Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lessons I've Learned from Grief -- Part One

While I've ranted and raved about my own emotional train wreck in the wake of losing my son, I've learned a lot about not only myself but the people around me. I'm not sure which lessons have been the most unexpected.

I've learned the world is full of more heartache than I ever imagined, and that my particular brand of pain -- the loss of a child to drug addiction -- is far too common.

I've discovered other people can understand my pain in many different ways.

By reaching out, I've met people who have experienced very similar losses to addiction. Included in this group of struggling parents are those who are so close to this pain every day, that they can almost feel it. Like I was for years, they're already grieving the loss of the child they thought they knew while loving the one they have. They're fearing that phone call that will destroy their final hope. Others, like myself, are dealing with that final loss. On either side of goodbye, there is a bond that means we can talk to one another in ways we cannot talk to anyone else. In addition to our pain, we deal with so many questions about how things might have been different. We deal with people judging us for not doing enough or maybe too much. We deal with our own inaccurate sense of failure in somehow not producing a child who could face the world unaided by the crutch of an addiction.

There are other people whose childloss is different -- different circumstances, different degrees of preparation, small children as well as those who've walked through childhood, even adult children -- who also share my pain. At it's heart the loss of a child and all the potential we saw in that child from birth is the same. We have lost a piece of ourselves and will never feel whole again.

Still others grieve for something else. Any loss is the loss of dreams, whether it is a beloved pet, a job, health, a parent, or a child, pain is pain. There are degrees of hurt and the duration may vary, but virtually everyone knows about loss. Our grief is a shared bond and I've been humbled by the outpouring of love and kindness from friends, virtual strangers, and people I only met because of my loss.

I've discovered that my friends who are blessed to have no real idea at this time in their lives also care. They've sent cards and messages, they've telephoned and showed up on my doorstep. They've been a good reminder that the world isn't completely filled with pain or uncaring strangers either. Even my friends who seem to have disappeared during this time in my life are a reminder that not everyone is strong enough to share this burden for someone else, and I'm working on releasing the nugget of resentment that I sometimes feel at their absence.

Beyond that are the random people who humble me the most. They are the people who I don't really know, and who, as far as I know have no reason to fear or understand my pain, but who still keep reaching out to me with gestures from the heart. They leave me staggered at their love and generosity and realizing even through the tears, that they are showing me God's love in ways I never expected.

While everyone who reaches out is doing their part to help everyone they touch heal and live, those people who don't feel my pain, who didn't even have names before Ethan died, can bring me to unexpected tears. Out of those tears, sometimes, I find an equally unexpected blessing, not only in what they have done, but what it may take me a little while to see.

Although I rant and rave to the heavens about my feelings, about how God was supposed to take care of Ethan and by gosh this wasn't what I meant and I'm so hurt and alone, I'm not forgotten. The cards unexpectedly delivered and the angel that brought me to tears weren't just the thoughtfulness of people who want me to know they care. They were the works of His hands and feet on this earth.

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