Drowning in a sea of overwhelming grief is not where I expected to find gratitude. Yet there it was attempting to throw me a life line. I would have grasped at anything regardless of how out of place it seemed. Gratitude in grief? That is just crazy nonsense!
When you lose a child, there is no way to explain the feeling of loneliness that takes over as your mind wraps around the concept of forever. I can tell you forever is excruciatingly heavy! It squeezes your chest making breathing almost impossible. Your life is spiraling and there is nothing to grab a hold of to make it stop. You are painstakingly aware that you are standing in the worst moments of your life. This is not a place gratitude comes to visit.
Grief causes you to see the world differently than you did before. Your loss highlights all of the things you are missing. You focus only on your loss and the things you will never get to experience now. It is a slippery slope into negativity. Nothing is right as your life shatters into a million pieces and all you can do is sit in the middle of the mess!
Hate comes so easy in this new world. It is pretty hard to be thankful for anything when you are so consumed by hate. However, gratitude is there. I know it seems counter intuitive, but I urge you to look for it. I felt a little crazy even allowing it to have a place in my grief, but a funny thing happened. When I allowed it in, the spinning stopped. It was only for a moment, but in that moment my heart was filled with only love.
This love shined brighter than anything I have ever felt before and flowed out of every pore. I realized I was so incredibly grateful for those 7-years he was here. I was thankful I drew the “short stick” that night and took him to the hospital so that our final words to each other were, “I love you!” The fact that there was no pain as he declined and transitioned is a huge relief.
It continued. His life had overlapped with the baby’s by 6-months (almost to the day). I was spared the pain of having a baby that he never got to love. I am grateful for the little ways our relationship continues as he sends me signs that have solidified my belief in life after death beyond what I ever thought possible. Each number 12 reminds me he is there cheering me on. Though it is hard to admit, good things have come after his death. We now know about a rare disease we had been living with. Cameron gave us the awareness, knowledge, and tools to help his sisters. While I would trade it all, it provides a beacon of hope.
Being his mother was worth every ounce of pain I was feeling. If I had the chance, I would gladly do it all over again even if there was no opportunity to change the outcome. That is how much I love him! My life is better because of him. Gratitude taught me that I could smile through my tears. Cameron taught me that it was OK to keep going.
Look for gratitude. I’m not talking about being thankful that you or your other children are alive. Seek bigger. Begin by writing down small things that are good. The warmth of the sun on your face. A text you got from someone that mentions your child’s name. A memory you want to cherish. Over time your daily list will grow. Small things become big things. Big things change your perspective.
Healing begins at this intersection of gratitude and grief.
When you become grateful for the things you see in your life, there is less room for negativity. This new life you didn’t ask for seems more manageable. Your grief begins to change. It will never go away, but you do begin to learn how to intertwine happy and sad together. This is key in moving forward (not on). It was exactly the life line I needed.