“Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.”
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
These two quotes from Brené Brown, have been speaking to me in a deep way.
I have decided to publicly, for the first time, talk about my son's suicide. Tears well up in my eyes as I type this. It's been a long, painful journey over these last 16 months. It is not a secret I keep, and I know we need to talk more openly about suicide, I just, well, I couldn't.
I will share the realness of my pain, I will not sugar coat it and no, I will not "just get over it." I hate the phrase, "Choose Joy." How am I supposed to just, "choose joy" when the pain runs so deep? If I can't "choose joy" does that mean I am doing it "wrong?" "Time heals all wounds." What amount of time? "He is in a better place." No, his place is here. Did you notice all of the quotation marks, along with all the multitudes of other "shoulds" and clichés that go along with grief and death? They are exhausting, frustrating and full of lies.
Yeah, part of my journey is recognizing just that...this is MY JOURNEY. No one else's. I have fully embraced that, and I am learning to live within my grief and pain, knowing this is not something that will one day end. The love for a child never just evaporates. I look forward to maybe just a little less pain when I think about my Jake and the pain that he was in, that he thought the only way out, was to take his life.
In Jake's goodbye letter, he mentioned that (my interpretation) he could not see the good in the world anymore. He saw no beauty, only the harshness of people. I have taken this idea to help drive my photography these last 16 months. I want to show all the Jake's of this world that there is so much beauty and still so much good, you just need to look.
My counselor at the time, encouraged me to do some of my processing with my camera. I had a difficult time raising my camera to my eye early on, but I knew I could use my smart phone to give this a try. But, how do I tell the story of the pain I was in? On my, almost daily walks at the marina, where I live, I started to see pain, or more so, things that can bring me pain so I started photographing those. Here are some of the photos I took.
Unending sharp, cutting thorns.
Huge, deep cutting thorns.
Barnacles that scrape and can draw blood.
Rocks that can break bones, scrapes and cuts.
Water that can drown or sink a ship.
Those captures helped me with seeing the pain. But, wait. What else do these thing offer?
I needed to see the good too.
The first thorns come from one of the most fragrant rose bushes I have ever encountered. The aroma greets me when they are in bloom and their season is long. It is candy for my eyes with the gorgeous colors.
The second large thorns are blackberry bushes that bring nice juicy fruits for cobblers, pies and pancake toppings or, just the pure joy of picking some alongside the path for a sweet moment.
The barnacles contain life and they help keep our waters filtered and they are an important role in the food chain, plus they are fun to listen to and also watch when they are active.
The rocks provide shelter for little critters to live and stay protected from those who want to eat them and they provide a surface for other life to also live. Rocks can also hold up hillsides and structures, like these rocks that keep the train tracks above them, safe and sturdy.
We need water to just survive, to grow crops, to provide a home to so many living creatures from tiny plankton to the Antarctic Blue whale weighing 400,000 pounds. Also, water allows me to live on a boat and go on many adventures.
Are you following me? There is pain in this world. We all have pain of some sort and most also have grief. Don't hurry and try to get "through it" or "to the other side." You just can't. Know it's okay to sit with pain and grief, but seek healing and learn how to handle it. Don't ignore the hard stuff and try to bury it away. Be vulnerable like Brené talks about. Talk to others, be courageous. It is NOT weakness. It is hard and it hurts, but only good can come from healing and learning to just be.
Remember, there really is good and beauty in the world, you just have to look for it. Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable with you and in a very public way. I do not take this lightly. It is now part of my journey.