I’m a self-reflective person by nature. I’ve always sat back and watched a new group of people, learning the social context before participating which has good and bad traits. One of the things I’ve learned the most about it, though, is the art of listening to my own answers. Sometimes I just need to know what in the hell is real in all of the opinions and gossip and conflicting studies and “facts”, and I ask myself questions to find out.
Around this time of year – when Mother’s and Father’s Day roll around – I tend to take a step back and ask myself a lot of questions. Occasionally I ask about small day-to-day things like if I’m responding to people in a way that they knew I was being honest and intentional. Every year now, though, I land on one big question that I ask myself several times between February and June:
Is this it?
I mean that in both of the ways you’re asking, by the way.
Is this all there will be?
So many people have come and gone in my life that learning the tools to work through grief is a huge focus of my life – is that going to be my hallmark of value and experience? Helping people heal because I’ve experienced death so often? Let me say before I go further that I don’t think that’s a horrible thing – I love helping people and that’s clearly a place that has my heart. But… I’m really tired of people dying around me. For real.
So is that it, then?
As grieving parents we get so lost in the memories we don’t get to make that we take so long to learn how to trust ourselves again, but there’s another side to the question if you let yourself take two more steps forward.
Is this it?
Is this all that I’m capable of now?
Am I going to allow myself to be so shriveled without Luke and Jonah that I can’t take any steps forward in my life? Have I already given the best I have in my first 33 years that I don’t have anything left with which to make my children proud of their dad?
Am I really giving up so easily?
If I’m able to keep perspective, there will never be a day that the answer to that question is yes. So many parents out there have amazing things because they refused to let the death of their child be the end of their spirit too. If I’m going to let myself have the easy way out and just stay in that dark space I should never have begun at all, because the dream of being a dad began before they were born and won’t stop after they are now gone.
Pick up the pieces and ask yourself the question. Is. This. It? Sit in the first answer for a minute because this shit sucks. We will always need to take a minute to feel the wave of grief when it comes, but don’t let it stay – move on to the second question.
What do you have left?
This will be the third Father’s Day that I’ve asked myself that very question and truthfully, the action isn’t always the same but the effort is. At any given moment I’m giving everything I have left, and that’s what I would want my boys to learn from their dad. In every pitfall, every stumble, and every challenge, I gave it everything I had whatever the outcome.
I hope as Father’s Day comes, you can allow yourself to just BE. If you’re reading this as a mom and aren’t sure how to approach it, trust your instincts. It’s going to be hard but you’ll make it together. If you’re the dad reading this and know every bit of the heartache I’m talking about, trust yourself to ask AND answer the questions with intention. You don’t have to stay in the shadow that losing your child casts. Just take one step and consider the strength that it took to get this far.
You haven’t given up yet. Don’t start now.