When we love an angel in heaven we need just a few days a year to look and feel differently than all the rest. Birthdays and angelversary days are the hardest and most sacred of days. These days cannot go unnoticed, ignored and moments that can’t be like the rest. They are special because for us parents in grief, they are the two days a year we are actually given permission to remember our sweet precious children who no longer reside in our arms however we want. (If you are unfamiliar with grief lingo, angelversary is another word for the anniversary your child became an angel.)
Symbolism is one of the best therapy’s for grief. Orion turned 16 so we hiked with 16 balloons to the top of the mountain above BYU, his favorite college for sports and football.
Heather holds Orion close to her heart with a fingerprint necklace she had made and bracelets engraved with their mantra, “Rise and Shout” (also the mantra of the BYU football team.) Fitting I think.
Among the deepest struggles of losing a child is feeling like you have lost your family and friends. When our child dies, so do many of our relationships. We become unrelatable and misunderstood. It’s like we are catapulted to Mars and feel like we are living on a different planet where no one speaks our same language.
It is an interesting dichotomy. When you need friends and family the most, the natural man doesn’t know how to show up. It’s human nature to want to fix a problem. When the problem is unfixable the problem becomes taboo. Empty sentiments are offered in place of true compassion.
True empathy and compassion typically have to be learned. These are attributes most of us are not born with. There are a handful of unique humans who understand naturally the best thing you can say is, “I am so sorry. If you need to cry I am here to listen. I love you.” And then they literally shut up and do the heavy task of listening with no objective to fix it. In case you didn’t know death is one of those unfixable problems in life you have to learn how to surrender to, not reverse.
What I wish every family could understand about grief is it’s not a switch that can be turned on or off. It just is. It never disappears. They say time heals all wounds. I couldn’t disagree more! Time gives you space to build strength to live with the wound. You become strong enough to lift it.
In a perfect world, the function of family and friends is to become a strength or a ‘spotter’ as our loved ones face the most demanding emotional body building regimen they could sign up for. As they chisel their emotional stamina, the best way to support them is show up. Whatever makes their heart feel an ounce relieved, do that. If it takes climbing a mountain, climb it with them. If it means to eat cake and ice cream at the grave, do that! If it means to buy Christmas presents for a child and give them away in memory of the angel, DO that! This is truly the meaning of mourning with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.
Maybe we could say, cry with those who cry and climb mountains with those who need to climb mountains.
I remember friends and family saying things like, “Do we have to?” “Do we still have to go to his grave?” “Isn’t this getting old?”
Truth is, yes, it does get old. The reality is, as someone grieving, we deal with pain on the daily, long after the world has resumed. From one grieving moms heart to the world I ask of you, is it too much to request two days a year we get to share that burden? This is our way of keeping our angel child alive. We keep them alive by remembering, celebrating and reflecting how our angels child has forever changed us.
For more information on sponsoring a family for the Good Grief Gift, check out my project page.