We recently commemorated the 10th anniversary of our first born’s death.
When reflecting back on the grief journey we’ve walked the past decade, I see unexpected strength, unimaginable sadness, growth, resilience, unbreakable bonds, and unwavering faith.
November 29th… A day that began and ended in family. A day that shattered my heart.
A day that changed everything.
A day I used to physically dread, as simply looking at a calendar would put a pit in my stomach.
While it will never be a day I look forward to, we survive it somewhat easier than years prior.
Early in, we chose to spend the day remembering Austin’s legacy instead of dwelling on what we lost.
Austin will forever be known for his giving spirit so we honor him through random acts of kindness, not just on the date of our loss but the entire month.
Serving others, bringing happiness to strangers, has helped heal our hearts.
Months after losing him, we attended our one and only support group.
The room was divided by two chapters of grief – those who recently lost a child and those whose child had been gone for years.
Seeing child loss survivors of decades or more did not bring me the comfort or strength I’d hoped, instead, it made the grief sting more.
A tangible-smack-you-in-the-face reality that this grief will never end.
Then, I thought those parents were still mired down in the thick weight of losing a child. At that point, it took effort to breathe.
And I truly didn’t know how I could survive grief of that type for decades.
Now, I realize the coat grief makes us unwillingly wear changes with each season.
In the beginning, it is heavy, burdensome, as if the lining and pockets are filled with extra rocks.
It clings and suffocates, tiring you from the moment you rise from the bed.
The coat forces you to wear it, against your will.
Over time, the thickness reduces, the fabric becomes lighter, less noticeable and there are more moments than not you can take it off.
At this stage in my grief, I see those parents from the support group may have finally been at a place where they could speak about their child without falling apart.
That they could give back and help others so new in their loss.
I see myself in their faces and stories now.
How I wish the girl who raced out tear-filled could go back and thank them for the bravery it took to show up all those years later, rip off the band-aids again on their hearts and share.
And I wish I could tell you grief is linear and close this story with a beautiful bow… but I cannot.
While I am at a place where the loss hurts much less, I know everyone deals with grief in their own time.
My husband actually grieved deeply this year, unexpectedly so.
Child loss is not clean or neat and can’t be compared or planned out.
Everyone has to walk their own path and be open to the hills and valleys that come.
For me, I’m grateful to be able to speak Austin’s name now without sobbing and continue to share his life and legacy.
As our story helps others along the way, the added blessing is that it also brings restoration to our hearts.
In 2008, my world as I knew it changed forever, with the sudden loss of our 14-year-old son, Austin. The journey to my blog (and attitude toward life) was bumpy and tearful, beginning at a memorial blog for my son. I later chose to take another path, challenging myself to find the JOY in every day, despite the sadness I still felt. I love and miss him daily but I’m living my life to honor him – and celebrating every moment it brings. My goal…to find and share the joy in every day. You can find me at Joyful Challenge