In January of 2017, my son, Jonah, was stillborn at 30 weeks gestation. I immediately began writing to express my intense grief on a blog I titled Letters to Jonah.
When I first began writing my letters to Jonah and sharing them with the world, I was terrified. The feelings that I express there are raw, uninhibited, and difficult. The letters are my deepest and most personal of thoughts, published for all to see. I was worried how people would react. Would I make people cry? Would other loss moms find comfort in knowing what I'm going through is maybe similar to their own experience of grief? Would my friends respond with empathy, or feel intimidated by my grief and retreat?
Before sharing Letters to Jonah on my own Facebook profile, I tested it out in a closed group for loss moms. I had to give my words to them first, to gain confidence to post them publicly. It was their responses that gave me the courage I needed to take the next step. One of them, though, really stood out to me and made me pause. Another loss mom told me that she loved my writing, and that I was doing a beautiful job of expressing my grief with grace and love.
What does that mean, expressing my grief with grace? Nothing about this experience has been very graceful...I feel like I'm being pushed around, falling clumsily through this, hanging on to anything I can grab to keep myself from falling. What did this commenter see in me that was at all graceful? Perhaps it was just about my writing...or was it about the way I'm grieving?
It's hard to know exactly what she meant, but that phrase has really stuck with me, to the point where I think I've figured it out. Or at least, I've figured out what it means to me.
Grieving with grace doesn't mean that you're not fumbling around, reaching out for whatever will hold you up for a minute; family, friends, books, the words of others.
It means you're being gentle with yourself. Allowing yourself space to be sad, or be angry, or lonely, or bitter, or whatever it is you're feeling in that moment.
It's acknowledging the fact that you're going through life with the heaviest of hearts, and doing what you can to care for it with soft hands. It means that you're doing whatever you can to practice self-love, whether that's getting a massage, taking a bath, reading for an entire day in bed, coloring, writing, or whatever it is that comforts and heals you just a little right now.
Listen to your heart. It might be broken, but it will still tell you what you need. Sit quietly with your eyes closed and breathe deeply, and you'll hear it. Heed what it says, and by practicing self-love, you'll grieve with grace.
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