In the kitchen I reach for a glass from a high shelf. I glance at the cat who is staring at the counter. He twitches, betraying his intent to jump up onto forbidden territory. I am distracted and my fingers lose grip on the glass. It falls to the floor, shattering into a thousand pieces. The alarmed cat escapes as fast as he can.
The floor is covered with sharp, tiny fragments. It will be difficult getting out of the kitchen without cutting my unprotected feet. Tears fill my eyes at my carelessness. My self-esteem is as fragile as the glass these days, and it doesn’t take much for it to crumble into pieces too. As I stand there it occurs to me that this is what it’s like to grieve a child.
Life shatters. My family and heart have shattered. I stare at the pieces. I don’t have the energy to clean it all up, to put it back together. I don’t think it will fit back together anyway. There are important parts missing. And it’s so, so broken.
Pieces of glass get everywhere. There are shards under the rug, behind the cat bowl, under the dishwasher. Some have flown all the way to the dining room. Little slivers slice deep into your feet if you step on them unaware. Razor edges cut your fingers even if you handle them gently, just trying to pick them up.
This is grief.
Life, family, self, faith, relationships, peace, meaning, motivation, safely…all shattered.
I’m always cutting myself on slivers unexpectedly. They hide, blending in, until I put my fingers on them and suddenly I’m in pain and bleeding.
Junk mail addressed to Samuel. Offering some deal he will never be old enough to need.
Reaching under the sofa and finding his sock.
A friend posting photos of her kids, smiling and happy.
A red crayon.
When you break something on the floor, you tell everyone to stay away so they don’t step on the glass.
In the same way people stay out of my life. It’s dangerous to walk too close, they might get cut. My grief is sharp. My thoughts and words and responses can be sharp these days too.
It seems strange, but I make myself a spot in the middle of the broken pieces and settle in. It was precious to me, all that was destroyed, and I don’t want to let it go. My child, of course, is irreplaceable. I feel the loss of everything he is, of the future he will never have, and the emptiness in my own life because of his absence. I also miss the old me, and the carefree way I could move through a day. I didn’t appreciate how easy it was to talk to others until it became awkward and hard. I no longer feel purpose and significance in life through my relationship with God. I’ve lost the joy of worship. My confidence is gone. My ability to laugh whole-heartedly is gone. I can’t pick up toys in the living room or fix afternoon snacks without feeling sad. Peace, patience, energy, fun, all gone.
Life will not return to the way it used to be. Some things are broken beyond repair, yet I hold on to them like they were part of a beloved heirloom and I’m not ready to throw them away.
This is bigger than me. The only solution is divine.
But the Divine seems in no hurry to soften the edges, repair or replace some of what I’ve lost, or at the very least, whisper peace into my broken heart.
So I wait, surrounded by the remnants of things I treasured.
Moving carefully, trying to minimize more injury.
Exhausted because of the mental energy it takes to tiptoe through brokenness.
Crying, missing my beautiful son.
Afraid of the memories that come, unwanted, of the moment it all smashed apart.
Wondering if I will sit here forever.