Posted by: Terri Johnston Fraracci | August 25, 2011

Learning to live around the hole in my heart

The words in this post have been following me around for some time now, gently encouraging me to put them out there, not only for my sake, but for the sake of others. Over time, they became more insistent. But it takes courage to share your innermost pain, and up until now I couldn’t quite muster up enough to be this vulnerable and open. But then I witnessed the powerful gift to me, and so many others that came from the willingness of an amazing fellow writer and mother when she decided to share in a journey that no parent ever wants to be on.

Like me, Daisy is walking the path that every parent fears most. She is grieving the loss of a child. When I read her post, I immediately contacted her. I didn’t realize how much I needed to connect with another grieving mother until I did. When you read Sun Garden you will see that I am not the only one. Read the comments as well. There are so many of us out there, struggling not only to come to terms with the death of a child, but unsure of how much to say, unsure of how honest to be about how we are truly feeling. It is a difficult topic for anyone, because the very idea is so frightening and unthinkable.

Daisy also said something that really struck me. She said, “There comes a time when it’s unbearable to not speak of a loss that is part of who we are … it’s not a matter of living in the past, but of acknowledging who we are in the present. Godspeed and blessings to all mothers (and fathers) who have suffered the loss of a child.” Thank you Daisy.

There are so many theories about how grief works. It does seem to follow the stages in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s model, but the thing is that people move through the stages in their own order, in their own time. The idea that someone could just neatly move through one stage to the next, and finally end up done and over it, is not realistic.

I have learned, as I walk my own path, grieving the loss of my son, David, that I will never be who I was before. How could I be? My life has radically changed. I have learned that I will never be over it. It just doesn’t work that way. And I have learned that the greatest gift you can ever give someone who is grieving is the room and support to grieve the way they need to. Trying to meet the expectations of how others think it should be only makes it harder on someone who is already trying to make their way through a devastating experience.

I have also learned that I am blessed with family and friends who have given me what I needed. Even when they didn’t understand, even when they thought they knew a better way, even when it hurt them to see me still hurting, they gave me what I asked for – the right to grieve the way I need to. You know who you are. Know how grateful I am for each and every one of you.

The biggest lesson I learned was that I don’t have to get over it. I don’t have to reach some imaginary level that signals the end of grief. I can’t do that. But what I can do is learn to live around the hole in my heart, and that is exactly what I am doing. My son is such a beautiful part of all that I am, that his death can’t break our connection. Love doesn’t die.

I learned something in a grief group that really helped me. The facilitator said that in the beginning of grief, your loved one was right in front of your face, between you and the rest of your life. And that through the process of grieving, you learn to gently move them from there to safely tucked in your heart. It’s a matter of moving from a place where your loss is so painful that it dominates your life, to a place where your loved one is an ever-present, important part of your life.

It has been nearly five years since David went home at the tender age of twenty-two. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. Nor will a day go by between now and when I go home that he won’t be a part of my life, because he is a part of me. Death did not change that truth. I can see how I am moving through the stages. I can see how I have finally begun to truly live again in the last couple of years.

And now, thanks to Daisy’s courage, I can see that it’s time to move to another level. It’s time to set myself free from keeping my loss to myself. It’s time to share my journey with others, to bring all of who I am to the table. It’s time to say that I have lost a child, and I am learning to live around the hole in my heart.

David's wedding day 2002. ♥ My sweet boy - You live in my heart, in all that I am. Knowing that the blessing that you are to me can never end, I accept the gift of treasured memories, the gift of your beautiful children, and the knowledge that love never dies (as evidenced by how I feel you with me every single day), as enough until the day we stand beside each other again.

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Responses

  1. Terri – how brave and wonderful of you to share this message with others. I have a dear friend whose daughter died last year and I am absolutely going to share your words with her. Thank you for being you!!

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  2. You are so welcome Pat. Warms my heart more than you will ever know to know that this post might help someone who is hurting. Thank you 🙂

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  3. Terri, I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child and I’m greatful to you for sharing your grief and all your positive upbeat emotions. I have known many people in this life who have had to see their children go before them and there is no greater pain. You encourage and lift up many people with your spirit and I’m sure your son is proud of you for that. Even though we did not know each other well in HS I am glad to be getting to know you here on FB and many days you have said just the right thing to help me in my trials. Thanks and God bless. Susan

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    • Oh Susan…..you have no idea how much everything you said means to me. Thank you! Glad to know I have helped 🙂

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  4. Terri: Thank you for sharing such a precious part of your heart with others. David was a little boy the last time I saw him. In the photo I see that he grew up to be such a handsome young man.

    You are so strong. Again, my prayers are always with you. May God always grant you all that you need.

    Tina

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  5. Thank you Tina 🙂

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  6. Terri,
    David was a sweet boy and you are a brave mom, willing to share your journey with others who hurt. I’m glad that you are finding healing and for the certainty you feel for that time when you’ll see him again.
    Debbie Thomas

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  7. Terri
    I am so sorry for that hole in your heart,sometimes there is just no words..I do beleive your son has given you a great gift that is beyond measure more Love and great compassion and he is smiling. I am sure with every kind word and act of compassion that flows from you he directs from the depth of your bond together. I pray a blessing over you my friend that the Lord dry every tear and hold you in his arms when days are very hard and may he give you joy un speakable when you feel his presence and the Love of your son continues to draw you closer to his light.

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  8. Absent with the body-ever present with the Lord….that glorious day when our faith will becomes sight. No more loss, no more pain, we’ll see Jesus face to face. No words to express…just prayers for the understanding that surpasses all. Your words are encouraging and full of grace and compassion. Always remember…blessings are forever.

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  9. “Absent with the body-ever present with the Lord” – beautiful, true, and well said. Thank you Corinne :).

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  10. I am so sorry for your loss. Sons are so precious…and they leave a huge hole in our lives when they are gone. God bless.

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    • Thank you Rebecca. I would like to express the same to you. I just read your “about me” and see that we are kindred spirits :). I would like to quote and share with others something that you wrote as it is beautiful, understanding, and so true –

      “Every person’s grief is unique. Every person – and their own “factors” – are unique. Every factor plays a part in how a person grieves and how long it takes to integrate the loss into the fabric of life. Because we live in a society that is distanced from grief, it falls to the bereaved to teach others how to help. This is a daunting task, especially for a bereaved parent already dealing with so much. This blog is written using selected journal entries I have written since March 2002. My only goal is to give some insight of what it’s like to be on this side of the fence. I hope in some measure it can be of some help.”
      God Bless you for your willingness to share your journey with others :).

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  11. So beautifully said Terri. You share so openly and honestly. Grief is a lifelong journey. It never does end, but comes back at every turn, every passage of your life and your grandchildren’s. It visits on occasions missed with David, sad times and celebrations. He will always be the empty place at the table. I know too that grief is not harsh or bitter. It doesn’t leave you lonely and wounded. After time and after going through the stages it requires, and the sharing it demands, it settles nicely to place where you can ponder its existence, a place of comfort and memories. Every time we share with someone else who grieves we help them and ourselves to heal. Terri, thanks for sharing.

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  12. You are most welcome Eileen. Thank you :). Well said.

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