We invite you to remember your loved ones who have died by committing an act of kindness in their honor. Love, kindness, generosity, sharing, these are the gifts we can give to them.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Year Message of Thanks and Reflection

Happy New Year to all—I hope that your holiday was peaceful and bright. I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to all of you who participated in Theo’s stocking this year. We had so m any wonderful contributions whose lasting effects will continue to extend far beyond this blog.

I recognize that the initial motivation to begin Theo’s Stocking was purely selfish. As my dear friend Joanne Cacciatore has reminded me in the past, “Grief is narcissistic”. And it is. One’s grief, my grief, feels purely mine. The narcissism of grief is that which causes a bereaved person to feel as though she is all alone, that he is all alone, that no one has ever felt this kind of pain, this deep a loss, this profound a sadness. No one else can possibly understand or know the depth and breadth of your loss. And it is true, no one can and never truly will. Your grief is yours alone. My grief is mine. Even others who have lost a child, who also know the searing and lasting pain that comes with the death of a beloved child, cannot know the particulars of my grief. We can support each other but we cannot truly know the daily reality of another person’s loss. So we are alone in many ways—and in so many others we are not. It is in remembering the ways in which we are not alone that can save us from total emotional devastation.

In sharing Theo’s stocking with, potentially, the whole world I think we have taken a very healing step. Before I wrote that, I thought about saying, “a step toward wholeness”, but I cannot honestly say that. We will never be truly whole again. And that is just the way it is. That is not a statement about a refusal to “get better” or an attempt to to hold on to pain or grief. It’s just the way it is. There is no getting around the fact that a cherished member of our family will always be missing from our lives.

When you lose a child, you lose all the potentiality that child brings into the world. We miss out on all the significant milestones—walking, talking, playing, the first day of school, proms, graduation, weddings, mistakes, victories. We also miss out on relationships with all the other people Theo would have brought into our life—his friends, his spouse, his children. All that is missing is painfully obvious on a daily basis, but most glaringly at holidays and special times—his birthday, the anniversary of his death, Mother’s Days, Father’s Days. Healing from the pain of grief can occur, but the invisible scars are always there—and like a lot of injuries, sometimes they ache, sometimes those wounds can be downright excruciating. As time goes on, it gets easier to navigate through life with a piece of your heart missing—you learn how to cope, how to manage it. Almost three years after his death, it feels very, very different than it did the first year. But it still hurts. Soemtimes it hurts more than other times. Sometimes I cry. I still think of Theo every single day. There will never come a day that I do not think of my son. He is always in my heart. He is always in Jamie’s heart.

This Christmas was really wonderful—it was Lula’s first Christmas and even though she didn’t really get that it was Christmas, she had a great time and she is just such a joy every day. Jamie says it was the best Christmas he ever had—because he spent it with Lula and with me. But it was also very hard, because it was Lula’s first Christmas and no matter how much I love her, I couldn’t help but be reminded that Theo never had that magical, beautifiul first Christmas filled with joy and wonder and laughter. His first and only Christmas we spent saddened beyond belief, knowing that we would not have a next Christmas with him. It was a peaceful holiday, we were together, but we were so heavy-hearted. A bit of that sadness stays with us and will for all Christmases to come. It may get a bit easier each year—but it is still there.

Sharing Theo’s Stocking with all of you and all of you willing to share not only with us this year, but with anyone reading, has been a beautiful part of our healing process. The sharing of all the contributions this year has felt like uncurling just a tiny bit more from the tiny ball that grief can turns us into. It can feel like a tight, tiny ball that is very dense—very dense and full of the pain of loss. It is very hard to unfurl something that tight and closed. I think Anais Nin said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”. Opening from the pain of grief might take a long time. It can be very scary. Even small movements, small openings can cause us to feel very vulnerable.

I appreciate so very much the words of encouragment, the assurance from so many of you that thoughts and memories of Theo continue on in your hearts and your actions. I also cherish the thought of these Acts of Kindness having a kind of ripple effect across the world, even across the Universe. In releasing some of the narcissism of grief—instead of holding on to the Acts of Kindness done in Theo’s honor, just for ourselves—in sharing them with potentially the whole world—we have allowed these acts to have a much farther reaching. Placing this blog and asking you all to contribute created the first ripple, each contribution, each email we received, each story, eact act of giving, of kindness, of love, of selflessness, created the next ripple and then the next and the next, on and on. Beyond that, each of you who read the stories took them into your own hearts and in doing so were changed by them. Possibly you were moved to tears, perhaps motivated to be more aware of your own actions and how they impact others, maybe you continued to engage in acts of kindness for your own reasons, beyond Theo’s Stocking, to help others—more ripples. Each person who benefitted from your kind acts, kind thoughts, your smile, your love, may have then created his or her own ripples. This is one more piece of evidence that we are all connected, even when it feels like we aren’t.

My wish is that the blooming and the ripples will continue onward and outward, as energy always does, spurred on by the most pure motive of love. For me, the knowledge that at the heart of it all is the pure love of my sweet baby Theo, brings peace and comfort and seems fitting with who he was, is, and will always be—a beautiful, powerful soul, who in the in the body of a tiny baby present for such a short time here on earth, touched the lives of so very many. May he continue to do so and to be present with us all through love which is stronger than death.

Jamie and Lula and I wish you all a happy and peaceful 2009.