Grace and Kindness

Dillon hugging me on my wedding day April 27, 2018

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of Dillon’s death. That’s 1095 days of waking up and feeling the stabbing pains of grief and muddling my way through life. It’s no wonder people often say, “You are so strong!” I am strong, as are millions of others who are struggling through their own pain. Maybe it’s day 1095, maybe it’s day 10,095, or maybe it’s day 1…

In the beginning, I hated hearing those words. I didn’t feel strong, I was merely surviving. I didn’t know how to process this new and unfamiliar feeling of pain. It wasn’t a pain that I could treat. There was no pill or bandage that could reduce or protect the pain. I wasn’t handed a manual or instruction video on what to do. The only thing I could do was to breathe, absorb the agony, and wait… wait to figure out what comes next.

Some say that “time heals all”, but I disagree. This pain doesn’t “heal”. There isn’t a regeneration of cells or tissue, there isn’t a protective layer that forms, nor is there a physical scar that can be seen. I often wish there was a physical scar that was left, one that could be seen by others that would help explain the pain that I feel. I was at a retreat of bereaved mothers shortly after Dillon was killed and I can remember someone saying how they wish they could wear a band on their arm or a letter on their shirt that would let others recognize they are grieving in hopes they would be given some grace and kindness when in a public setting. At the time, I thought that was an odd statement, but I have come to understand what she meant.

As a society, we seem to be more empathetic with people who are broken physically, i.e., wearing a cast or brace, in a wheel chair, using a cane, etc., but there is no way to recognize those who are broken emotionally and might need some space or a more gentle approach. We often make assumptions that people are all the same and fail to recognize that many are fighting a battle we cannot physically see.

In grief, there are days that I want to crawl out of my skin because I am so sensitive and even the slightest touch is agonizing. My chest is on fire and I feel that it could burst open at any moment. I don’t always wake up like that, it could happen in the middle of a grocery store, or at an event where I can’t run away. Sometimes I am triggered for whatever reason and grief doesn’t wait for a private moment, it relentlessly hits whenever and wherever it wants. There’s no controlling it, and I’ve stopped trying… If you can’t be with me IN my grief, then you can’t be with me!

I tell people that a series of distractions is how I get through most days, but some days you can see coming like a freight train. Dillon’s birthday, the anniversary of the day he died, and certain holidays or events where there is a gaping hole where he should be present. Right after he died, I wanted to have a “Dillfest” every year on his birthday, a way for friends and family to get together to remember and celebrate. I thought this would help me get through his first birthday without him, so I started planning. We did this in 2019 in June when I rented two houses on the Oregon coast and invited family to come and be a part of the weekend events of being together, playing games and sharing stories. Planning that event was helpful momentarily but left me drained… more than anything I just wanted to crawl in a hole and be left alone. In 2020 we couldn’t do anything because of the pandemic, which was actually a blessing, so we planted a grove of 13 trees instead. Planting and tending to the grove helped me do something with my time and it allowed me to BE WITH my thoughts rather than cover them up with distractions. It was in the time of “shelter in place” that I could embrace the quiet, process my thoughts, and FEEL my feelings.

As each significant date approaches, I can feel my heart get a little heavier. It’s as if my body is preparing for the pain that is yet to come. My mind feels unclear and my energy is drained. It’s just a day on the calendar, but it’s a day that marks his time away. Time without hearing his voice, time without seeing his face, time without feeling his hugs or hearing his laughter. A date and time that changed my world forever. There will be no more birthdays to celebrate, his face will not change, he will never get wrinkles or gray hair. He will never be in another picture or create another memory. All of that ended 3 years ago today at 7:30 pm.

So yes, I am strong and yet I am frail at the same time. On most days I choose to get out of bed, get myself together, and move forward. There are also days when I fall apart and although I don’t wear a band on my arm or a scarlet letter on my shirt, there are days when I need a gentle approach… shouldn’t we give that courtesy to everyone? We never know what someone is going through, what hardship they are facing or tragedy they have been presented. Whether it be losing a job, a relationship that is falling apart, or maybe, just maybe they are trying to get through a single moment of a single day of losing their child. Remember, before you judge other harshly, sometimes people just need a little grace and kindness.

Today, I am going to embrace all of the feelings that wash over me. Pain will be felt and tears will flow as I grieve the loss of Dillon on this 3 year mark of living without him. Joy will wash over me and laughter will come with the stories and memories that were created in his 24 years. I will fall apart and I will find the strength to pull myself back together knowing this is my life and this is my journey until it’s my turn to join him in the next phase.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, feelings, and stories in this safe place to talk about death, loss, grief, and the reality of living.

All my love,



  1. So we’ll written.
    From one mom who has lost her child to another, your words are so true.
    Thank you for sharing your gift of writing.
    It helps to know you are not alone on this grief path.

    1. Sending you love Pam. I was just talking about Trevor the other day when we passed through Petaluma. I would love to see you again… Kristy Brindley now lives in Sonoma… maybe a “sister-moms” weekend in wine country is in order? Much love to you, Mary

  2. Thank you for this. My loss is new, 4 months. I don’t know how to answer the question How are you doing? So I just say, Fine. Like everyone else in this place, I suppose.
    A couple of days ago a friend took me by the shoulders, pulled my face into hers and said, “You are doing so well, Joan! You are strong, girl. Look at you, look at how much you’ve accomplished. You’re going to be just fine.” I said, “I am going to be fine.” What I wanted to do was shove her, hard, away from me. Look at me? You don’t see me. What I’ve accomplished? Paid my bills? Hired help for the things I can’t do? Gotten out of bed? I’m just blindly surviving. And the cat is pretty much the reason I get out of bed. God bless him, he’s always willing to go back to bed with me. 😻
    Anyway, thank you for expressing how life is.
    May God, Spirit, whomever, bless you and provide what you need at any given moment. Namaste 🙏🏼

    1. Oh sweet Joan. How I wish I could hold you and just be with you. Allow you to be broken and not judge any of your feelings. I have found a group of other moms who know this pain and know there is nothing to say… just to BE with me in my pain. I’m not sure where you are writing from, I am in San Jose Ca. I’m happy to be with you and hold you while you fall apart if ever you feel that would help you in your process.
      Wrapping you in love and standing beside you in this painful journey.
      All my love, Mary

  3. Thank you, Mary. My loss was my dearly beloved husband, a man who was filled with light. He filled me with light. . His illness was a bombshell and brief, leaving me gasping for breath, still.
    I’m flying in to San Jose on the 16th to visit a friend. That small world of ours! I will offer a special blessing for you while in your midst. ♥️

Comments are closed.