I had my therapist laughing at my last visit, as usual. I am always direct, up front with her. It’s so refreshing to be honest with her. I was telling her about my conversation with my sister, about me not knowing how to do “this” and how I wish I could push myself up off my knees and be inspired. I told her how I have saved several hundred uplifting and inspirational quotes from various Facebook posts since Ben died and how my collection has grown exponentially over the last several months, saved on my laptop and my new smart phone. After I held up my phone for her to see, I tossed it down on my chair, chuckled and blurted out, “But that ain’t my life.” And she burst out laughing, at my dry humor and my honesty.

I am not there. And that definitely “ain’t my life.” I do want to be inspired. I’d love somebody or some words to pull me up. I really do. I believe there will come a time when that happens, and perhaps there will even be a time when I can inspire and lift up some other sad soul, but not now. So I’m saving those quotes for “later.”

In analyzing myself recently, trying to “improve my outlook” (meaning being less depressed and sad), I’ve gained some important insights. I know everything is in the interpretation, and I’ve discovered that as I’ve read these numerous “inspiring” quotes, I interpret them to say (to ME): “Quit sitting in your own shit! Get up! Move on! Inspire us!” I can watch others inspire, but I can’t inspire others. And I may never be able to…..because there is no blessing in my son’s death. Consequently, I feel like a failure…..because I am not able to stand up and proudly proclaim that I am strong and so powerful and so insightful and so appreciative of the lessons learned from my sorrow–I cannot overcome whatever life throws at me. I can’t. So, in lieu of being my own worst critic, I’m realizing that I am putting expectations on myself to be the Super Woman of Grief. Knowing full well that I can’t be. I’m learning it’s OK to admit this to myself: I AM NOT STRONG.

So, for the last few weeks, when I’ve read the words “Be strong!” I’ve been able to tell myself that there’s strength in admitting you are weak. And who in the heck even knows what “strong” is….after your son dies? What better way to eventually become strong and less sad than to admit that I am sad and miserable and 99.9 percent of the time “uninspire-able”? Is there a kinder way to become more inspiring, to yourself, than to be real? I don’t think so. So, because I can admit that I am weak and accept that I carry immeasurable volumes of deep, dark, ugly pain inside me, I can accept that I am the most comfortable being alone now. I don’t like being around people for very long, with the exception of the few people who allow me to be myself. And I am being kinder to myself and expecting way less of myself than I did just a few weeks ago. It’s not that I’m anti-social and fatalistic and not seeing any joy in this world. I am just being realistic. I like being alone. To me “alone” is a place where I don’t need to put on a performance for others, feeling as if I am being censored. It’s a place where I can remember sweet memories and grind through those troubling thoughts that take my mind captive. It is calming and therapeutic for me…..which is something I am beginning to realize, as I continue to lessen the expectations I put upon myself.

So, when I am alone, with my persistent grief around my neck, and I’m being introspective, I pat myself on my back, with a little bit of pride, because I am learning this:

I can accept that I am not just sad, I am devastated!!! My son died and I am damaged. There are ugly scars on my heart and slashes through the very core of me. But knowing that, I’m getting good at just being myself, feeling relieved when I don’t need to “perform” for others. I’m not fighting my sorrow. I AM my sorrow. And that’s what it takes, isn’t it? Taking a good look at myself and being honest? I’m getting to know who I am–where I am. And I’m lessening the impact and pressure I put upon myself when I feel like expectations are being put on me, by others and by myself. And, most importantly, I’m telling myself that it’s OK not to jump up and proclaim, “I am strong! I am invincible! Let me inspire you!” I am getting comfortable in my own skin.

So how about this for a post?

I am a mess. I am not OK. If you think I am getting better, you are wrong. I cry a lot….every day. I am just getting better at pretending. Often times I feel like a crazy woman! My only certainty in life right now is that I am going to die with a broken heart and there is nothing that can be said or done to change that! I cannot be “inspired” to run and hide from my grief. I miss my son with every ounce of my being. BUT……I am proud to say that I am becoming accepting of who I am and where I am….in this moment. I am being kind to myself. I am learning to live in my own skin. My sad skin, that is. Yes, you heard me……. I am learning to live in my own SAD skin.

Can honesty be inspiring?


  1. None of us are okay – and by blogging, we’ve found out we’re not alone. Grief is isolating – no mater how much you talk about it, it doesn’t go away, it certainly doesn’t get better. Sometimes I think I’m choking on it. But I don’t try to be what I’m not. I just try to figure out how I’m going to live, a minute at a time. I’m really, really fortunate to have found a job I love (another gift from Philip) with people who are kind and generous. I’ve burst out in tears in front of them, and so what? They don’t know how I feel but they certainly give me the space to feel it. And they try to help. But when I’m not at work…well, I’m a crazy woman, too. We are suffering the worst thing, Susan. People always say that the worst thing would be if they lost a child – but you can’t really know what you’re talking about unless it happens. I am shocked that I’ve survived this long, I really am. And I do not know how I lived through those first months, that first year. It was my daughter that got me through.

    I’m so sorry Susan; for you, for me, for all of us. I wish I could say something magical…instead, I’ll just say that I care. xoxoxo

  2. I understand and identify with exactly what you are saying. The reality is that no matter what else happens or what we do, nothing will bring back our children and we will have to live with a broken heart for the rest of our lives. We will never again be whole or innocent. Our hearts have been ripped apart and cannot be restored. They still beat, but not with the same joy or hope.
    I, too, am most comfortable alone or with the very few people who aren’t afraid of the real (sad) me. I have no expectations of myself inspiring anyone else. I’m just trying to survive and keep going every day.
    I just wish none of us had to accept this nightmare that has become our lives. I want all of us to have our children back. Okay, I know that my wishes are not going to change anything, but I still feel that way. I’m sorry that we all have this in common.

  3. “…who in the heck even knows what “strong” is….after your son dies?” Indeed! There is such an unrealistic expectation about the grieving process nowadays – what it “should” look like, how long it “should” take, how we “should” react, what we “should” be doing, how we “should” be strong and find something inspiring and encouraging to focus on instead of just being where we are in our own sad skins. Even with more research and more information available, there are still so much unrealistic expectations – both of us for ourselves, and of others for us. It’s ironic – as lensgirl said – that there used to be more of an understanding and expectation that ancient cultures understood the importance of grieving a great loss. Now, with our more “advanced” civilization, our society’s understanding of the true grieving process is so much less. All we can do is what we can do, now that we have to figure out how to live our lives without our precious children. It’s not an easy thing to do.

  4. Honesty is the only inspiration my “sad skin” understands. Ancient cultures knew that expression of grief was important. Torn clothing, black arm bands, ashes smeared upon the grief stricken were part of the ritual. Our modern culture is clueless about the depth of mourning a mother feels for the rest of her life. Be true to yourself and grieve. No apologies necessary. Strength has nothing to do with it.

    I am sad that you have to be where you are….or I have to be where I am. We will learn to live in our sad skins together. Sending you hugs.

    1. Thank you. Your words comforted me and brought a smile to my face. It is so nice to be understood. That so seldom happens, as others expect us to be stoic and not show our pain. Hugs.

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