry. It usually depends on the depth in which I am telling our story–Colin’s story–to someone. And every time I tell it, I am keeping him alive in my memory and introducing him to new people every day. I am also educating people on grief and loss, and making people realize that it’s okay to talk about the tough losses. The unexpected losses. The unnatural losses. The unspeakable losses.
I learned shortly after Colin’s death how many people were silent about their own losses. So many people sent emails or Facebook messages or pulled me aside at social gatherings. “I had a stillbirth.” “I had four miscarriages before our sons were born.” “My brother died when I was just a toddler.” And this circle of trust that I had entered, this previously-unknown-to-me, sister-and-brotherhood of loss parents, surprised me. I learned things about people that I had never known. But there was one thing that all of these confessions seemed to have in common. A sense of relief that they were able to talk about it with someone they felt knew what they had gone through. Someone who could truly relate.
We need to share our lives and our babies. And this doesn’t mean feeling like you have to tell everyone you meet about your loss. It can mean expressing your story in any way you feel. Perhaps you’re a musician and you tell your story through song. Or you paint or sculpt works of art that tell your story in expressive, symbolic images. Or you write, like me. Or you’re a dancer or actor or gardener. Or a journaler who doesn’t share the story with anyone–only the page or the screen.
It doesn’t matter who you tell it to, or if you tell it to anyone at all. But we need to tell our stories to heal. To work out our feelings about what happened. To truly find ourselves again after being mired in the pain and darkness of the loss or losses. To find something beautiful in all that was ugly. To recognize our own power and our ability to persevere in spite of our perceived weakness. To find our strength.
This past summer, my husband and I were privileged to be asked to participate in a documentary called Transforming Loss (also on Facebook). The filmmaker, Judith Burdick, is also a therapist with a passion for helping the bereaved. Part of the filming day was to tell our story in an interview with Judith. I can tell you right now that even though it has been nearly three years since Colin died, to answer her questions, to re-dig into the loss and the feelings that went with it brought everything back up again. And while it was painful, it was cathartic. I especially took comfort in knowing that, once again, the loss of our Colin was going to help somebody–possibly many people. And in that I was able to care for myself. So care for yourself. Tell your story. In any way you know how. In any way you want. You never know whose life you might touch and or whose story you might unlock beside your own.