The Gift of Grief

I know there are some who will cringe when they read that title. Grief has always been a “bad” thing so how could it possibly be a gift? As a society we have been conditioned to look at things in a certain way. We put everything on two lists… good, or bad.  I want to offer the opportunity to look at grief and death differently. I want to offer a way of opening your mind to a place of non-judgment. You see, I have to! If I accept that death and grief are “bad” then I fall deep into the rabbit hole of victimization… why me?  That’s when the world goes dark, and all hope is gone. I figure I have two choices, I can allow misery and sadness to overcome me or I can be open to recognize there are lessons for me to learn. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason… and I mean EVERYTHING.

When Dillon died, I also died. Yes, I am still here in this universe living and breathing, but the me I was died along with Dillon. Now I am left to discover who I am now. When I speak of life, there is only before and after… before Dillon died or after. I find it is this way for most parents who have lost a child. There is the then me and the now me that I am still discovering… and there is so much to discover.

I believe there is a “next” for all of us. I believe that when we die we move to the next phase of our life. Dillon died and he is now experiencing his “next”. The way I died that day is different and my next is what we call “grief”. 

grief (noun)

  1. deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. “She was overcome with grief.”

As I wrote in my last post, death isn’t “bad”, it just is. Grief isn’t “bad” either, but it does cause pain… a pain that is so deep, and it isn’t always seen or understood. My mind often gets stuck on thinking about how Dillon died, all the details, and how I could not help him. Was he in pain, was he scared, did he cry out for help, what were his final thoughts and words? How could I have changed things, what if, what if, what if?… It’s a slippery slope to get stuck in these thoughts. Moreover, I not only grieve the loss of Dillon’s physical being, I grieve the loss of the memories that will never come to be. This is where grief can drag me down into the earlier mentioned “rabbit hole”. 

Just a few months before Dillon died, he told me that he was going to propose to his girlfriend and he wanted my help picking out a ring. He sent me pictures of rings that he thought she would like and I suggested that we go see my jeweler. We made a date and I took him to have a look. He liked the setting on one ring and the band on another, so he ended up designing his own unique ring along with the help of the jeweler that we would pick up a couple weeks later. We then had lunch and talked about his plans to propose. It was a fabulous day that I will never forget! I won’t have any more of these days with him.

Now I grieve what will never come to be. I will never get to see him finish his schooling, grow his career, buy a home, get married, have children or even watch him grow older and age. He will never be a husband, a father, an uncle or a grandfather. I will never help him plan his wedding. I won’t get to hear the stories of what he and his family did for the weekend, I won’t get to celebrate anymore birthdays, Thanksgivings (his favorite because he loved food), Christmases or New Years. I won’t give him anymore gifts or receive any from him and hear the story of why he chose that particular gift. I won’t get to hear his laugh or feel his hugs. I won’t get to hear him say “I love you Mom”. These are the thoughts that bring me to my knees with grief.

I see his brother, step-brothers, and friends growing, finding successful jobs, getting engaged, planning weddings, getting married, having babies, and living their lives… it is a double edged sword. I am happy that I get to be a part of all their joy and yet at the same time there is always the sting of knowing I won’t ever get to share these moments with Dillon. It’s the loss of the things that will never happen again or never come to be that I have to life with. It is my desire and longing to be living along side him that is the most heartbreaking and painful reality to face.

I share this so you can understand that grief never goes away. It isn’t a single moment in time, it is now ALL my moments in time. Just as we have scars that form where our bodies have been injured, we too have scars from grief. These scars can’t be seen but they are here. They may fade over time, but they never go away. Scars are there as a reminder of our journey with physical pain. Grief is here as a a reminder of our journey with mental and emotional pain.

In the first few weeks after losing Dillon I reached out to another parent I knew who had lost a child to ask him if this excruciating pain ever goes away. He said, “No, and I wouldn’t want it to.” It finally made sense… the pain is a reminder of the love I have for Dillon. That one insight helped me to understand that the pain of grief is actually a gift. A gift to remind me of the deep love that Dillon and I share and will always share. Our love doesn’t end, and my connection to Dillon doesn’t end. It’s still as strong, if not stronger than ever. 

I hope this gives you some more understanding of grief. Grief gives me determination to be open and learn from this experience. It allows me to hope for more, to feel more, and to believe in more. My grief never goes away… and I wouldn’t want it to.


  1. Beautiful message. You are a great writer, Mary. You show courage, vulnerability, and hope. Keep writing. You have a message that needs to be heard. Love and light, Patti

  2. Your posts are very eye opening and thought provoking Mary.
    Thank you for sharing. Its good for the soul for you to write and its also good for the soul to receive these thoughts. It makes me ponder and open my mind to things that we dont discuss.
    Evolving and opening the mind is what we all need.
    I love you Sister

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