There’s an old philosophy that I read about at the very beginning of my heartbreak. I might have been a few weeks or a few months into grieving my son’s death, in reality time is arbitrary. The idea is that when something breaks, you try to put it back together again, but not in a way where you attempt to cover up the break completely. The cracks are melded together with golden glue, so the broken bits are highlighted and seen. Instead of the break being negative - something to hide or cover up - the break and all it’s many shattered bits are celebrated, as the creation of something new and… beautiful.
When I read about this idea all those months and years ago, I think my reaction was to tell my laptop to fuck off and bury myself in bed sheets stained in tears. This wasn’t anything I wanted to hear, I didn’t want to be told that my heartbreak was beautiful in any way, because all I felt was numbing pain. For a long time I searched online and in books to find a way to put words to my pain, like if someone could string a sentence together exactly the way I was feeling, it wouldn’t seem so hard to bare. I was looking for the ability to voice my heartbreak, not realizing that it was within me to sing free.
Since then I have spent time writing out my feelings, journaling my transition from the complete body paralysis of acute loss to living daily life with my sadness tucked away in quiet corners. It rises and falls with the flow of life, sometimes rearing it’s head on a gloomy Tuesday, or staying scares for weeks on end. The act of writing has given me a space to be honest and completely truthful with myself, the ability to say words and phrases on paper that are impossible to utter out-loud. It’s been like therapy for me, a chance to shed layer by layer without telling anyone it’s happening, and as a result it feels like the safest way to heal.
Perhaps you are also on the path to healing, or maybe you’re at the very beginning of loss and all it’s sharp pain. Either way, at some point you will begin to soften at the edges and let a tiny bit of light in. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still grieving, it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t carry a heavy weight within you, always. But it does mean that you can allow yourself - in time - to pick a shattered piece up, smooth the dust off with your thumb, and begin to assemble a new version of yourself. I may be proven wrong down the road, but I truly don’t think you can ever go back to the person you were before enduring great loss. The different version of you isn’t anything you asked for, but how can a person possibly step back into a life that existed before everything crashed around them in death. For a long time I didn’t want to be a new version of myself, I didn’t want to move forward in any way that meant leaving my son behind. But, the hard & truthful realization came slowly over the years that no matter what I want, my son is gone. No matter how long I stayed in the depths of despair, no matter how deep I sunk into the mud, it didn’t bring him any closer to me, not in the way that mattered. I’m not saying that being lost in my sorrow wasn’t necessary, but I am saying that it didn’t heal me. Slowly, so very slowly, I shed layers of darkness and began to pick up more pieces of my crumbled self. I became stronger with each word I wrote, with each story I shared. The person I am today is shaped by my son who died, my daughters Down syndrome diagnosis, the death of my Dad. Events that took my breath away and brought me to my knees. Events that shaped the person I have grown into.
And now? Well, now I have realized that no one can put words to my broken heart, except for me alone. I don’t have to be afraid when I feel myself drop to my lowest, I don’t have to hide the sadness inside of me, and I don;t have to be ashamed of being happy, because it’s all become a part of what makes me, me. My shattered pieces have almost all been picked up and dusted off, but they will never fit together like they once did. I’ve been afraid to say that I am healing, because healing means your scars have smoothed and your pain vanished. If you have a heart like mine, you know that will never, ever be true. So instead, I’ll say that I am forever in creation, allowing the hard edges of me to fit together in new ways, some not fitting together at all and allowing myself to love the gaps that are left between. This new shape of my heart is not heart shaped at all, but a giant mass of something I have managed to pull together with every ounce of courage I have. But the real victory will be when we can all stand back and look at the misshapen giant beating in our chests and recognize it as ourselves - our new, different, beautiful, stuck together with golden glue, selves.