First things first, you all absolutely blow me away. I truly have been blessed with the best shining souls an author could ever dream up. Your support brings me to tears at least once a day– the good kind of tears. The happy, blessed, grateful kind. The sad kind are also mixed in there too, because for me nothing is purely happy, without also being sad– therein lies the torment of life after loss, the poison of bittersweet: everything is laced with it. The truth is, none of this present day goodness of a gorgeous book that is healing hearts worldwide would exist without the loss of my son. And no amount of goodness will ever make that loss worth it. I don’t care how good something is– nothing can compete with the totality and utter HUGENESS of such a loss. Nothing can compete with the pure gift life would be to have my living, breathing son standing here next to me.
That pretty much sums up life after loss, doesn’t it?
But back to the happy… I seriously could not ask for better supporters. You are the reason my book exists. We did this together. You all believed in this book when it was still just an idea, so much so, that many of you who were complete strangers donated your money to help bring ‘Mother of All Mothers’ to life. And now because of you thousands and thousands of people can hold this book in their hands. Sambla recently conducted a study that found that 42% of independent publishers cite financial woes as the top reason they’re unable to bring their book to the masses, so I thank you for that.
This past year has been a whirlwind journey. I’ve both cried and laughed more than I ever thought possible. They say bringing a book to life isn’t all that different than birthing a baby, and I’d wholeheartedly agree with that. On June 26 of this year I birthed my book baby. Throughout this journey of publishing my book I’ve had my highest highs, and my lowest lows, but throughout it all one thing has remained constant: gratefulness. No matter what, I am beyond grateful: for you, for my book, to be the vessel for all of this goodness to explode in ways I never dreamed possible. It still seems surreal. Like really? How could I ever get this lucky?
Yet not lucky at all. Let me explain.
The thing is, it’s not really luck either. It’s beauty from ashes. It’s the art of turning shit to gold. My book is the sum of all my suffering– six whole, long, torturous years of it. It’s not some yeah-yeah-rah-rah book. It’s an offering from the deepest parts of my soul, full of wisdom that only life in the trenches could have produced. It’s iron molded from the fire of life. It’s the gilding of my broken heart with gold. And yes it’s true that good things will come into my life because of this soul-deep offering of mine. But the cost was far too high a price to pay. I know any bereaved parent would agree.
Sometimes I find myself getting really excited about my book– and then I remember. Heart sinks into stomach– ugh. None of this would be happening if I had my son here with me where he belongs. My book exists because my son does not. How does one hold the space for both of those truths?
I read something today that sums it all up quite nicely: “Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.” This could not be more true. And I find I’m having to constantly learn how to allow both to be fully present and fully true in my life.
Which isn’t an easy thing to do.
These gifts that come don’t make me miss my son any less. And they don’t negate my suffering, or make any of it any easier. But sometimes they do help make it more bearable. Just like finding a village of people who get it makes it more bearable than walking this path alone.
I wouldn’t wish this path on anyone, ever– but the people I’ve met on this path are the most soul-gorgeous, kind, whole-hearted people I’ve ever, ever known. And I’m beyond grateful to know each of you.
I’m smart enough to know that you all didn’t become this way without being melded by the fire of life. You are who you are today because of the horrific ways you have endured the worst kind of human suffering possible. You are this way because you’ve each suffered in ways that most people who haven’t been through it wouldn’t understand.
Yet I understand.
This life after loss is sometimes so beautiful that it overwhelms me in the same way that missing my son overwhelms me. Wholly, and without apologies. I sob and I gasp on air– both because of the grief of missing my son, and because the depth of joy and beauty that is now a part of every breath I take on this earth. I suppose it’s because when you lose everything you held dear, you live life from a depth you never knew possible. It’s like I’m wearing beauty magnifying glasses. I see and feel all the good that’s here on a deeper level than ever before. It’s like suffering through loss trains you to find beauty in everything.
I don’t take a single thing for granted. Ever. Not this moment, not the next.
And what I’m learning more and more about life after loss is that it’s an art to hold the space for all of this: the gifts, the pain; the beauty, the suffering; the longing for more– the always having to live with one less.
It’s an art, and it’s exhausting.
People think that because I have a book now all must be well. Reality: all is not well. Publishing a book is a huge accomplishment, and one I’m grateful to have, but no matter how much beauty and gifts and accomplishments come my way, there is only one thing that I will always and forever want:
And no matter how long I walk this earth there will be one thing I’ll never be able to have:
And it is within the hollow spaces of these truths that the art of living after loss lies.
It’s a balancing act, a mixing of clashing colors, a splattering of this and of that, the blending of contradictory feelings and truths– grief and joy; hope and despair; optimism and reality. And the great challenge is to live in such a way that makes art out of it all.
I know. Seriously?!
We live our way into the how. Our pain forges the way.
It’s beauty from broken. We learn how to gild our broken pieces with gold. “Kintsukuroi: to repair with gold… and understanding that the piece [our heart] is more beautiful for having been broken.” (Emphasis mine.)
And that’s all art really, truly is, isn’t it? The creative process of turning the suffering of life, to gold. The process of making the crap of life glitter.
This is the art of living after loss.
It’s both deeply beautiful and positively tortuous.
. . .
I try to remember this every time I feel overwhelmed by my brokenness. Repairing our hearts with gold takes lots of time and lots of love, but it can be done. We can each heal to the point where we are more beautiful for having been broken. It seems impossible at times, but many of us are living proof.
What would repairing your brokenness with gold look like for you?
How would you describe the reality of your life after loss? And what helps you carry the contradictions of it all?
. . .
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