Heather Gray

Flawed...but loved anyway.

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Remembering, Part Three

Wise Words


We all know that staring directly into the sun is both painful and harmful.

There were a lot of good speakers at the remembrance ceremony.  The older brother of a young boy that had died.  The sister of another.  The father of a young girl gone too soon.  And a doctor.  There's always a doctor that speaks.  This year it was a doctor I knew, one of the intensivists from the PICU where my daughter spent so many months.  I'm sure all his words were meaningful, but one thing he said stuck with me more than all the rest.  In a profound sort of way.  It was one of those aha moments.

I sat there thinking: He just gave me the words to express how I've felt all along.

I'm not going to name the doctor.  There are all these tricky privacy laws when it comes to talking about people on the internet (or talking about people in general), and I'm never entirely sure where I stand with those laws.  So I'll err on the conservative side of proper internet comportment and etiquette by calling him Dr. Z.

Dr. Z said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that grief is like the sun.  We cannot stare into the sun for very long.  Not only is it physically painful if we do, but it can also cause lasting damage to our eyes.  We cannot stare into the face of grief for very long, either.  For it, too, is physically painful.  And if we stare too long, it can cause lasting damage to our hearts, to our souls…to our lives and the lives of those we love.

That's one of the reasons I started writing this blog and having my Tuesday posts.  Each week, I take out my grief and stare it right in the eyes.  I verbalize my emotions.  I share my thoughts.  I feel it.  Then I put it back away and look at something else.  It still sneaks up on me sometimes, but since I've started blogging about it, my grief has gotten noisier, maybe even clumsy.  It can't take me by surprise quite as much as it used to.

When we hurt – whether it's grief over a loved one, a lost dream, a financial disaster, or something else entirely – we are tempted to sit there in that pain.  To wallow in it.  Because, let's face it, sometimes our pain becomes so much a part of us that we can't bear the thought of leaving it behind.  If we stare into the sun of our grief too long, though, it will burn a hole right through our very souls.  It will scar us, incapacitate us, and cause permanent damage that is the stuff of nightmares.

Whatever we do, we can't stare into the sun forever.  

We have to look at something else.  The flowers swaying in a field, the light in a child's eyes, the laughter dancing through the swirling leaves of autumn.  Something.  Anything.  We have to look away from the pain and toward the rest of the world, toward life.  It's hard, and it hurts.  It may even feel like a betrayal, that somehow by embracing the life we have we are turning our backs on all we've lost…on the one we have lost.

Never say it's a betrayal, though.  It's not.  How do we honor the lives of those we've lost?  How do we make sure their mark on the world is never forgotten?  It's not by staying in our bed and weeping day by day.  It's by living and laughing and shining a light into the world.  It's by touching the hearts of those around us, carrying on when we don't want to, and bringing hope and encouragement to those who have none.  It's by reaching out to one another and embracing life and declaring that we will not give up.  We will not be defeated by the heat of the sun.

Because we know, deep down in our hearts, that we can do nothing less.  On those days when we do stare into the sun, no matter how great our pain, we remember the love.  We recall the sticky hugs, the loud laughter, and the incomprehensible joy that our child had in life.  And we cannot let that go unanswered.  We must rise to the occasion.  We must take all the best of who our child was, and we must share it with the world.  That is how the legacy of our child lives on, how the world is changed, how we can stand and say, "My child's life was not lived in vain!"

I'm taking some liberties with what Dr. Z said, embellishing on it a bit.  If all you get out of this is that facing grief is like staring into the sun, then that's okay.  You've still gotten a wealth of insight.

I hope your day is blessed and that you find a way this week not to stare into the sun for too long but to instead also take some time to notice the world around you and its beauties.

Hugs from a fellow sun-starer.

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I am 57,and yrs.ago I wrote everyday!It helped in my healing! I have been thru a Divorce after 35 yrs of marriage,lost my mother at age 29,brother sudden death,now having all kinds of health issues!And missing my son' who are all grown and live miles away!But,thu reading,and support group,and giving thanks to God everyday,I don't look at the Sun except to injoy it's warmth!Thank you for your post!

Thank you so much..... we are 3 sisters 2011 2 of us lost a daughter and me a Son and this year my other sister lost her hubby...shall pass this on to them God Bless you