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Finding Myself In Grief

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

Today’s blog is brought to you by my childhood friend and fellow author, Jaime Clemmer, who has faced the unthinkable loss of her son, Sawyer, with genuine openness and raw honesty. I am in awe of her ability to share the depth of her soul while extending a hand to those still within the bleak darkness of grief. Let’s listen as she opens her heart and shares a portion of her story.

I was watching a television show the other night. (That in and of itself is its own act of bravery as I dodge and brace myself for triggers. Nothing makes for “good” TV-like plots that involve a tragic death story. Especially the death of a child. But I digress.) One of the main characters in the show said, “Reason is no match for pain.”

I can’t stop thinking about this idea of pain superseding reason. I hadn’t thought about it in exactly that way before, but the sentiment speaks to me.

My ten-year-old son, Sawyer, was healthy and happy on October 24, 2016, having just come back from a vacation to California with his dad. By October 30th, we were watching him get wheeled into his final surgery to donate 7 gifts of life to families who would get the news we never got.

“Reason is no match for pain.”

Sawyer's death made no sense. None. I am a rational person. I have a Type A personality. I make lists. I do research. Logic drives my decisions. Sawyer died and for every reason under the sun, I suddenly wasn't me. What I was experiencing-Sawyer gone from the face of the earth in an instant- made no sense and I couldn’t handle it. I still can’t.

I’m a different person in my grief. I’m a different person because of my grief. I’m a different person without Sawyer here. Who I was “before” will never exist again. What I’m navigating now is who I want to be both in, and because of, my grief. But if you asked me to articulate what that looked like I would stare at you blankly, because I don't totally have that vision yet.

I'm approaching my fifth year without Sawyer. I cannot fathom it. It feels like both yesterday and a lifetime ago that I heard him banging around the walls of our house yelling, “I’m okay,” having just tried some outrageous stunt. There is no reason his life was cut short. The neurologist gave me a reason, some undiagnosed complicated medical condition. But that wasn’t a REASON. Or at least not one I was willing to accept.

It’s been a journey to find myself, to create the new version of me, mother of a son I can no longer parent. For so long I lost myself in my grief. There are days, (even months, like October) where I lose myself in my grief. (Sidebar. To every home decor company who can’t stop making signs that say, "I love fall most of all” and “I'm so glad I live in a world with Octobers,” please stop. Or at least give me another option. I would totally buy a pillow that says, “I hate October.” Anyway.)

The thing about losing yourself in your grief is that it gives you the opportunity to find yourself again. I think the process of finding myself when the waves of grief come crashing down and I don’t think I can go on any further, brings a sense of power and purpose to my life. It forces me to reach deep and look within myself. I listen to the words from my people who fortify me when I can’t muster strength of my own.

My grief sanctifies me like nothing I have ever experienced. It forces me to reprioritize what I want my life to look like and what I want to put my energy towards. For me, part of accepting the hard truth of Sawyer's death is accepting that I am now a new version of myself, and I don't quite know her yet. I am learning about her. She is learning about me. I hear people say, "The best is yet to come." A trite saying that is meant to inspire and rejuvenate our spirits. I always cringe a little because when I hear those words, I hear, "You will have moments without Sawyer that are better than any moment you had with him." I reject that idea. I know that's not the intention, but it is what I hear, and I have a hard time reconciling it in my mind.

Call me Debbie Downer, but I personally do not believe that I can ever be my absolute best self without Sawyer here. BUT. But. I guess I do believe that when I lose myself in my pain and my grief, and I set reason on the shelf for a minute and allow the pain to guide me, I am afforded the opportunity to find myself over and over again. And in the strangest, most seemingly unreasonable way, I think that culling process, that refiner's fire, makes me the best version of me I can be without Sawyer here.

And that seems reasonable enough.

Weeping may endure for a night,

But joy cometh in the morning.

Psalm 30:5 (KJV)

Jaime’s—7 Answers to 7 Questions—

Favorite musician at present...someone/band you must listen to in the gym or on a road trip, no exceptions, they're getting played. Who are they?

I like lots of vans but mostly alternative rock, I guess. Maybe alternative rock/folk. Mostly we like live music. My husband and I go to live shows as much as we can so if I’m listening to a CD, it’s probably from a show I just went to or a show I’m about to go see. We’ve got tickets for Courtney Barnett in the fall and I’m so excited to get back to live music.

Do you name your vehicle and if so what’s the name, why, and do you have any swag to represent your ride?

So, our car doesn’t have a name, nor does it have much swag. I do have a “y’all means all” bumper sticker and one that says, “I hope something good happens to you today.”

The junk drawer in your CAR…which item is most valuable?

Almonds. Legit.

Historical figure you most identify with and why?

This is a tough one for me so I’m gonna skip it, because I can. Because I don’t know much history and what I do know I don’t think I found someone who identifies with me enough.

What are you hungry for (not food), something you quest after, that motivates you?

Spreading Sawyer’s story, taking shame away from grievers for doing something so natural, and taking some of the mystery out of the process of organ donation. So maybe that summarized by wanting to make sure that Sawyer stuff doesn’t go unnoticed by the world.

Where would you like to spend a year of your life…no limits on how it’s done?

At a quiet beach with no responsibility.

What is your soul message, a one-sentence legacy for your posterity?

The world needs compassion and kindness, so step up and offer what you can.

Where can you find more from Jaime?

IG: @Jaime.Clemmer

Facebook Community: Heartbroken but not broken

-From the Fire Ring Blog, Vol. 1, No. 19

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