Today, the sun hit the trees in such a way I was instantly brought back to a moment in time. I can still feel the weight of his body in my arms, his face pressed close to mine, whispering, “I love you to the moon and back.” Sometimes I forget we were here together. That this was not just a dream.

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They come in fragments now . . . memories that remind me of the life I once had. They flash before my eyes, often triggered by a song, a sound, a feeling. How fleeting were those moments that felt like they would last forever but were only slipping through my fingers like sand.

Grief has taught me to be raw. To be vulnerable.

It has broken me to my core and left me on my knees. I have had to embrace the ebb and flow of the waves of grief as they washed over my life, taking pause when they have sometimes left me stranded with no visible shoreline. There have been days when it physically hurt to breathe and moments the pain was so intense, I felt my heart would simply shatter. I have cried out to God in anger, then helplessness, more times than I can count.

And then . . . finally . . . there was surrender. Because when you are powerless to the finality of death, you make peace the only way you know how in order to find the hope to live again. 

In surrender, I found grace. I found forgiveness.

I found the ability to glimpse beauty again, even there, beneath the mountain of ashes. And when the fog had lifted slightly, I saw purpose once more. I would press on. I would stay the course. 

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What they don’t tell you about grief is that sometimes along the way . . . sometimes you start embracing it. That grief becomes that final chapter. The only connection to you and your former life.

It becomes safe and comfortable because in grief, the worst has already happened.

And that is where I landed. Grief had become my new norm, my comfort zone. If I was already suffering, I could not suffer more. If I could wake up each day knowing the worst had already happened, then everything else would pale in comparison. 

In this place, I built walls around my heart. I was guarded, and I took pride in knowing no one would ever be able to hurt me as much as I had already been hurt. I was in stuck in the desert.

And the great irony was, I was content to stay there. 

The risk of love. It is far too painful to even suggest love is anything but fragile. The risk of love had caused a restlessness rooted firmly within my heart. I knew the cost of love now, and I wasn’t certain I was willing to pay the price. Because the wounds bleed long and the battle scars cut deep. 

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But grace covers even the impossible. And when the fear of the unknown, the unexpected, the unwanted started to surface, I was reminded this was enough. Where risk settles, grace abounds.

A great glory rises out of the ashes of defeat. Love is worth the suffering.

Five and a half years ago, I took a risk on love. And opened my heart to a little boy who filled my life with joy for four beautiful years.

I could have missed it. 

Deep love is deeply broken. And the risk is worth far more than the fear.

Shannon Shpak

Shannon Shpak is a writer and social media manager who is rebuilding life after loss with her 5 children. She believes in hope, perseverance and being strong . . . all legacies her son left behind.