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?