customized boxes to nourish the soul after loss

We are honored to share this guest blog today from Lexi Behrndt with On Coming Alive.  Lexi's collection of items in our shop support the work of On Coming Alive to spread hope through storytelling. 

“I don’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve faced. I see you. I see your broken heart. I see my own, and I’ve seen the light. Take my hand. Let me show you the way."

Nearly fifteen months ago, I lost my son. He was six months and seventeen days old and his age didn’t even matter. From the moment I saw two pink lines, he swallowed me whole just as my older son did before him. I gave them both my whole heart in the way a parent does for each of their children, somehow giving all of themselves, multiple times over. When I lost my son in the early hours of the morning, the time when darkness and silence engulfs you, grief engulfed me. But when the sun rose, the darkness didn’t leave. I stayed in that silence as if I wrapped myself in a shroud. My vision, my senses, my very breath, smothered by the thick fog of a broken heart, of loss, of grief, of suffering.

I knew only a handful of people who lost a child before me. I remember googling that first day for answers, guidance, anything, as I shuffled around blindly making arrangements, doing stupid things that I hated like spending an afternoon sipping coffee in the basement of a funeral home. I would have burned every plastic floral arrangement I saw that day out of sheer rage. But I was too tired— mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically— to do anything but sit, walk, stand, and nod my head.

Within two months of his loss, I was flooded with thousands of mothers who had lost children. They reached out to me and swallowed me whole in their embrace because that’s what you do when you’re mothering a child in their death. You take the love you have for them— that all consuming love— and you swallow the world whole with it.

I found my home, my people, my tribe. I found this dreadful club of people who would give anything to change their story and bring their child back into their arms. There was no interest in being enlightened or enriched. We were unified in a single desire to just hold our child for at least one more breath, one more kiss, one more moment. And so, I ran to them.

It’s been fifteen months and the community of grieving mothers and grieving parents has been a saving grace in my life. They’re the ones who make me feel understood. The ones who “get” it— my pain, my hurt, my loss, my suffering. They’ve received me. They’ve loved me. They’ve carried me through.

Yet while I found a tribe of people whose scars matched my own, something unexpected happened. Compassion opened my eyes to so much more.

I write words. It’s something I stumbled into. I’ve written mostly about losing Charlie. It started as an outlet, as my way of mothering him in death. I’d spend late hours tapping away at the keys on my computer, justifying my exhaustion by reminding myself that if he were alive, I’d likely be up with him anyway. It’s evolved. And my life has unfolded, in ways that I wanted and in ways I did not desire at all.

My suffering has not been one-dimensional, as suffering often is not. My losses were compounded. I found myself walking through some of the most searing of life moments, trying as I could to keep my head above water, with a new understanding of the depths of despair of human nature. Suddenly, at a young age, I was wracking up life experiences that most people never have to nor wish to face- loss of a child, divorce. I was stripped of nearly everything I had. In that, even what I was left with, while it was good, I felt incapable of even functioning to live for it. Some days it felt nearly impossible to “show up” for my own life.

I’m not the person I was fifteen months ago, or a year ago, or six months ago. I’ve been refined by my experiences. I’ve been made richer by my losses. I’ve been shaped, molded, forever propelled by the existence and the time I spent knowing and now forever loving my little boy who I can no longer hold.

And in this newfound wisdom, this richness, this inspiration, my eyes have been opened to more than just my own pain. My heart has softened and extended a hand to others who have suffered, and not even in the same way.

I was welcomed in by my community, the ones I found a home with, the community of bereaved mothers. And in my suffering and in my healing and mending, a new sense of compassion has opened my eyes. I’ve seen so much more— I’ve seen a whole world of people all broken in their own way, all reaching out, searching through the dark, stumbling and desperately grasping for a hand to hold onto.

Suffering comes in all forms. While human nature may lead us to create a scale of which pains are greater or lesser, the truth is that pain is pain, and that no person can define or rate another’s pain or suffering.

Another foundational truth is this: no matter what we face, no matter how different our suffering or our brokenness may be from the person next to us, we have this: we all need a hand to hold on to. Regardless of if we suffer in the same way. Regardless of if our scars look alike. Regardless of where we’ve been, what our eyes have seen, what our future holds, regardless— because here is what I’m learning…

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you face. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter if your pain is different. It doesn’t matter if our scars don’t match. It doesn’t matter if on the human scale of pain, whether yours is greater or lesser than mine. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is this. Your heart. My heart. Both broken in their own ways. Both suffering in their own rights. Both needing another soul to reach out with genuine love, with authenticity, with togetherness. Both needing a hand extended. Both searching, in the darkness, digging for the light, stumbling at times.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from. It doesn’t matter what you’ve faced. It doesn’t matter how you’ve suffered. None of it matters. What matters is this. Suffering produces compassion and compassion produces bonds, bonds that are built between people have who have known brokenness, no matter the type, and who are pulling each other to hope, to mending, to so much more. We’re not going to go to simply stay in our separate camps. We’re not going to close our eyes and plug our ears to one another. I’m going to grab your shoulders, look you in the eyes, and tell you this:

“I don’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve faced. I see you. I see your broken heart. I see my own, and I’ve seen the light. Take my hand. Let me show you the way.”

Regardless of what we face or where we come from, take my hand. Together, we’ll find the way.

September 12, 2016 by Lexi Behrndt

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