I want to offer you my condolences on the loss of your dearly departed. Losing a loved one is hard, especially when its sudden and we have no time to say goodbye. There are many types of sudden death that threaten to rip families apart…sudden cardiac arrest, car accidents, suicides, shootings, the list goes on…and now we must add Corona Virus to this list. Each loss has its own associated pain and despair that comes with it. All deaths are difficult but sudden death has a way of throwing the griever down a dark hole that threatens their sanity. It’s hard to wrap our minds around the reality that a person can be healthy and cracking jokes one day and then gone the next.
How could he possibly be gone?! I just saw him, and he was fine! Then our mind starts shifting into overdrive trying to find what we could have missed. Or what we could have done differently. We are searching tirelessly for answers…for a clue…for a way to “fix it.” But this can’t be fixed. This reality can’t be changed. There honestly was nothing we could have done. You didn’t neglect them or purposely allow them to be harmed. “You did the best you could with what you knew.” Whenever a thought of guilt or blame shows its ugly face I repeat those words to myself to release myself of the self blame.
Death pushed us down in this hole and our instinct is to stay there. It’s too hard to climb our way out. Besides, I’m now more comfortable in the darkness. When I lost my son, I felt like I could never stand in the light again. The light only magnified what was missing, so for a time, I chose to stay in the dark. The darkness didn’t judge me nor did it taunt me. I remember days my husband would open the blinds in the room as I lay in bed and I would cry out, begging him to stop. To close them. To just let me be. But, in reality, I didn’t want to be. Being is the opposite of what I wanted. I wanted to stop being. And in the darkness, I was able to linger between two existences. Here and there. Then and now. Life and death.
Lingering is no way to live. I knew that I couldn’t stay in the in-between. Staying there would have meant never returning here. There are people walking around us physically who never returned here fully. Their existence is a linger. A half life- lingering between two existences. The pain of grief lulled them there. I know, because I was there. I would still be there if I did not make the choice to leave. Like an emotionally abusive relationship you feel guilty when you leave the state of lingering. You want to stay there because you think the pain helps you hold on to the love. But neither pain nor love will ever truly go away. I carry both with me daily and on some days, one is heavier than the other. But they both exist eternally a part of me.
Make The Climb.
Choosing to heal is not a magic pill. It is a constant process of getting up and working on your peace everyday. Some days I feel that I have made so much progress in healing and finding peace but when I wake up the next day there's a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and I have to do it all over again. It is a daily process of getting up and starting over again. Some mornings when I wake up the realization that my son is gone hits me all over again and literally takes my breath away. I remember mornings in the first few months being upset that I actually woke up...that I didn't die in my sleep. Waking up in the mornings sometimes is the hardest part. I hated waking up and I hated having to live without my child. I was never a person who hated waking up...I used to be a "seize the day" type of person. I didn't want to keep feeling like this...but how could I not? I didn't start feeling peace until I gave myself permission to. There are a lot of books that say its ok to not be ok. I had to tell myself its ok to be ok- even if its just for moments. Moments that I feel his presence more than his absence. Moments that I feel purpose as much as I feel pain. For me peace came when I surrendered. Surrendered to God's will and the understanding that He is in control and the only true source of peace.
Don't feel guilty about having moments of peace. And don't feel bad if you have days that the pain paralyzes you again. Just keep making the choice to try- 1 day at a time. 1 day at a time can be liberating. We don't have to think about living with this pain forever. Can we make it through today? I have no knowledge of how many more days I have. Losing Damani in the blink of an eye taught me that. So, I don't count tomorrows. I only focus on today. That takes some of the mental burden of carrying this pain for a lifetime away. I only have to carry this pain today and I will do all that I can to make the most out of today. I strive to live with purpose everyday. And no matter how much I get done one day, I have so much more in me that I want to do before I leave. Busying myself in the service of others provides purpose each and every day. When I let thoughts of my pain run free, it becomes the only thing I can think of. But when I think of the fact that there are others in pain and that no matter how bad it is it could always be worse, that I am able to quiet the voice in my head that wants me to believe that my fate is not fair. No, life is not fair- it never was. It wasn't fair when entire families were slaughtered in Syria or when a crazed gunman killed 20 children at Sandyhook elementary.
Sometimes focusing on ourselves isn't enough motivation to get us to make the climb. We have to find a way to shift the focus...from pain to purpose. Not asking why is this pain my burden to bear....but how can I use this pain to live with purpose? How can I allow my child's purpose to permeate my being, infecting me with the power it possesses? Sounds far fetched. How could pain and purpose possibly co-exist? Who could live with purpose after losing a child? Sybrina Fulton used the pain of the loss of Trayvon to birth a movement for justice for all people and is now running for County Commissioner. Lucy McBath used the pain of losing her son Jordan Davis fight for gun safety. John Walsh used the pain of losing his son Adam into an international movement to get criminals off the street. They all turned the pain they felt in their hearts into outward action that changed the lives of millions. They focused on a purpose greater than themselves to keep going each day. We have the opportunity to impact others in honor of our children. Legacy is measured by lives touched not years lived. And from what I read about most of the kids who are gone so soon, they touched a lot of lives and left a legacy that lives on in the hearts of those left behind. The beauty is that their purpose is now intertwined with our purpose.
Every living soul has a purpose. Each of us are needed. Each of us add value to this world. Spend some time today thinking about what you can do to connect to your purpose even if that purpose is different from what you believed it was previously.
Keep being intentional about trying to find peace- 1 moment at a time, 1 breath at a time, 1 day at a time. Each day, practice 2-3 things that help bring you peace. Prayer, meditation, gratitude, serving others, connecting to purpose, and exercising are all helpful in the ongoing healing process. The next blog will offer detailed tips on healing as we launch our 21 days of peace challenge.
"The uphill path of steep and difficult ascent...
He is of those who believe and exhort one another to be patiently persevering and exhort one another to be compassionate towards God's creation. "