After a long winter here in Chicago I found myself trying to get motivated to “do something” but couldn’t seem to find the energy or desire. The bitter cold and constant gray put me on an emotional roller coaster that sucked away a lot of my energy. As part of that, I decided to get out of the house and join a men’s group. It was only scheduled for a few weeks which gave me time to see if I enjoyed the group or not.
The first meeting was discussion of a book that the group had been reading and the topic was life’s hurts. Of course I shared my story and received the usual “holy shit that’s bad” look from the group, many of which have healthy living children. At the end of the meeting one of the guys who seemed to be really struggling with some life issues looked at me and said “I am not sure how you ended up here this evening, but I think you were meant to be here to help me.” I do believe my new ability to be open and transparent with my story helps others realize you can survive some of life’s difficult times, but survival doesn’t mean you will go back to the person you were before.
The next meeting I decided to bring copies of my book to hand out to the group since the theme of the group was about restoring your life after going through a difficult time. This morning I received an email from the same guy I mentioned above. His short response said, “Thank you for the book. Very provocative. Real life for understanding brokenness at its worst place.” His words although short, really hit me. I always struggle to find words (because there are none) to explain to non-bereaved parents what it’s like to lose a child. However, the word brokenness really stood out to me. I decided to look the word up because I wasn’t sure if it was even a word. Here is the meaning I found:
“Violently separated into parts or pieces. Not working properly; damaged.”
As soon as I read this definition, it reminded me of what I have been through and the fact I am still standing, laughing, smiling, etc. But there is still parts of me that don’t work properly and are damaged. The last six months have been difficult for me because I had lost my “new way” of taking life in, not stressing about stupid stuff that doesn’t matter, etc. Looking back to when these feeling started I realized I was trying to get back to the person I was “before” the losses. The person caught up in the bullshit of making more money, demanding respect/appreciation and wanting more in my career as an engineer. Although successful at pleading my case and getting what I wanted, I still feel empty. Now I feel like I need to “perform” in order to prove that they didn’t make a mistake. Although they have never told me I need to prove myself, I feel the internal feeling of not letting them down, which has caused me to put greater pressure on myself.
Reading the definition of “brokenness” was a reality check for me. I have been violently separated into parts and pieces, millions of them. I need to realize I don’t work properly because as hard as I try to take those millions of pieces and put them back together again, I can’t get them to go together like they were prior to my children’s deaths. I have in fact been damaged and need to remind myself of that from time to time. Not as an excuse to give up, quite the opposite, I have found ways since their deaths to live a “rich” life, but need subtle reminders to realize that although damaged, I am not fully broken. Taking a step back and readjusting the direction you are going is just part of this journey.