How society doesn’t allow us to grieve in our own time is a hot topic right now. People around us checking in, waiting for us to snap back to normal. At work we feel like it’s a choice between waiting for sympathy faces or wearing the ‘I’m fine’ mask – you know the one. It’s the ‘I really don’t want to talk about it’ mask, or the ‘I’m burning up inside but this isn’t the time or place’ mask. Really, we’re busy justifying the pressure we constantly feel to move on. Here’s the thing, though – we’ll never move on, we’ll learn to step forward. Pretending that our loss didn’t happen – or that it didn’t have a profound impact on our lives – is also avoiding a very real and positive person in our lives. I’ll never be the person to stuff everything I’m feeling down and hold it in, and even though I’ve been described by my counselor as a super-empath I have a hard time relating to this type of griever. I cry watching commercials, for Pete’s sake. My life is lived on my sleeve.
But you know what? Living out loud is what helps me keep from losing it most days. Having a way to connect to my boys and get out all of this pressure building up inside allows me to find a sense of peace within myself, where ‘everything is ok’ doesn’t mean the same as ‘I’m barely breathing’. Where saying Jonah’s name out loud is less memorial and more celebration. I’m still learning to navigate questions about our children in public, but not acknowledging their lives never feels right – Almost Father, not Could Have Been Father. My boys lived, evidenced by their heart beats but even more by the impact they continue to have on my life and in my words. If I don’t speak their lives and lessons, who will? Who better than my wife and I to create their legacy the way we had hoped them to?
Every single day is a battle, much in the same way I have yet to look at pictures of Jonah’s birth without losing it. I don’t know that will ever go away, though frankly I’m not sure I’d want it to. But staying silent when we need to talk or say their name or feel their presence will fill your heart with the opposite of what you’re trying to find. Putting on that mask for the sake of everyone else only perpetuates the stigma surrounding child loss. Don’t let ‘I’m fine’ become ‘I’m dying inside’.
I wear my Jonah wristband because one day someone will ask and I can tell them about my son with pride. I wear Jonah’s heartbeat on my arm because I need to see his life when I can’t feel his love . Find some way – whether on your sleeve or under it – to turn ‘I’m grieving’ into ‘I’m living’. Your heart will thank you for it.
Life your life – and theirs – out loud