Monday, July 27, 2015

One Part of a Whole

When I wrote Rare Bird,  I had a lot of choice in what to include. It seemed overwhelming. I listened quietly and carefully to my heart, and many must-haves bubbled up: raw pain, Bible verses, miracles, Jack's OCD,  humor amidst the heartbreak, and even some curse words.

I was surprised I felt compelled to share about OCD, because although my readers knew Jack well, I had never been specific here on the blog about what his struggles were. I was reluctant to have just one part define him to others, because it certainly didn't define him to us. Jack was a kid with OCD, but he wasn't OCD.

Similarly, I am not my grief.


Grief is neither my identity, nor my essence. Certainly, it has given me a story to share, in openness and humility, in the hope that it will resonate with others and somehow foster healing for me and for someone else. But I am not grief, any more than someone else is childhood sexual abuse, anorexia, addiction, or cancer. I am Anna-- loyal, kindhearted, reliable, often lazy, searching, old before her years-- Anna. That's who I was, and who I am.

Of course losing a child has changed me in numerous ways. It has made me more aware of how fleeting life is. It has disabused me of my insular, privileged notion that life is "fair," and it has made room in my heart for more mystery and greater compassion. Grief has softened my heart to a hurting world, while at the same time making me less tolerant of petty concerns and less invested in surface relationships.

To CHANGE after such a loss honors the experience, acknowledges the magnitude of the earth-shift of my child going from here to "there" and says, "this is not something to be sloughed off, tamped down, or ignored. I will mine it for truth, growth, and somehow, for hope."

But grief is not who I am. I can promise you that.

Our experiences and our struggles inform us and shape us, but they did not create us. They did not give us a soul as unique as our fingerprint and as necessary to this world as a clear spring in a parched desert.

Jack was a child with OCD, but he wasn't his OCD.
The creek happened, but Jack is much, much more than a boy in a creek
I am a griever, but I am not my grief.

 What is one part of your story that will never be the whole story of YOU?


Kate Coveny Hood said...

So true Anna. Even the blessings don't define us. When I see that genetically gifted woman who looks so privileged in her expensive gym clothes getting into her luxury SUV in the middle of a weekday - I may feel the brief sting of envy, but I never assume that this single image encompasses her entire identity. And of course I have brave storytellers like you to thank for that. xo

Unknown said...

The parental meanness I experienced as a child is something that will always be a part of me. But, it doesn't define me, or my parenting. I won't let it; I'm so much more.

It's funny, these bits we give of ourselves online. Jack's OCD, even if alluded to, wouldn't likely have been fully explained, if that makes sense. We'll never know the total of another person's life, even if they give us a play by play. There will always be something not said, something mysterious, even inadvertently. But that's what makes our online lives so intriguing.

Ann Woodruff said...

My own lymphoma diagnosis in 2006 just months after adopting our daughter, with three biological children at home will not define me. It was a trying time, but it has helped shape me, give me perspective, driven me toward more lasting goals, and taught me so much about God and his love for us. Thank you for this post and reminder to not let our past define is a part of us, but not all of us.

Anonymous said...

The pregnancy that ended with an adoption will always be a part of me but does not define who I am. Somehow I knew when the judge said "Even if this is your only child..." that she would be my only child. She turns 30 this year. Its a milestone. Just another one that is not shared with me. I did not name her as I wanted to her to be one person, not one to me and one to her mother. It was the greatest gift I have ever given and the biggest heart break I have ever experienced. I pray that she is happy and health. And that her life is all that I wished it to be. The life I could not provide for her. That is the one thing that does not define me but will always be a part of me. Forgive me for making the comment anonymous.

Diane Romagnoli said...

What an apropos post! I've just returned from selling equipment used in my cracker bakery that has been closed for a bit. The equipment has been in storage at my son Matt's family business--the business he ran when alive. The family business has been sold and I needed to move the equipment out of the warehouse, finally closing this chapter in my life and one of Matty's as well--bittersweet. When I looked at the ovens, they were wrapped and on pallets labeled 'Matt's Mom'. A moniker that I have carried since Matt's entry into daycare, attendance in schools from elementary through college;all the team sports he'd participated in; introduced as to sundry friends and parents of friends. A name I love and cherish. I will always be Matt's Mom but it is not the whole of me albeit a very large part. I am no longer the Cracker Queen, another nickname that I was bestowed from my baker days. Another nickname that I loved and cherished. Another part of the whole. I blog about Matthew now, another part and not the whole and a thought he has left me with is "you have to go through the whole-mess of life before you can put the pieces of whole-ness together. Thank you for sharing your grief and healing Anna you are certainly helping me through mine.

Unknown said...

I'm new to your site, it was shown to me through the grief toolbox and ,as I read about your son, I was overcome with my grief once again, as I saw the date jack passed away. My son Branden Camargo passed away September 8, 2014, so you see I'm not quite at a year since he died. The Lord brought me to you and prayers for us both.

Peg said...

"Grief has softened my heart to a hurting world, while at the same time making me less tolerant of petty concerns and less invested in surface relationships." What a great line to sum up what my path of grief has been for me. I'm still trying to figure out "who" I am after our experience, but I regularly try to make sure our family isn't defined by tragedy.

As usual, a lovely, thoughtful post.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Excellent post Anna, very profound. I'm thinking about your question....

claire plante said...

Dear Anna,

I love your writing, and I have to say this is one of my favorite blog posts of yours. Thank you for the gift of this today. I have printed it out and have read it several times … am keeping it in my calendar to go back to here and there.

Lots of love,

Kir said...

This, your beautiful words and observations, took my breath away.
How many times do we remind ourselves that we are so many parts and pieces instead of being "infertile" or "blonde" or "imperfect". We question ourselves as much as the outside world does sometimes.

Thank you for this reminder. Reading this I thought of my mother and how she lives every day while being the woman who was a widow and then lost her son. It gave me new perspective, it offered me a look into how she's feeling now and probably forevermore.

There is no one way to grieve, there is no one label for who you are now as opposed to before.

thank you for this. Love to you my friend.

Unknown said...

I am not my anxiety, which occurs less when I manage what I know causes it.

This is beautiful and true for all of is in some way...

Anonymous said...

I love this. Jack was not OCD. He had OCD. I pulled my 23 year old son out of the closet almost 2 years ago. I had suspected he was gay since mid high school, but believing we had an honest and open relationship, I thought he would tell me. Since he never told me, I assumed he was just a late bloomer (but I was being nudged and I was being prepared). After college, he moved to LA and it was pictures of all of his new friends that convinced me he was. So I flat out asked him. He cried the deepest, saddest cry and I sat still and full of peace. Peace because I finally knew it out loud. I asked why he never told me and he responded, "I didn't want you to hate me." I convinced him that he was my son and I could never hate him...that I loved him. The thing I told him was "you are way more than your sexuality. I am way more than my sexuality. I love you no matter what. But, of course, I want you to use precaution and be safe and for goodness sake, be discreet." So your message is so true. We are way more than an abnormality, an allergy, an illness, a suffering. We have way more to give this world. Just so you know, I miss Jack. Love, Julia Hackney

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog posts. I receive them from GoodReads and I look forward to them. Your book and your posts speak to me so very deeply. You are able to put my feelings and thoughts (that I am not always aware of) into words.

I am not a writer but I have also lost a son (stillborn, 39 weeks). I have a question. In Rare Bird, your husband brought you to a creek and asked if you guys should try to have another child. You never said anything about that topic. I realize that you don't have to fill us (the readers) in on everything. I was just curious because after our son died but before he was born, I knew that we would have to have another child. I couldn't see how I could "move on" without trying again.

Please feel free to leave out my comment or ignore my question entirely if you feel it is inappropriate or you don't want to respond.

Thank you for writing Rare Bird. It was a gift to read.

Melissa @ Married My Sugar daddy said...

I too need to read and re-read this post and savor every word. Thank you for baring all that you have.