Category Archives: the grief masks we wear

‘The weight of loss may never go away, but we learn how to carry it…’ 

Since the loss of our beautiful brown eyed boy Jacob at 20 years of age after a short 13 month battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, I have made a promise to myself that I live out the rest of my life in ways that would make him proud. I talk about him often and own the bad days and the tears. I am proud of the tears because it means I have loved and lost. No one knows how they are going to handle the grief of losing a child. I’m not sure if I’m doing it right – if there is a wrong or right way. But I just know it’s the right way for me. It is as individual as DNA and a thumbprint. Unique to that person.
I’m not sure if it has been long enough since we’ve lost Jacob to say we’ve picked up any ‘grief rituals.’ We’ve really just muddled through his first Heavenly birthday, Christmas and 1st angelversary without him in the spanning of 12 short months. No one really knows how we will cope – we just do what we do cause it’s our way and it feels right for us. But there are some things that I’ve started to do that you could call a ‘grief ritual.’ I am more grateful for everyday I’m blessed with, to be alive when it is denied to so many, I’m learning to ‘smile’ again – see miracles in life everyday, we get Jacob out of his cardboard box as his life size cut out at every family function to know that he’s physically there with us all to have photos taken with, we scatter a little bit of his ashes at favourite holiday beaches and places he’s never even been to but was planning to go one day, his sister Rach and her boyfriend Adam will be taking him on Route 66 at the end of the year – a place he dreamed of going with his best friend Chris, we ring his bell outside at family get-togethers making sure everyone has a drink in hand to give him a toast. I’m sure we’ll come up with more ‘grief rituals’ over time.

I remember doing one of those quizzes on Facebook finding out which side of the brain I work on more. As if it was scientific fact that this quiz was at all correct it revealed that I used the right side of my brain more than the left which controlled instinct, art, emotion, imagination, memory, creativity and music. Since losing Jacob I have rediscovered my creative side of my brain which gladly needed tweaking and awakening as the feeling of grief and loss tends to leave you pretty numb and unresponsive to finding new things to get you through the day. I have been able to create so many beautiful and meaningful projects to honour the feelings of losing Jacob. Some of the creations were created by all the good emotions guided by all the wonderful memories and moments of his life and others were created by the all negativity and sadness that comes hand in hand with grief of losing a child. But the total amount of effort for the all the pieces of artwork regardless of what emotion that was driving force behind the creation was equal. We have his memorial bar outside with a plaque on it saying ‘capturing the chaos and creativity in Heaven on film.’ A couple of permanent markers are on the bar so people can write him a message, it’s the one time graffiti is allowed. I am using Jacob’s camera still to capture the world through his eyes, keeping us connected by what I see through the lens of his camera. 

I guess I could say the words in my blog that I continue to write that are dedicate to Jacob are my creative heartworks too. I write from the heart as stories of memories, love and grief.  ‘Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world…’ and the soul always knows what to do to heal itself. When completing an online course for bereaved parents I had to think of a tangible object to personify grief. Grief to me is like an onion, I peel back the layers, I forgive the past, I let it go. I feel the gratitude flow. I am slowly peeling off many layers of me to find myself. This is a more suitable way for me to view my grief in a tangible form – the humble vegetable that grows deep dark underground and alone – the onion. The best pick of the onion lies above the ground in the long green stems that grow and reach for the warmth of the sun. We too need to reach for the things that warms our heart in times of grief and our tears as we cut through the onion can also help with personal growth for the good days and the one’s we’d give anything not to feel the way we do. 

I’m quite ok with thinking like Shrek – ‘onions have layers, ogres have layers.’ We all have layers.