Almost 18 years ago, we lost our first child. It was unexpected. It was public. It was traumatic. It was a moment in time that even to this day, burns with a scorching flame, running like a reel in my memory and igniting a pain deeper than anything I’ve ever known into the empty corners of my heart.

And while time has marched on in beautiful wayshealthy children who I get to watch grow up, an incredible marriage with the love of my life, a gratitude for all the milestones each year bringsI still can’t help but hold space for the emptiness that is tucked away underneath it all.

Most days I hide it away. Bury the grief deep underneath a blanket of time that has passed. Uncovering it only when necessary. Giving myself permission to only feel or talk about at certain times of the year. Hiding the rawness of it from others so as to avoid their discomfort or the sadness in their eyes when they hear, or remember, that it’s part of my story in life. A piece of my identity that painted the initial brushstroke of my journey as a parent. A marred part of my canvas that remains, no matter how the passage of time tries to blur other colors over it. It is always lurking at the foundation of this life I am building. Always in the shadows of the brighter things, waiting to be remembered.

RELATED: Grief is a Constant Companion for the Mother Who’s Lost a Child

It feels lonely. A  dangling thread that can’t be sewn back in without showing the frayed stitching of brokenness. But isn’t that the thing about life? We all have pieces of brokenness we lock away. A tapestry of stories across humanity that, if we are open and honest, can be woven together by those frayed stitches into a beautiful quilt of strength.

And yet we hide them. We hold them tightly locked away. Until something or someone cracks open a piece of our pain and lets in a shard of light and allows our truths to shine through.

The other day, a friend of mine wrote a beautiful tribute to her daughter, who she never got to see grow up. It was all at once both heartbreaking and hopeful. It reminded me that when we speak our truths, we also give space for others to do the same. Allowing our hearts to re-calibrate, to restore balance in feeling on the scale of pain I know I load so unevenly. Her story gave my grief a voice that I usually only let cry out on occasion.

I allowed myself to cry, unbound by a date on the calendar that usually drives my permission to do so. I allowed myself to feel. For her, for me, for anyone who has ever held a loss so deep and painful. The kind of grief that even the scar tissue of time can’t prevent from cracking our wounds open over and over again.

RELATED: “It’s Sarah. She’s Gone.”

I guess what her story got me thinking about is the importance of helping each other to unsilence our grief. How our shared words can help one another break free of the boundaries we put on ourselves. By hearing each other’s truths, we can honor a space for one another that will allow us to heal and evolve in this life, which, after all, will be forever a series of crests and undertows.

I can’t stop thinking that the stories of friends and strangers alike are reminders and echoes of resilience, insight, and strength to get us to a place where we can carry our grief with us through life . . . less like a hurricane and more like a gentle breeze.

Maybe, our shared experiences are the hands that pull our individual grief out of the quicksands of hiding. That opens our pain enough to shine powerful rays of hope into the empty corners of each other’s hearts, and that finally allows us to bring that light into the empty spaces of our own. And we finally feel less lost. Less alone. Less overwhelmed by the courage it takes to release our vulnerability into the world.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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Amy Keyes

Amy Keyes is a middle school teacher and freelance writer in St. Paul. When she's not cheering too loudly while spectating at her teenagers' sports, she's running, working out, binge watching recommended series on tv, or hanging out with her dog.

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