I have been on the road that no parent ever wants to walk for a year and two months now. In the car today, Alex made a random remark that got me thinking and now, writing.
“You have come a long way“, he said, not meaning it as a hurtful remark but as encouragement and praise.
Have I truly?
I suppose it all depends on the way one looks at things that molds one’s perception.
Yes, it does seem we have travelled a long way on the grief path. Our life, post Georgie, has taken turns I have never known to have existed, let alone desired or planned to take before I lost my boy.
If I were to put it simplistically and squeeze it all in two sentences, I guess I would say that:
1. grief has completely and utterly transformed me on the inside.
2. grief has(paradoxically and illogically to the non-bereaved) liberated me to see the world in a way I wouldn’t have been able to, had I not lost my son and experienced the devastating effects of having to relearn to live without part of my soul.
If I was asked to elaborate, I would start by simply saying that grief needs to be lived, once it happens to you, in all its devastation, when it hits you with gale force power or when it seeps you silently of joy and strength and desire to stay.
It is only when you face it full on, confront it daily and learn to deal with it, when you learn to sleep with the enemy of your naivete, that you can say that you have survived grief.
In my case, I stand here, fourteen months after the loss of my baby boy and I look at my life and in my heart, I know I have made peace.
Not with death. Not with God. Nor with the devil. Not with the thousand questions that remain unanswered and forever will be, as how can the death of a baby can ever be explained, spiritualised, understood or made sense of?
I have made peace with my life, as it is now, and with the world, as I have come to see it, in all its pain and beauty and mess and everything in between.
What has helped this past year my bruised heart and is still helping?
Knowing that I am not judged and having my feelings validated.
I have had to let go of some people. And then, some more.
I have learned in time and, at great expense, that most people are simply not capable of shaking off their beliefs on account of love, acceptance and understanding.
Alex’s beloved uncle superbly encased it in a description for us, during one of the many conversations we had on the subject this summer. Many times, he wisely and lovingly said, people cannot allow even the smallest crack into the armour they have created around themselves. If the slightest doubting of the system of beliefs occurs, they intuitively know that the whole system(and their world, with it) may collapse.
I have come to genuinely appreciate the people who have chosen to remain in our lives, way past the farewell service, the anger, the numbness and the straying away that followed. Bravely, ever so bravely, these people are still standing by us, without any clever explanations at hand or spiritually elevated revelations. Simply being there to listen without offering solutions, validating our sorrow with their precious presence and healing our wounds with an outpouring of empathy.
Choosing to express my pain and grow through it.
It does go hand in hand with the above, in a way. Had I let people trample on my heart, tell me how to do grieving and keeping appearances for appearance sake, I believe I wouldn’t have become the person I am proud of being today.
By choosing to keep on talking about my dead son, about grief, about the failure of the church and of the society as a whole when it comes to acknowledging pain, I have re-emerged to myself and into the world as the fierce woman I have always known to be.
Knowing that my loss and pain “qualifies” me to offer assistance.
I am not afraid of death or talking about it. If you have lost a dear soul and are feeling lonely, I know exactly how inadequate you feel in a “normal” world. Please do get in touch, I will love to be your friend!
I do not get squeamish about your innermost secrets or hidden “shame.” Actually, the only things that make my moral temperature rise now are cruelty towards fellow humans, crass lack of compassion, bigotry and taking advantage of another person, in any way or form. I will not judge your sexual inclinations, your addictions, your shortfalls and for sure, I am not qualified to advise or point you in any direction, spiritually or medically. But I am here to listen and say to you, I care.
I know too well how pain feels, I will not judge you for feeling overwhelmed. You can talk to me!
Galvanisation is known to be “the process of applying a protective zinc coating to steel or iron, to prevent rusting. The most common method is hot-dip galvanization, in which parts are submerged in a bath of molten zinc. Galvanizing protects in two ways:
- it forms a coating of corrosion-resistant zinc which prevents corrosive substances from reaching the more delicate part of the metal
- the zinc serves as a sacrificial anode so that even if the coating is scratched, the exposed steel will still be protected by the remaining zinc.”
I have chosen not to encase myself in my pain but to let the horrible suffering of my son and the shattering of my heart to galvanise change, in the rawest of forms.
I choose to submerge myself in pain, mine and yours (if you let me!) again and again and again. Like in a galvanised coating, in the hope that every time my heart bleeds from our common pain, the scratching of the top layer will reveal the strength that lies in the communion of souls, in empathy and shared memories.
I will not let myself “rust” and become, once again, immune to the suffering of my fellow human beings. Never again. To me, it would mean my son died in vain and that I have wasted the opportunity I have been given to serve through shared suffering.
I plan on raising funds for the Syrian refugees that have been seeping through Greece and Macedonia in the weeks to come. Friends who are on the ground at this time of need speak of the horrors of a war who has displaced a nation and is giving us the opportunity to “galvanise” around these people as a protective coat and make their transition tolerable. I aim to help provide sanitary kits for 100 women (or more, if you help me!). I will come back with details tomorrow. Thank you.