I did something the other day that I hadn’t done in a long time. I put on a top that I wore a few times when I was pregnant with my first son. That might sound strange but my pregnancy ended with me and my tiny baby being very ill. My son was birthed at 24 weeks and died of prematurity 15 days later. A lot of time was spent in hospital and when returning home I realised that most items I wore whilst there incited memories of horror.
The belongings that were dragged from room to endless room came to resemble trauma and loss and un-comprehensible sadness. So I threw out the things that caused me the most despair.
Knowing that they would never bring me joy again, I hoped that someone shopping in the Salvo’s store could transform the sadness embedded in my discarded wares into something much more pleasant.
The experience that I had endured was firmly imprinted on my mind and evident on my scarred body, so parting with certain items from my time in hospital didn’t really do much. Except maybe it tricked me into believing I had some kind of desperately sought after control.
I had tried to bury them at the bottom of a drawer but on the odd occasion that we crossed paths I felt physical pain and I surmised that I already had enough pain, and so I set them free.
The glasses that I had worn every day bought me nothing but annoyance too. The times I’d glanced at my reflection with them on unable to recognise the face returning the stare haunted me. The drawn, sickly, scared and vulnerable women that I had seen in the mirror seemed like she had somehow become trapped in the frames and so I took to wearing contact lenses until I could replace the specs.
I know it seems unusual and maybe it is. My trauma had become deeply associated with tangible things that I could touch and smell, and the only way to escape them was to discard them all together. That way the pain that seemed inescapable was actually somewhat malleable.
By taking this small action I was convinced that I’d miraculously garnered some leverage over a situation completely outside of my command. It was a small gesture which served a purpose and helped me move a single step over the slippery and rocky path of grief I was negotiating at snail pace.
Something else unusual happened too. Instead of replacing the trauma inducing items with cheap knockoffs I bought nice pieces. A leather handbag, on sale of course and clothing that flattered my new body. For the first time in my life I began to honour my needs and wants and sought to deliver them lovingly to myself.
Don’t get me wrong I also spent mountains of time beating myself up and feeling more sorry for myself than you could imagine but I also started to slowly awaken to the realisation that it served me to no end to take exceptionally good care of myself.
When my health made a comeback and it was deemed safe I started exercising again. I could always tell when I had overdone it and would heed my body’s warning to recover but before too long the movement enticed my frame to respond favourably.
I put myself first, which was quite a shock really and made taking care of my needs a priority for the first time in my life. I felt like I was being called to do so and that for some reason I could no longer accept the same things for myself.
Everything had changed and it was time to behave differently and more in line with what my wellbeing required. At a time when I couldn’t have felt any lower, I didn’t revert to beating myself up or adding to the sadness. I could do nothing else but be gentle and loving with myself. I found it remarkable.
Grief is a tricky beast and it doesn’t tend to ever leave you. Once it has shaken you to your core it tends to burrow into a warm place in the background and then settles in for the ride. It might rear up from time to time depending on circumstances but you find a way to live together and accept each other’s presence and triggers.
Having my son and then grieving his loss taught me that true love is transformative. He left my heart wide open even after his physical presence was gone. To have experienced that soul shaking love, to know such sweetness and perfection is an extraordinary gift.
When you lose a life that was taken far too early it’s truly gut-wrenching and when you stand and look at the ashes of trauma and despair you realise you must make a choice about how you plan to rebuild. I sat on my pile of ashes for a long time wondering if it was possible to make anything pretty from it. He made the choice obvious.
My sons love was so pure and so heart opening that it felt as if his very essence was calling forth my best self. The love he gave, made me feel like I had been touched by the Divine. Not something that is easy to separate from. Yet I don’t think he removed it when he left. I think some of it settled into a permanent place in my soul along with the grief and the heartache as a way of softening the hard edges of pain that I would have to endure.
As I move from stage to stage negotiating my new life, although the grief has a voice I realise that the love speaks much louder. It’s as if my son’s gift is to quietly suggest that I embrace my truth and not run away from it. I’m more emotional, more comfortable being vulnerable, sometimes at least, and I feel as if the love he gave me is clearly visible in my life.
Now years later I stand in my power knowing completely that he left something beautiful with me. The love he gave me and his teachings will stay with me forever.
So the top I put on certainly wasn’t anything special. I jazzed it up with a nice scarf and it took on a new form because I had taken on a new form. It no longer possessed the grief and loss that I had projected onto it and instead reflected the new person who wore it.
Even though I might be slightly rougher around the edges, when I look in the mirror I focus on the resilience and strength and the scared frightened women has taken leave from the fabric.
I guess it’s up to us to recognise when great love arrives and to embrace it no matter what form it takes. Sometimes it comes in packages so small that it’s a shock when you realise exactly how much they’re actually jamming in there.
Unfortunately, it won’t always be the case that the person who delivers great love to you will be with you forever. They may have been on a tragically short ride but had the ability to make the most extraordinary impact.
Someone may be with you for the briefest and sweetest of times but it is up to you to find a way to hold the space for them and to continue to keep that love safe. Most importantly you have to find a way to allow the magic of love to work through your life to bring you greater awareness of your own connection to Divinity and to see how this unique tapestry brings you closer to the truth of who you are.