You have to feel it all

I love Facebook. I really love it. It allows me to keep in touch with friends that I otherwise wouldn’t, allows my mom to see pictures of her grandkids without me having to actually have prints made and send them to her, allows me to laugh everyday by following funny and inappropriate pages, allows me to keep up with current events, and it allows me to kind of track my life. If I scroll through my posts and photos from the last 8 years, it’s a really great record – especially since I am completely worthless when it comes to journaling (see the 5 empty journals on my bedside table). Every day, you are shown pictures and posts that you shared on this same date in previous years. It is often fun – remembering events you may have forgotten and seeing pictures that make you smile.
For some people, these pictures and posts can be huge grief triggers. I am lucky (!) in that my husband died well before I joined Facebook so I am not constantly getting barraged with images of us together and him doing all sorts of things with our family. I do have pictures of Steve on my Facebook page and I will often share them on his birthday or the “Feast of Steven” as we call it, his death anniversary. But since I posted them after he passed, they don’t typically have a sad effect on me. But we as a family have suffered a lot of other major losses since then – more than seems “normal”.

Since my husband’s death we have lost his dad, which was an unfathomable loss, along with several dads in our friend group. I have 2 friends that live within 100 yards of me that both lost their husbands to brain cancer in the past few years. It’s crazy. Another huge loss was in the form of a grandfather-type figure to my girls – a brilliant, loving man taken way too early by Alzheimer’s. And then just recently, we lost Steve’s cousin, Matt, that had recently visited and rekindled his relationship with me, my girls and our extended family – suddenly stricken with cancer and gone in less than a year. There have been other deaths as well, all that hit hard. Too many in just a short span of time. Other types of loss take their toll too. Relatives and friends that moved far away and relationships that simply disintegrated over time. All these memories pop up – every day. In Facebook and in our minds.

Loss is so hard. Life is so hard. If you feel like you have not experienced significant loss in your life, pay attention because you probably have and you just have just not internalized it and processed it. And that is ok – we all do what we need to in order to survive. But everyone you know has struggled with hurt and loss. We need to talk about it more as a community, as a society. Share it with each other instead of just hoping the topic doesn’t come up. The scars it leaves are deep and those scars affect your relationships for the rest of your life. They affect the way we interact with others, they affect our trust, they affect our being open to all the good that is in this world.

The pain of loss does not go away in a week or a month. It never really goes away completely. It gets softer and easier to manage. It morphs into memories and it works its way into your soul, making you more empathetic and compassionate. It can make you hard but it doesn’t have to. Talking about it is the best way to move thru the pain and to process it. I have found that to be true with every loss and hurt in my life. Acknowledging it, looking it straight in the eye and feeling every damn inch of it. It seems to me that you have to. If you avoid it, it comes back around to bite you in the butt when you are least expecting it. You have to feel it all – there are no shortcuts. Allowing someone the space to talk about their hurt is one of the greatest gifts you can give to them. If someone you know is grieving the death of a loved one, your saying their name, sharing a memory, holding space for them to talk about their person is so powerful and healing – even years after the loss. I cannot fully express how grateful I am to those that have walked with me and have always allowed me to talk thru what I needed to.

My girls and I talk so often about their dad and all the people they have lost. I want them to fully know the people that were so present in their lives, that loved them so deeply. We take so many pictures as a family. When pictures come up in our lives as we are going through photo boxes – or on Facebook – we look at them, I give them all the details I can remember of the picture and we sit with those memories and breathe them in. I want these memories to build up in their minds so they have a fuller picture of those that are gone, and by way of that, a fuller picture of themselves. We have had so much love, compassion and generosity and God has put so much good into our lives. Being grateful for all that good, even in the face of loss and hurt, is truly where the growth comes from. Looking forward with the strength of your tribe, both past and present, behind you to hold you up – we all need that. Truly feeling that strength and love is so powerful for happiness and greatness in life.