I have been pretty open about the challenges I have faced in trying to share my grief experiences.  For many years I kept the deaths of my daughter Alexis, and my son Emanuel to myself.  I wanted to “protect” others from the awkwardness of my family life, and/or just didn’t have the courage to show up as myself.

That all started to give way in my early 40s, when I just couldn’t keep stuffing it down.  Current day, when I meet someone new, I am extremely comfortable allowing whatever surfaces to come out in our conversation.  Awkward or not, it is what it is.  And I know I have made progress in my comfort level, which became clear when I ran into an acquaintance that I knew from my late 30s and early 40s.  

This friendly woman was part of Zach’s after school program when he was in elementary school.  For grades K-5 Zach attended a mainstream school where he participated in special needs program that allowed him to get the support he needed, without missing out on interaction with his typically developing peers.  It was a great fit during that time, and Zach enjoyed the couple of hours after school that he could be around the “regular kids.”

So when I ran into this woman who was in our daily life, albeit in a limited way, but consistently over a long period of time, I was thrilled to re-connect.  I learned about her life and what she has been building since we last saw each other back at the school.

When she asked what I was up to, I shared that I resigned from my corporate job and was working more in thought leadership and writing these days.  She then asked what area I was focused on.  I told her I was blogging and podcasting mostly about grief and loss and trying to open up these types of conversations.  

“Why?”  She asked.

“Well, I guess because I know a lot about it.”  I responded.

She looked at me bewildered.  Grief and loss?  It wasn’t resonating.

It only took me a few moments for me to realize, of course she had no idea what I was talking about.  During the time in my life that I knew her, I would have never shared anything about my children dying.  In those days I was all smiles, confidence, and living in two worlds.  In my private world I was broken.  In my public world I was making lemons out of lemonade. 

So I brought her up to speed: “You may not know that we lost Zach’s sister, Alexis, and his brother Emanuel, to the same disease that Zach has lived with…I probably never told you that.”

She agreed.  “I’m sorry, I never realized Zach had siblings or you had other children.”

I replied: “That’s because in those days I never shared my experience, or my grief.  I have been learning not to hide it, and now it rolls off my tongue as comfortably as anything else.  I hope to help others make that shift as well.”  

I don’t know what this woman’s response or reaction really was.  We parted company shortly after our brief conversation. Besides, that information was now hers process and I didn’t need to feel like I’d ruined her day (like I used to when I shared my losses to someone who didn’t see them coming.)  

My response, was undeniably recognizing that I have come a long way toward showing up as myself. Also known as progress.

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