Inside: It is possible to live whole and brave even through the thick, terrible, wilds of grief. It likely does not feel true at this moment, but you are strong enough to do this.
At 49 I feel like I’ve experienced more than enough loss and grief for a lifetime. Certainly way more than any of my friends. I’ve said goodbye to grandparents and aunts and uncles mostly to cancer, I helped my family bury my mom 18 years ago and my dad 7 years ago after watching cancer destroy their bodies. And almost 10 months ago, at the time that I’m writing this, my beautiful 23-year-old son, my firstborn, left this world.
Unfortunately, because I’m 49 I also know that there’s a slim chance that I’m getting out of this world without holding space for more people I love as they leave their time on earth, more unexpected and tragic goodbyes, more sitting deep in discomfort and remembering to breathe.
I’m no stranger to grief. I’ve tasted my share already. But child loss is something else altogether and suicide loss adds another layer to the pain. Yet it is possible to live whole and brave even through the thick, terrible, wilds of grief.
We are strong enough to do this.
I know this often doesn’t feel true – grief is so hard. Grief is unconcerned with hurry or human timetables, with our comfort. But one breath at a time, one moment or hour at a time, we are strong enough to do this.
It’s a privilege to share life with other messy humans, a gift to know love however long it’s here. But this doesn’t mean that profound loss and grief aren’t incredibly messy, life-splintering, soul-crushing. And sometimes trauma-inducing.
Loving often hurts. But it’s worth it.
If you’re here with me in this place I also want to share that you are allowed, you can give yourself permission, to feel it all. To feel anger, guilt, rage, despair, comfort, hope, peace, and even joy as you walk the lonely, bumpy, horrendously rough terrain of grief.
You have permission to feel it all and to tell the truth about it all. Not everyone will know how to hold space for you, you may lose some friendships exactly when you need them most, many people will say the wrong thing and hurt you. You are raw and weary but you are strong enough to do this work.
You are strong enough to do this work, friend.
(We don’t have to be perfectly strong, always strong, or independently strong. Just strong enough in every moment to take one more breath, one more step forward, or send one quick text asking for help when we feel like we’re drowning.)
I’m telling you what I need to hear. What I repeat to myself these days.
What my friends remind me of on my hardest days.
You have permission to grieve in your own way, to let go of your loved one’s stuff or not. You can decide who comes to the funeral or memorial because this isn’t about them no matter how much they complain. You have a right to protect yourself and tend to yourself and to climb into bed mid-afternoon when it’s all too overwhelming. And you (we) are allowed to continue living.
MEET SOME OF MY FAMILY IN THIS SHORT CLIP FOR OUR TOWN’S DIVERSITY + INCLUSION PROJECT
This is a 4-minute video in which we speak about being a “messy human in a messy world” and losing our son, Jairus, to suicide. xo
Joy and pain can coexist, beauty and suffering are old friends, it’s possible to taste happiness even as you do that painful work of letting go.
10 ARTICLES THAT SPEAK TO walking through grief & Living Whole and Brave after loss
You Don’t Have to Be Fine
Walking through grief or trauma, or other hard seasons of life is not a race. We do it in our own time, and our own way, and it’s OK to not be fine. Read the full post here.
Hope is the Thing With Feathers
We think life is all or nothing. Straight up happiness or abject misery. The truth falls somewhere messy in-between. Hope is the thing with feathers. Read the full post here.
7 Self-Care Practices for When Life Feels Painful
In painful seasons of life when it feels like we’re drowning it can feel incredibly hard to see our way forward. These 7 self-care practices help me show up when life is painful. Read the full post here.
Tell the Truth
We don’t help each other when we gloss over the painful parts of life – we simply reinforce the myth that we ought to just think happy thoughts and rise above. Read the full post here.
5 Habits to Help You Show Up With Strength When You Must Begin Again
Forced or willingly there come times in life when familiar ground falls away and we are thrust into turbulence or transition and must begin again. Read the full post here.
Holding Your Breath: When Your Child Dies
When you lose your young adult child…processing some of my personal grief journey out loud. Maybe it’ll help another parent feel less alone. Read the full post here.
What Surrender Sounds & Feels Like 9 Months After Losing a Child
Letting go of a child feels like creating a safe and special corner of my mind and heart in which to gather and house my memories to make room for hopeful possibilities. Read the full post here.
Walking Each Other Home: 19 Gifts as I Walked My Son Home
Walking each other home is a privilege, even in its heartbreak. Here are 19 gifts I’ve picked up as I walked alongside my son through the final year of his life. Read the full post here.
When you have witnessed the suffering of someone you love and helped bury them deep in the soil. And your soul feels like it is being rent in two. Wail. Release the deep guttural groans that speak what a thousand sermons never could. Then remind yourself to breathe again. Read the full post.
GRIEF JOURNAL: THE FIRST 15 MONTHS
After my son died, a small voice told me that if I could just get through the first 100 days, somehow I’d survive this. Writing was one way that I survived a pain so deep and wide I was sure it would swallow me whole. This is raw and honest. Read it here.
RESOURCES TO HELP YOU WALK THROUGH GRIEF
Art Scholarship in My Son’s Name
My son was an artist and I’ve created the O’DaviDesign art scholarship in his name to honour the fuller, beautiful truth of who he was and to hopefully help remove shame and stigma and share a message of hope around living mental illness. Learn more, appy, or donate here.
Winter Mindfulness Journal – $11 USD
This Seasonal Mindfulness Journal offers 13 weeks of reflections and journaling prompts that invite you to pause & consider (along with blank pages for note taking or journaling your thoughts and emotion). Winter Seasons are not only about snow and frigid temperatures. They can also look and feel like times of liminal space, deep grief, or a dark night of the soul. Learning to stay present with what is, to rest and witness our strength and give ourselves permission to tell the truth about it all helps us navigate winter with courage and resilience. My winter journal was mostly complete before my son died and all proceeds help fund the O’DaviDesign Scholarship in Jairus’ name.
Rooted & Resilient Mini-Course – $57 USD
I created this mini-course in the few months after my son died while I was still living in the thick wilds of grief. I taught the material to the women inside my Brave & Beautiful Community and as I taught I also practiced living rooted and resilient. Strong enough to survive this horrendous loss. We can consciously work to build resilience proactively (which is what the course will help you with), but resilience is also forged in the fire.
IT’S OK THAT YOU’RE NOT OK: MEETING GRIEF AND LOSS IN A CULTURE THAT DOESN’T UNDERSTAND
When my son died I read lots of memoir of loss and learning to live and thrive again after loss. I needed to be reminded that surviving this was possible. I do not find most books on grief itself to be helpful. The one exception for me is this book by Megan Devine (my referral link). Megan speaks my language and “invites us to build a life alongside the grief rather than seeking to overcome it.”
child-loss grief support group
This group for women navigating child-loss is run by Leith McHugh (a kind and welcoming soul with lived experience of child loss). The group typically runs the first Thursday of each month, 6-8 pm MT. Register Here (FREE): https://www.eventbrite.com/e/left-of-center-tickets-104212929678
INTERVIEWS TO HELP YOU live brave and whole after loss
Writer and podcaster Nora McInerny shares her hard-earned wisdom about life and death. She encourages us to shift how we approach grief. “A grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again,” she says. “They’re going to move forward. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve moved on.” WATCH HERE.
In this interview with Kathy Escobar we talk about loving ourselves tenderly as we wander, stumble, and continue to hope. Kathy and I met and became friends after our sons died by suicide 5 days apart from each other. Readers of both our work connected us. WATCH HERE.