An open letter to the grieving

Three months ago my home town community lost a great soul. And that loss has been met with incredible grief, and compassion, and community. In the time since Jordan's passing, I've thought a lot about my life, my ambitions, my goals, my fears, my failures, and my successes. I've revisited old hurts, old anger, old fear... and what I realized is that I never worked through the grief.

Grieving is complicated, and it's messy, and it hurts - it's something that no one wants to feel or go through. It can be isolating, and suffocating, and unfortunately it seems to go on a lot longer than you anticipate - because there are no rules to grief. There isn't a set time frame to heal.

Grief is like an unwelcomed roommate that moves into your soul - constantly reminding you of the life you will never have because of what you've lost. Grief... it's painful. But it also has the incredible ability to heal.

Every day people post things on the celebration page that was set up in memory of Jordan. I am witness to so much love, and memories, and how much hurt people are carrying with them. Each trying in their own way to honor this person, to not forget, to not let go...

The one thing I do know about grief is that you can't run away from it, and hope you eventually get strong enough to face it. It will still be there, teeth sharp, angry, hopeless, riddled with guilt - waiting for you to acknowledge it's existence. But, it has to be felt. And I know that's terrifying... and I know that people will try to avoid those in the grieving process because they are afraid to upset the person, and not know the right thing to say. There is no right thing to say. Only true compassion and love can speak to grief. And you, the grieving, may not feel strong enough to face this. But you ARE strong. You've already lived through the worst moment in your life. You are strong.

I admit I haven't been all that strong over the years. But I can feel myself pulling up the bootstraps, and getting on with it. It's not easy, and it has been painful. But that's the thing about pain. It's a necessary evil that is part of life. A life well lived experiences both great joy, and great suffering - tears, and laughter. And just because you struggle, doesn't mean you've failed. It means you're human, and you're living the most real of all human stories.

I've experienced quite a bit of loss in my life - but nothing to the extent of losing a child the way Jordan's parents have - or losing a husband the way his wife Sarah has. And I honestly don't know what I would do faced with that loss. But these people... how they have rallied. There hasn't been a beat missed. There has just been more love, and honor, and giving since his passing - this small town community has been brought to life through the death of one of it's members. It makes me question - what was I running away from? That's rhetorical. I know the answer.

I absolutely loathe grief, but I am grateful for it's life lessons. This community knows love... because they have lost what they love. And I know what it is to hope, because I have lost hope before. We also know what it is to dream - because life isn't always going to lead us down the path we've dreamt of. Grief teaches us what is most important.

It can also open your heart. Once you've experienced a loss, and have gone through this process of grieving - you change. You become more compassionate, and understanding, and empathetic to others. You will walk with them, you will cry with them, and you will be their anchor not because you say the right things, but because of what you felt.

And I know that there are those of us in this community that fear we will never know joy again. That the tears will never stop coming. That this empty aching inside will never fill will love to make us whole again. Grieving is the prelude to joy. Mourning our losses, that is what will bring us back to happiness. Being happy doesn't mean that we're forgetting, or letting go of those we've lost - we're honoring them by honoring our lives, moving forward with open hearts, and living with great joy.

Happy Birthday, Jordan. Give 'em hell up there. We'll all raise a glass to you down here.


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