One year ago today my nephew was born sleeping. My own grief cycle began that day.
Some days I try to minimize my own grief. “James wasn’t MY son. What is my grief compared to Dora’s? Goodness, it’s been months/I have Rainier/I never even met him/why do I take this so personally?”
Sometimes I feel like I have no right to share my grief. All of my minimizing leads me to think that nobody needs to hear me complain. People MIGHT be willing to comfort a grieving mother, but a grieving auntie…? I probably used all their patience for my grief in about the first month.
So. Not. True.
One thing I have learned over the last year is that grieving as a community is one of the fastest ways to avoid being “stuck” in a part of the grief cycle. When I’ve isolated myself in my grief I have a hard time seeing hope. The act of sharing James and my connection with him has allowed me to release each stage of grief and move on to the next. It doesn’t matter that James isn’t my son, it doesn’t matter that I’ve been through this cycle before, it doesn’t matter that I have our family’s rainbow baby helping me unload the dishwasher every day.
My grief is real.
I grieve the loss of Rainier’s cousin-twin and the hole that leaves every time our family spends time together. I grieve for my sister-in-law and her broken momma heart. I grieve the loss of a nephew to love. I grieve that Ellie Jo has to grapple with death at such a young age. I grieve not getting to watch a beautiful little person grow up.
I share my grief because I believe that everyone around me is also grieving something. When I realized that my grief was just as real as any grieving mother I also realized that validates the grief all around me. Nobody has the worst grief. We all hurt. We all cry. And we can all help each other by sharing our pain. It doesn’t matter that nobody *quite* understands all the nuances of my grief for James…they understand the hurt and that makes it bearable.
All year I’ve meditated on the thought that James brought more love into the world just by being born. Somehow the love and wonder that I expected to use on a sweet nephew are now ready to be used in other ways. I think that the reciprocal nature of communal grief allows me to share that love when people share their own grief with me. This is one way that I can make sure that James and his legacy continue to make a difference in the world.
Happy first birthday, James.
*note* When sharing grief communally I keep this mantra in mind, “Dump out, not in.”