“Fear and Love can never be experienced at the same time. It is always our choice as to which of these emotions we want. By choosing Love more consistently than Fear, we can change the nature and quality of our relationships.” – Gerald G. Jampolsky
I’ve been giving away pieces of my heart last week, metaphorically of course, I haven’t had open heart surgery thank goodness! Initially, when I signed up to a 3 day trek in the Alps for Child Bereavement UK, I didn’t give much thought to what I would share about myself. I think I just assumed I would share. Really what I was thinking most about was having time with Luna. About being in nature and seeing some majestic, awe inspiring scenery. To feel that sense of connection and grounding. I also wanted to raise money for a charity that has supported us as a family for the last 2.5 years and I feel very passionate about. I gave very little thought to the fact that I didn’t know any of the others who were taking part. I didn’t know what their stories were, whether they were directly affected by child or parental bereavement. I did think that these people, whoever they may be, would most definitely be kind. Anyone who decides to hike up 3 different mountains in 3 days for charity has got to be kind, so I wasn’t worried about that.
I am constantly amazed by Luna’s power to effect change. In me and in others. That the single most painful, soul destroying event in my life, Luna’s death, has eventually been the making and remaking of me. I kept being told how ‘amazing’ I was on this trek, by my fellow trekkers and by the other parents who’s babies/children I was carrying with me. Which is lovely of course, but I always feel a bit of a fraud in a way. It’s not me that’s doing this, it’s Luna. I’m humbled that I get to be Luna’s mum…she is tiny, but mighty. I have a compulsion to speak out and to help others…for me there isn’t much choice in the matter, apart from ‘do I have the emotional energy to do x, y or z?’. As long as my energy levels are good, then I take it on (and sometimes if they’re not as well…which I’m working on, self-care must come before other-care). This is Luna’s legacy. We didn’t get to have the future we imagined with her, so we are creating a different one.
Those of you who know me, whether personally or via social media or my writing, know that I’m pretty open about what we’ve been through. I suppose it’s easier to be vocal behind a computer screen or a social media ‘handle’ though. Face to face, I’m more discerning about who I share my experiences with, not everyone gets to know Luna. I have felt some guilt about this in the past, when I’m asked how many children I have and I say one. I feel like I’m somehow denying Luna. Mostly though I’ve resolved this. Not everyone has the right to know about her, not everyone has a right to a piece of my heart. My heart is mine to give. However, when it came to this trek, spending time with this group of strangers, there really wasn’t any question of whether they would be given a piece of my heart or not. Even before I met them I knew that they would each be willingly given a small piece. I knew it would be impossible for me not to share Luna. I knew that I would be vulnerable and as honest as I could be about what we have been through as a family, what other families go through and about what I have lost over the last 20 years. I knew that I would cry and swear in front of them with very little self-consciousness (I don’t mind a bit of salty tears and snot!). When I did finally meet them all, sat in our chalet that first night listening to why they were all there, I knew that I was meant to be with this group of people. This, unexpectedly, extended to our challenge organisers and guides as well. People I hadn’t actually really considered before I left, they were the added bonus! I felt immediately at ease with being myself with all of them.
As I gave of myself, they returned the gift and gave of themselves. Whether they know it or not, they each gave me a piece of their hearts as well and I am grateful. They allowed me to speak and they listened, very intently. For anyone who has experienced baby or child death, you know how vital this is to your grief process. To be really heard and not feel that at any point someone really wishes you’d stop talking about your dead baby or child, has an immeasurable value. This is what I have learned and relearned: at all time’s be authentic and allow yourself to be vulnerable with the right people. It’s risky, what if I gave and got nothing in return? That could have happened, but even if it had, it still would have been worth it. Even if they take my heart pieces and do nothing with them, still it would be worth it. To give freely of myself is a risk worth taking in situations like these, and to be honest, it really had a very low chance of failure. Like I said, people who do this sort of thing are kind. To give freely, willingly, without any expectation of what the other person will do with your gift, or for anything in return is the ultimate life challenge as far as I’m concerned. Choose love over fear, wherever and whenever possible. And just what if my pieces of heart take root in theirs? What if the pieces they’ve given me take root and grow in mine? What shape, colour and size do hearts become over time? Most certainly the heart you’re born with, is not the heart you die with. I’ve written before about my heart being broken, its pieces scattered far and wide. I feel that I have been gathering the pieces up over a long period of time…sometimes I’m given a good piece that fits just right from someone else, better than my original piece. By giving and exchanging pieces of your heart with others, do you become a different, better person? I think you do.
This trek, this challenge was not just about climbing up some steep, high hills, anyone who has experienced grief (or watched adventure films) can draw the parallels between grief and mountains. I knew there would be moments when the mountains reminded me of my grief and my pain, but also of my joy and my gratitude. Birth and death. Joy and sorrow. Gratitude and grief. We’re all walking and living these very fine lines all the time, at various stages throughout our lives. For me, the most important part to come from this experience was the giving of the pieces of my heart. This is how Luna lives on. I hope those pieces flourish and grow and nurture and enrich the people they have been given to. I know that theirs will do just this for me.
“Love moves without an agenda. It just moves because that is its nature to move.” — Adyashanti