Beautifully broken through grief

February 23, 2020

Remembering Ryan with a rewrite of a story I wrote a few years ago 

12/7/87 - 2/23//93

Beautifully broken

Searching for validation, I set forth on a journey to fill the blank space that grief had cast upon me. The emptiness  engraved on my soul transferred to the pain unleashed from loss; death hijacked my heart and the fragments I battled to preserve were scattered debris encircling me.

Reaching for a powerful concoction to numb the torment and heal the broken pieces I tipped back another glass, dissolving my pain in the fruity warmth awaiting an answer. But misery does not surface with the solution, and the numbness, only temporary, never extinguished the heavy burden of loss. There are no instructions to surviving the loss of my son, just an invitation to stay one more day.

Tormented by this overwhelm I unpacked my options to breath. My fury with God highlights my unanswered prayers and my inability to mend this ache. I begged for the day when I could laugh without crying, feel joy without guilt and  finally, let go of the breath I keep holding. Hesitation lingers with every decision on this twisted path, and I wade in this trench that is grief; life suspended by the time it takes to heal a wound this massive. 

My fragile state reveals a disguise for each emotion; tears storm in angrily, clashing with resentment as I stumble to embrace the exhausted calm that arrives when everything else is depleted. Grief; the unwelcome guest, barged in on my future and slammed the doors on my past.

A narrative one can never fathom has me immersed so deeply in sorrow I rarely come up for air. This downward spiral is where I write him the stories of my heart. Spattered words cover the page. Spilling this fury amidst the remains once secured with love, now tethered in sorrow.

People who once surrounded me begin to fall away, returning to their uninterrupted lives; yet for years I linger in despair. Here, where grief gets real; I stand alone, cradling the shambles of life, unable to maneuver. Each day I wake to the shock of this new reality as people slowly fade from the scene. It is only news for others when the shock of reality steers clear from their lives, sympathy wanes as life resumes and you have to discover how to live again.

Ruminating with the messy pieces of my life, I become mesmerized by griefs process. Finally I assemble a course to guide me through, the only way I can manage, with time and words, and the space to be me. Ready to uncover the comfort I need, I will reach into the fog of the past and remember who I was. My identity broken as I shift with the grace that grief provides. Slowly, as I examine the tear-stained journals that still fill my days, I narrow my focus. Oblivious to others opinions on my progress, I push through the mangled remains and begin my own journey.

Gradually I rise, admiring the beauty finally revealed, the love and memories that can never be lost. Although still awkward and stumbling I thrive in this space I am given. Growing stronger as I recognize the choices before me. One filled with bitterness and resentment or one filled with beauty, compassion and kindness.

Broken pieces fall away as I repeatedly witness the pity in the faces of those who learn of my bereavement; casually they step aside as if loss is contagious.

Grief has taught me many things:

1. A new way of living

2. The tenderness in caring for ourselves

3. How to treat others with a kind heart, especially during the messy seasons.

Occasionally I still fall when I silently witness another celebration beyond what Ryan would ever see. These moments deliver a sadness that is drizzled onto me like honey, a sticky mess rendering me powerless for words. Quietly I will mourn this space, a little broken but still moving on, admiring the wounds that brought me strength and the fortitude necessary to keep going.

As I write these words the sun warms me through the window and I reflect on the many memories in my heart. Tears well my eyes as I mourn the life I will never know, the 5 year old that will never grow.

Nothing has gone the way we would have planned, yet somehow, I carry onto the resilience that his legacy has provided, even when all that is left are the faded memories of his life.


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  • February 23, 2020 @ 2:20 PM EST
    By Rhea Tantlinger
    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL....I Love you much...XOXO
  • February 23, 2020 @ 9:59 AM EST
    By Jane Cullin
    I get it. I loved teaching your kids. You sure did something right. My Zachary changed me forever. I wish I could write.

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