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March 26, 2019

This is what Grief Looks Like.

I am a Mother of three boys, and my eldest son, Austin, passed away from cancer at nine years of age.

I have been in this life without him since May 3rd, 2002.

Austin would be 25 years old right now. I still grieve his death, I still look at the photos of him I have hanging on the wall of my living room and see my beautiful son, perpetually a child, and I feel the kick in my gut and grip on my heart—but life goes on. When your heart is shattered you become, as Anne Lamott says about her friend who lost her son to tragedy, “flattened as a tender green shoot.”

You become completely raw and vulnerable. Your insulation blows away like ashes, and you are left naked and exposed as that new, precious green shoot erupting from the earth, seeking the warmth of sun. It reminded me of being a young child and the want of the child to have the protection and support from family to grow from something so small and tender to a strong blade of grass, able to stand on its own.

In grief, you regress back to that tiny, awestruck, scared sprout that is so easily trampled and who forgets to eat or rest, and yet there is no parent nearby to tuck you in for a nap or make you toast and peanut butter.

I recall feeling like a mange-covered puppy found on the side of the road, seemingly all will to live had been exhausted, and I just lay there in the dirt and waited to close my eyes for good. No one came to dribble water in my mouth or wrap me in a warm blanket. I just kept allowing life to live me. I got up and went to work, I lifted the cereal spoon to my mouth and chewed and swallowed. I pushed words from my mouth at work to speak to my patients and drove my car home at night through traffic. I put shoes on and washed my hair.

Life kept living and, eventually, in tiny slivers, I started to show up.

Now, almost 17 years after his death, I know that grief resides in me. It will always, but it doesn’t sit in the front row; I am able to be the strong blade of grass that can handle a careless trampling.

There is no magic to it, there is no one who can show up and breathe the living back into you—you just allow life to live you.

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