Sunday, August 19, 2018

Learning to Love Life!

It has been over a year and a half since I last posted. It's not that I've had nothing to say. In fact, I have had tons to say. I just haven't been sure how to say it. It's not writer's block. It's more that I have been trying to determine the direction this blog should go. (Scroll to the bottom to find out more.)

This blog - then and now...
This blog started out to help Austin's friends and family work through their grief, while I worked through mine. It was also to help others dealing with the loss of a loved one know they are not alone in their feelings and thoughts. But I believe I can only cover my walk of grief for so long, since I feel I am no longer grieving. I am living!

There. I said it. "I am living! And I am loving living!"

Loving Life Photo

I touched on this topic in my last post, Healingbut I still (almost) cringe as I write this. I read so many posts and comments on losing a child that give the impression that life will always be horrible. Quotes such as "Child loss is not an event, it is an indescribable journey of survival."  or "The death of a child it's like losing your breath and never catching it again, it's a forever panic attack feeling your heart dying as your soul is screaming for them and no matter what you try to do you continue to lose your mind." For someone who has just lost a child, these quotes give the impression that they will never be able to fully enjoy life again. I admit, this is how I felt in the first years (note the plural for years) after losing Austin. It felt as if all I would be able to do would be to partially enjoy any event I was part of. Read my earlier posts to learn more about what I was going through. It may be what some of you are currently going through. Now - over eight years after losing my son - I realize I can (and do) fully embrace life and love the moments I am in.

Don't be embarrassed if you are happy...
I think there is a difference between grieving and missing someone. This is probably why I have found myself being embarrassed or feeling bad when someone asks, "How are you doing?" I want to say, with a huge smile on my face, "Great! I am doing really, really great!" But, I'm afraid it will sound cold, as if I no longer miss Austin. When, in fact, I miss Austin every day, and think about him every day. All you have to do is ask those around me and they will tell you that I mention his name (or reference him), all the time, probably at least once a day. I can't help myself. He is part of me. The same way my other two boys' names come up daily and are part of me. But, I am not grieving. I am living and I am happy.

You won't always feel this much pain...
I want parents who have lost a child and are wondering "Will I always feel this awful pain? Will my heart always ache to this extent?" to know that the pain does lessen, day-by-day, week-by-week, and year-by-year. I have had parents who have lost a child say to me, "Please tell me I won't always hurt this way, because I don't think I can live with this type of pain!" I assure them, it does get easier, and life can be have to go through the pain, there's no getting around it. Be patient, embrace your grief, knowing you can be happy. It doesn't mean you won't miss your child - you will - but you can also love life.

I am walking proof you can be happy...
During this past spring, I was at my son's televised college lacrosse game. I was sitting in the stands, which just happened to be where the tv cameras panned showing the crowds reaction after a goal was scored. My friends and family, who were home watching the game on tv, kept texting me pictures of their tv's with me on them. Of course I got a chuckle out of it and shared it with others. One person commented, "You look happy, Lori. You look really happy!" And I thought, "I am!"

Then it happened again. Earlier this summer I was at a lacrosse tournament with two of my sons, visiting with other parents whom I haven't seen in a couple years. One of the parents, out of the blue, stated to me, "You look happy! You look very content!" To which I responded, "I am. Thank you." Later that day, as I was walking across the field, another parent commented to me, "You look like you have not a care in the world." I simply smiled and thought to myself, "Life is good!"

For this many people to notice my state of mind is a clear testament to how far I have come over the past eight years. As I allowed myself to grieve I also allowed myself to heal and grow, learning to love life again. In fact, I think I love life even more, because I know how precious it is.

My message to you...
This is the message I want to share - grief is a necessity - it must be experienced if you want to start living again. But you can live again and you can love life again. I am living proof! As I was writing this post, I stumbled upon an article, that put so nicely what I've tried to convey - "My child's loss taught me to love harder and appreciate every single day."  

Austin taught me to love harder and appreciate every single day - both when he was here with me physically and now that he is here in memory and spirit.

Austin relaxing and enjoying life

Important notice about "Miss Your Smile" blog: I feel the purpose of this blog has come to an end. In the near-future, I will be starting a new blog, "Lifetagious," which will continue with the theme of loving life (the way Austin knew how to do so well). As soon as I have it up and running, I will post the new link here.

I am leaving this blog, "Miss Your Smile," for those who are dealing with loss and need to know others have been where you are now. I encourage you to start from the beginning, so you can see you are not alone on your journey, but please know the pain does not have to be permanent. Give yourself permission to grieve, to hurt, and to miss your loved one. Don't be hard on yourself and don't compare your grieving with anyone else's. Just as your relationship with your child (or loved one) was unique, so will your grieving. But also give yourself permission to be happy and to love life!

Are you having trouble giving yourself permission to enjoy life? I would love to hear from you!