Summer is over and I’m back to school. Kindergarten has started and I have a wonderful new group of students to teach and care for. Frances is spending her days at daycare and she is loving it. My weekends are full with family time, housework, and meal prepping in the hopes that I can be prepared for the week ahead. Most everyone and everything in my life is being cared for to the best of my abilities. Duty has called and I have answered.
But when I lay in bed at night, I’m being kept awake by that hollow place in my heart. The one that takes over if ignored for too long. It’s the place where Dorothy’s memory lives and if I don’t tend to it, the emptiness will spread. As I spend my days answering the “call of duty,” I haven’t taken the time to answer other calls. My heart has been calling me and I’ve been ignoring it.
I used to grapple with my place in this community of grieving families and those who advocate for them. It wasn’t a place that I wanted to be. I would often fantasize about a life where I could be oblivious to the fact that this community even existed. However, it’s pretty clear that this is not my life. Not only do I need this community, I crave this community. They are my people. They are the pulse behind my purpose. Ignoring my heart means ignoring those responsible for helping to make it whole again.
When I made the commitment to my grief and advocacy work I knew that I was renewing my commitment to sharing our family story. What I’ve discovered over the past few months is that I’ve actually renewed my relationship with Dorothy. This work has not only been therapeutic for me as I grieve her, but it has given me a way to parent her. Every minute devoted to writing, reaching out, and researching has been a minute devoted to caring for Dorothy. This work is my opportunity to parent my invisible child in a very visible way. Ignoring my heart means ignoring my loving obligation to my daughter.
It may seem surprising that I’m even sharing these thoughts out loud. I’m sure there are many who would argue that I haven’t been ignoring my heart at all; that I have been as forthcoming with my story as ever. But, I know the true distance.
You see, grief has this way of messing with time and space. Minutes from our loved ones seem like years and inches from our purpose seem like miles. You would think that it would be welcome respite to distance yourself from the pain, but you would be mistaken. You have to be next to the pain, to feel all of the love.
So, it’s now my duty to make room for my heart’s work. To grieve out loud and openly is no longer an optional exercise for me when I am feeling low. This work is truly my labor of love and that is why my heart is calling for it. And I know this; when your heart is hurting it will call you and when you answer, love will be the reply.