At the start of the summer, I had a conversation with a loved one who asked some very difficult, thought-provoking questions about Aiden’s death, our grief, and the choices we have made in sharing elements of that process publicly.
Some of the questions posed throughout the conversation were:
“Do you always want to be known as the mom who lost a baby?”
“Do you know you’re making some people feel uncomfortable?”
And, “What’s your end game to all this?”
These questions (and others) came from a place of love and, though painful, have caused deep introspection throughout the past three months.
While I believe the conversation was well-intended, the underlying message was that in order to prove that I have healed from our loss, to show that I have “moved on”, I must stop talking about my son. It connotes that grief is shameful and should be processed only behind closed doors. It suggests that there is an appropriate timeline for loss. It implies that talking about death is taboo – that our loved ones who no longer inhabit their bodies are relegated to the realm of “unmentionables” and should be left there and forgotten.
And those are viewpoints that I fundamentally disagree with. So much so, that I could (and did) write a whole book about it. 😉
I believe that we grieve deeply, because we love deeply. I believe that grief is far more prevalent in our society than we will ever know because there are countless individuals suffering silently due to fear. These grievers are afraid that their pain will be mocked, or minimalized, or misunderstood. Because, when they have been bravely vulnerable in the past, it often HAS BEEN mocked, or minimalized, or misunderstood.
So, they learn to be quiet. To bottle up. They wrap those tender memories and aching love for their lost ones into a sacred box, then carefully tuck it into a corner of the crater Loss left behind in their heart.
It feels safer this way, less damaging somehow, to sit alone with that hallowed heartache, than to release it into a myopic minefield of misunderstanding. But in that lonely, quiet void, we lose one of our greatest resources for renewal - the healing power of shared sorrow.
Trying to heal ALONE is heavy.
Choosing to heal TOGETHER is freeing.
Healing together enables the restorative power found in Communication, Connection and Contribution.
For me, healing has been found through my faith in Jesus Christ, my belief in eternal families, and by practicing those three C’s. The more I communicate what is in my heart, the more connection is fostered with others, and the more contribution is achieved. It’s not always easy taking the first step into “the arena” as Brene Brown puts it. Being vulnerable comes with its risks and can be equal parts exhausting and rewarding. But in the end, the benefits of choosing vulnerability have far outweighed the risks.
That is why, I don’t mind being known as “the mom who lost a baby”. That is why, I don’t mind if a few people find my message uncomfortable. My “end game” has been, and always will be, to lift as many people as I can as we work together to climb our mountains of adversity. My end game is to live bolder and love deeper so when I see my son again someday, he will be pleased with how I grew, what I learned, and who I served in his honor.
Happy 5th Angelversary Aiden Burke - We are still aiming!