Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Five Years Later

The Uses Of Sorrow

Someone I loved once gave me 
a box full of darkness. 

It took me years to understand 
that this, too, was a gift.” 

Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of Matthew’s death. Five years. It’s almost impossible to wrap my head (and heart) around this indisputable fact. On the one hand, five years ago seems like an eternity, while on the other it seems like only yesterday.

We miss Matthew more than you can know. I spend a lot of time thinking about him, wondering what he would be doing now at the age of 26, (wondering what he IS doing now). It’s a mystery that I hope will one day reveal itself. I’ve learned a lot about grief during these past five years. I’ve learned that grief brings with it great gifts, although they may not be apparent for months or even years later. I discovered that out of this shattering loss, I am grateful more than ever for everything that life has to offer. 

I’m also very aware that my life had been relatively easy before Matthew died. Of course there had been many bumps and sharp curves, and ups and downs. I had lost my wonderful dad when I was in my early 30’s, and a dear friend died five years before Matthew. Both of these losses created huge holes in my life. But nothing prepared me for the grief that fell upon our family five years ago.  Matthew’s death brought us to our knees, and overnight our world shifted on its axis. 

I remember a father and son came to visit us in the first week when we were sitting shiva. He had coached Matthew in baseball, and had tragically lost his daughter (also in her 20’s) to a brain aneurysm three years before. When they came into our house, I was struck by how tender and fragile they seemed. I remember looking at them—three years further ahead on the journey—and realizing then just how devastating this loss would be. I honestly think we were still in a bit of shock that first week. I saw that time would not erase the hole that had just been etched into my heart. I also saw that a special connection occurs between other families who lose children. I was now a member of a club no parent EVER wants to join.

My sorrow has made me more aware of others’ pain and sorrow. It’s made me ponder the whys of life in much more heartfelt ways than before. In my case, it led me to working with others who have experienced overwhelming loss, and I now facilitate Grief Support Groups. I am comfortable in the role of creating safe spaces for people to share their stories in their darkest moments. I consider it an honor to sit amongst the bereaved and “companion” them along their journeys.

Writing has also been immensely helpful to me these past five years. I started this blog 17 months after Matthew’s passing, and have been grateful for this forum. Not only has it been a way to process my own grief, but I have met so many others who wrote me with their stories. I have been truly humbled by others’ experiences. But I think I am going to wrap up Grief & Gratitude. I will, of course, leave it up and welcome anyone to forward it on to someone you think might benefit by reading the words of a bereaved mom. I am also always willing to be contacted by e-mail should someone want to “talk.” I see that as part of my new role in life. But I don’t think I am going to continue on with the blog. I feel like I have said what I needed to say, and I have some other writing I’d like to do. I am grateful to all of you who have read Grief & Gratitude over the years. Your comments and support have helped me more than you will ever know. Thank you.

No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow (or even in the next hour). It is the rare person who does not experience many losses in the course of a lifetime. It’s the cost of being human, and of loving. We don’t have control over these events, or I would argue, many events. Life happens. It’s what you do afterwards that is in your control. You do have a choice then as to how you move forward with your new reality. You can let your heart, which has been broken into a million pieces, remain on the ground with its jagged edges strewn about, cutting you and others as you tiptoe through your new existence.  Or you can begin the hard task of putting it back together again. It will be very different, and will never go back to how it once was. But, like a beautiful mosaic, it will take on a new shape and have new meaning.  And all those little pieces that don’t quite fit together like they used to, will let the light in and out as you move through the world.

Life is hard, there’s no doubt about that. We live in a seemingly broken world.  But I found out that we are remarkably resilient beings. I learned as we make our way through our messy, unpredictable lives that it’s the connections we make along the way that really matter. Each of these connections, whether a brief one-time encounter at the grocery store or a longstanding friendship, gets woven into our very essence, making us who we are. We should all try to remember to be gentle with one another as we laugh and cry and breathe and love our way through our time on earth. Let’s inspire each other and lend a hand or an ear when we can. We don’t know how long we’ve got, so we might as well treat the time we have, like the gift it is. Namaste.


  1. Thank you for carrying the kindness and tenderness of a Buddha. I'm so grateful.

  2. Robin, I have been thinking so much about all of you these past few weeks. Jay and I have reminisced about Matthew with all of his charm. It is hard to believe that it has been five years. Your depth, wisdom and generosity are deeply felt. We love you and Israel and the kids so much.

  3. Thank you Robin. Sharing your journey these past five years has meant more to me than you can imagine. I'm sending my love and appreciation for the tenderness that you radiate and send out into the world.
    Warm wishes for peace and joy to you and your family.

  4. Robin, thank you so much for bringing us along over these past five years.

  5. Robin
    Our brief encounters have taught me so much. My heart is with yours on this sad anniversary and always. Thank you for your open and honest words. They serve us all. With love, beth

  6. Robin, thank you for sharing your courage and heartbreak, your pain and the realities of love. Your posts have have meant so much. Three children close to me have died in the past 5 years, one just a few weeks ago. I go to sleep and awaken with the realization that the loss is real and not just a nightmare I can wake from. My insides feel crushed under the weight of others' losses. And I emerge with the knowldege and gratitude that I would not change human love for anything. We are gifts to one another. May we all share kindnesses and companionship until the sun sets. With love and light your way, Karen

  7. Robin,
    Thanks for your generosity in spirit to have shared your journey with so many through your writing. Blessings on your way.
    Love, Rose

  8. Dear Robin,
    For 18 years I've been blessed by many ways you teach and show us the way—freely sharing your kind and generous spirit. When Matthew died 5 years ago, and faithfully each day since, your example of living with a heart broken open has continued to instruct and inspire. I feel the same spirit of love and compassion every time I am around Israel. Truly, Matthew's gentle kindness continues to flow through your lives and out into the world through your countless acts of goodness and healing.
    With much love and grateful friendship, Rick

  9. Dear Robin,
    Your blog has been such a heart gift to my experience in this life. Thank you for your honest and open writings about your own pain. You have helped heal my heart and I hope you know that your gift will keep on giving as I find the courage to be open and honest with my pain. In grateful friendship, Theresa

  10. Thank you Robin. My heart is more open from both watching you and reading your Blog. Xo

  11. Thankyou Robin for sharing your journey. Like you I have been writing a blog since our son Matthew was killed in a terrible accident 9 years ago. And like you I have been thinking of leaving it there now, as it is, a legacy and memorial to his life. They live on and willnever be forgotten. Our lives take on a different shape as we travel without them, yet we carry them with us each and every day. Bless you in your walking with the grieving, as they too will be strenghthened. Viv Sellers (Blog writer of "A Grief Remembered" )

  12. Robin,
    Being able to read your blog and share your feelings has helped me a great deal. I am behind you in this journey and am grateful that you share your experience in such a way as to offer hope.
    I will light a jahrzeit candle for Matthew tomorrow.

  13. Thank you Robin. You are such a wise woman.

  14. Robin, I've read this passage several times recently. I especially enjoy the image of the mosaic. The individual pieces, in my mind, are razor-sharp and pointed. But put together these pieces and you have a beautiful work of art that comforts. Thank you for guiding me along these past two years.

  15. Robin, I have so enjoyed your blog over the last three years, after meeting you at an Enneagram retreat in Burlingame. I will miss your grace and wisdom. Your journey is an inspiration in turning suffering into service. Many blessings to you!