It was a Thursday in early November. There I stood, at my beloved Target, trying on black hats to wear to my mother's funeral.
Nearby, teenage girls browsed through scarves and hats and mittens that matched. They giggled and glanced at their phones. I stared, I'll admit. I envied their happiness. I stared until I realized they stared back. Four sets of eyes glared at the ragged woman with hands full of hats, tear stained cheeks, and whispered to one another.
I wanted to scream at them "Did YOUR MOTHER just die?" but I didn't. I went on to the next hat, and the next, until I decided finally, on one that someone from Downton Abbey would have worn, simply because I knew my mom would have loved it. But I hated it. I still hate it. Because of the whispering, unknowing girls, and the idea that my mom had to die for me to buy it.
Do you have a black hat? Do you have a 'wound' that you wish you didn't have? That hat is tangible proof that I went to battle. For myself and for my family.
Two years later I still hate the hat, but I'm braver and stronger for having bought it, and worn it. I walked out of Target that day, black hat and dress in hand, and on the following Saturday I stood bravely in front of a room full of people who loved my mom and I spoke. I wore the hat, and then eventually, when all was over, I didn't.
Friend, you know that you're brave too, right? You realize that no matter what your story is, no matter the weight of it, that it's significant? That you don't have to wear the hat forever?
I want to wrap my arms around you and hug you until it hurts. Loss (insert issue of choice) is an awful, horrible thing, and it bleeds into everyone who loves the person that's suffering. I wish so much to just take this from you, but if I were to do that, it would take from the plan, I'd change your actual story.
And your story isn't supposed to be changed, like that. You have to buy the hat and you have to wear it, and for days and weeks and months and maybe even years, you have to go to battle.
Hang on tightly, no matter where you are. The waters may feel choppy but they will calm. You won't drown. You can take off the hat and appreciate it for what it was, but you don't have to wear it forever.
I'm proof of that. I am hat-free and I am healing, and I hope you are, too.
I recently wrote something similar to this to a friend/long time connection in the social media land, in response to her submission to me for Faces of Grief. Her story is heavy, and likely won't see the light of internet day, and that is okay. For some people Faces of Grief will help them heal through sharing, for others I believe it will do great things through simply reading.