Is there beauty under this grief?

From my journal dated February 11, 2003:

I got up early this morning – made coffee, put a firelog in the fireplace, worked on my English research paper, started Joe’s truck for him since it’s so frosty. After Joe left for work, I snuggled in a blanket on the couch for a bit and started to drift off to sleep. In that area between “awake” and “asleep,” I had a mental picture of how I see myself.

I saw myself slowly trudging down a path or small road. I looked short, brown, ugly, and hairy – sort of like Bigfoot, Cousin It, or that purple McDonald’s creature, but very short and with fur or hair that went all the went to the ground so my legs couldn’t be seen. I didn’t even look like a human being. I was sort of hunched over a little as I tried to move forward, as if I were putting all my energy and focus into what I was doing.

The countryside around was sunny and pretty, but I didn’t even notice. I just kept my eyes looking forward, sort of down at the road to where I would take my next step. I was taking excruciatingly slow, very concentrated steps, sort of like a person who is learning to walk again through great pain. My entire focus was on the act of walking, using great, great concentration to make myself move forward bit by painful bit.

Some bright, thin, little, fairy-type thing fluttered up to me from the side – all happy, buzzing around, and trying to talk to me. I just sort of glanced over at her and then turned back to focus on the road and to the job at hand of trying to walk. It was like she was trying to cheer me up or distract me by her bright happiness, but I couldn’t tell if her happiness was real or just put on for show.

I think that’s the way I’ve become. I must look ugly with grief. Grief isn’t very pretty. Grief isn’t easy. Grief has made me slow, ugly, and brown*. Ugly to look at; ugly to be around. I’m not who I once was. I was the “helper” person, the “fix it” person, the “leader” person. Now I can’t fix anything. I can’t change anything. I have no answers. I’m broken, shattered. I’m doing the best I can with what I know to do. I’m just trying to move forward one slow, small step at a time. I hardly even notice the scarce person who may flutter by to talk to me. I know the people who flutter by will soon fly off to some other, more beautiful place where they don’t have to see my grief. I know they won’t stay more than momentarily; maybe that’s why I barely notice them.

I wonder if I would be this way if I had someone to walk beside me when I had some visible beauty left in me. I wonder if the ugliness would fade or disappear if people would be willing to walk beside me and sort of surround me with love, kindness, and care for a while.

Is there such a person who is steady and strong enough to walk with me and help me find some beauty inside again? Or do I stay this way until I am strong enough to figure out how to change back into some semblance of human form – one people don’t mind being around, one people don’t avoid, one that’s no longer so ugly that it’s painful to look at, one where the ugliness of grief has been replaced by the beauty of wholeness?

Is there such a person left inside of me? Is there beauty under this grief? Is there beauty and usefulness in a shattered life or a broken heart pieced back together, even though the cracks may show? I sure hope so.

*brown – dull and lacking vibrancy/color, monotone

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

My Changed Identity

From my journal dated December 11, 2002:

Saturday night Joe and I went to a Christmas dessert theater at Northshore Baptist. Betty* invited us to go, said her husband had purchased a table and they had extra tickets. I have been trying to be less reclusive and more sociable, so we decided to go.

As we were waiting in the lobby to get the tickets from Betty, we saw Leif, a friend of Eric’s, standing with another guy. We went over and talked to him for a few minutes, and then started to go into the sanctuary. As I glanced back, Leif was leaning toward another guy, talking, and they were both intently looking at us. I’m sure they were talking about Jason and the accident.

I know I’m now known as “the mother of Jason, who died in a car accident” more than anything else. I’m positive that’s what Leif was telling his friend. That’s my main identifying factor…or at least one of them.

I loved being known as Jason’s mom. I was so happy and proud to be Jason’s mom. But now my identity has changed. People identify me to others in reference to my son who died. I know it’s typical. I did the exact same thing Saturday night.

We ran into a gentleman at the Christmas dessert from our homeschool group whose wife had died from cancer. That’s exactly how I identified to my husband how I knew this guy – “they were a part of our homeschool group; Eric taught his son guitar; his wife died of cancer.”

I do remember consciously thinking at the time, though, that that’s not the only way I think of him. Yes, there’s an awareness in me that his wife died and their son lost his mother. But, I don’t only think of him as a widower.

When someone’s child has died, a huge chunk of that parent’s identity has been altered. People view me through a screen now – one that has Jason’s death superimposed on it. I guess I view myself that way, too, most of the time. Except it’s not a screen. It’s as if it’s been imprinted on my heart, on my life, and all over me. “My precious son has died. My world is shattered. My heart is broken, and I don’t know how it will ever heal.”

I think it may take as long to rebuild my identity as it’s going to take to rebuild my life.


With apologies to Patricia Hung ( who so eloquently addressed this same subject in her blog yesterday. Honestly…it was the next entry in my journal. Becky