After Sandy Hook, a number of my ‘helpful’ friends posted photo’s of their 5 and 6 year olds, so that we could all understand what five and six looked like, so we could all understand exactly who died.
I get this.
I don’t have a five year old to post a photo of. I suppose that’s the whole point of this post. I don’t have a five year old, I have empty arms. And if you will excuse my bluntness, or even if you won’t, that’s what I’m going to talk about.
Because I don’t have a five year old. Because I have empty arms. Because like twenty families, I understand grief in a way that you never will. I would appreciate it if you could stop with the photo’s and listen to me, for just a bit.
The father with the days of stubble; the one whose hands move here and there, picking this up, putting this down, always moving. The father who walks into the garage and pulls out every single box, re-organizing and sorting. The father who cannot stop the organization, trying desperately to return order to a chaos controlled world.
The mother who sits in a corner chair, looking like her mind has left her body? The woman who stands up to do something and then sits back down, the very act of standing too much to bear? The woman who cannot keep stay seated and cannot stand?
The family who with eyes closed or wide open replays moments over and over and over. The family who can get no rest, no relief from the silent movie in their minds. No sleep will knit up this raveled sleeve of care for months.
The moments when they think that they must tell those children something, when they realize that it is time to cook breakfast, time to brush hair, the idle moment’s thought that they must buy new socks or replace jeans that are now to short. And the horrible mushroom cloud of stillness and loss when you realize that none of this is required. Henceforth, it shall never be required again.
The couple who wince at the light, at the noise, at the kindness and the overwhelming emotion of strangers? The ones who have had to let you in – with your photo’s and your sentiment – into their private grief? The ones who told you about their child in broken and halting words, repeating the same phrase over and over?
This is grief.
This is loss.
This is pain.
I don’t have a five year old, but I can sit here and I can type this. I can tell you about that woman, that man, those families. I can tell you from intimate memory, painful recollection . Tell me about your children.
I will tell you what the broken and the grieving look like. I will tell you, this is pain beyond what you could ever imagine.