Why do I share?
October is here again—over half way to November. I want to love this season of change where fall marches us toward winter. The beautiful leaves change. There are cool, crisp mornings meant for steaming coffee and a warm blanket.
But it’s October again—and today, we celebrate the 18th birthday of a little girl who never grows older. October 23–a day that should bring joy, brings sorrow.
When our daughter, my second child, died in December of 2001, I thought my heart would break into a million pieces.
And it did.
I began the process of putting my heart back together. Some of the repairs had to be made in the quiet of my own mind, in the process of putting my pen to paper. I learned as I began to share my story and my experience with others around me that I was filling the broken spaces with all the good things people did for us—kindness and understanding and acts of help.
In Japan, artisans repair ceramics using a mixture of lacquer and powdered gold, silver, or platinum. This technique is called kintsukuroi or the golden repair. The idea is that the crack or fissure is part of the history of the piece to be seen rather than something to hide. I truly believe my heart began to fill the cracks slowly with kintsugi—the golden joinery—people showed us compassion, love, kindness, support.
Just shy of a year after Abby’s death, my mother in law, who shares this precious day with Abby in heaven, saw an advertisement for a community education program at Salem College in Winston Salem—a one day writing class for bereaved mothers. I was struggling. I had a vast community who surrounded us through our grief. The people of my hometown, Boone, NC, wrapped my family in its arms, but I needed somewhere to connect with others going through the journey of losing a child. I was almost 7 months into a difficult pregnancy with Cohen on that chilly October Saturday. As I walked into the frigid library room on campus, I can remember feeling like it was all surreal. I was 27 years old—what the hell was I doing here?
As it turned out, the writing group became much more than a one day meeting to write our way through tremendous pain. We bonded into a sisterhood—even publishing a book about our story of healing. ** Each writing weekend —we jokingly began to call grief camp after one of the husbands referred to it as such—filled the cracks a little more. More importantly, I learned the power of sharing my story. I learned the power of filling some of those cracks myself by writing about pain and, surprisingly, joy.
And here we are. Why do I continue to share my story?
I share because someone out there is hiding in grief.
I share because I need Abby to be remembered just like my other kids.
I share because I have been there, and I will always wear the label of bereaved mother.
I share because I am a member of the sorority where no one wants to belong. Mothers who have lost a child.
I share because sometimes I stutter and stumble over the question—How many kids do you have?
I share because I need others to see that grief is hard and leaves scars, but you can keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I share because being a mom is so damn hard and doing that with a broken heart can either destroy you or heal you.
I share because social media only shows the easy and the good 99% of the time. The hard, heart-wrenching, devastating things don’t always make their way to the highlight reel.
I share because I have 4 children, not 3.
I share because our daughter would be 18 years old—a senior in high school with a million possibilities in front of her.
I share because I wonder whom she would favor and how she would act. Would she have Cam’s dimples? The same hair color as Katie? What about Cohen’s wicked sense of humor?
I share because fear is real, bad things do happen, and pain leaves deep scars.
I share because when my son was about eight years old, he stood in front of a crowd and used his small hands form a heart and explained how my heart and the hearts of all the moms in my writing group were broken. He explained that it seemed like all our hearts were mended after we wrote our book—after we shared our story.
I share because you may need to see my raw grief that never completely goes away. I think of my precious daughter every single day.
I share because healing is a journey. It’s three steps forward and two steps back until suddenly you jump a ravine and manage to cling to the other side of the cliff with chewed nails and a tear stained face.
I share because your mother’s heart may be grieving a loss so great with your child that you feel you can never walk across the burning desert and make it out alive. Maybe it’s a death, an illness, addiction, disappointment…
I share because all other drama in our lives seems trivial when compared to loss of this magnitude.
I share because I care about your story. If telling my story, gives you the courage to tell yours—then I have accomplished what I set out to do.
I share because my living children have walked the path of grief alongside me. They lost their sister.
I share because the scars are in my husband, in our marriage—integral to our relationship.
I share because sometimes I cry, and my heart feels like it is going to explode from my body.
I share because grief is hard and messy and sucks.
I share because I am sobbing as I write this.
I share because I can also still have immense joy, undying hope, and perfect peace.
I share because my pain is hidden beneath time and life. I am a born optimist and have been called Pollyanna many times. The pain hides behind that wall.
I share because your grief is so hard. Whether your loss is a child or parent or spouse or friend, grief is an aching heart that is filled with love. That love has no place to go but inside us.
I share because I need you. This burden is too large to bear alone.
Happy birthday, Abigail Faith.
This post originated as a Facebook post that I do yearly on her birthday.
**Book title: (available on Amazon) Farther Along: The Writing Journey of Thirteen Bereaved Mothers
Also check out our blog at.fartheralongbook.com