by Liz Johnston
How do you Dominate the Day when you feel like you're dying inside? Perhaps this isn’t the most uplifting question for the first blog entry of our new website, but it is the reality of my duality these days: living with a broken heart, but still living. Another duality, I don't look like what I'm going through to others. While I spend my entire day stuck at the airport trying to get to my family for Thanksgiving, I look okay. I showered, did my hair, put on make up, dressed for the occasion. I am functioning okay. I drove myself here, got to long term parking, made it through security, didn’t throttle the woman who told me my flight was cancelled. But inside, I feel like I’m dying. I ache for the one family member I won’t ever see at the Thanksgiving table again. My beautiful son, Jordan.
For me, in these early stages, grief is a physical pain. Sometimes I feel it in my head--a swimmy, panicky sensation that makes me almost confused; other times I feel it in my limbs, a heaviness that slows me down; most often I feel it clawing from inside my chest--making my breath jagged and short. Grief can ambush you in the stealthiest of sneak attacks, it can overwhelm you like a tidal wave--washing over without warning, or it can whisper and pull at you softly--even in your precious few moments of joy. It varies, but man, it hurts.
In my time at the airport today, my grief has gnawed at me quietly, but incessantly as I travel by myself-- watching parents entertain their rambunctious children while we all wait for the next available flight. Longing for the days when Jordan was literally by my side--I am struck by this question: how can I possibly dominate the day, in spite of my grief? I suppose, on one level, the fact that I look okay, the fact that I am functioning okay, is already a version of dominating my sucky new reality. Probably more so than most would expect of a woman who’s just lost her only child. But maybe the question I should really be asking myself is how do I dominate the day to honor my grief?
My answer is this: I will speak Jordan’s name; I will look at pictures of my beautiful boy, I will tell stories of him; I will remember him; I will make others remember; I will thank God for his life; I will cherish our time together and all the memories; I will get on this plane; I will enjoy the holiday; I will eat the foods he loved; I will publish this blog post in hopes that others who are grieving Jordan’s death (or any other loss) will feel something with me; I will continue to work with others on the Dominate the Day Foundation; I will carry on. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss my son--it just means that I will learn to harness every ounce of this pain and eventually convert it into something powerful.
I cannot promise myself or anyone else that I won’t break down. In fact I expect that I will. I expect that this, my first real holiday without Jordan, will be prime time for pain, panicking, ambush sneak attacks, tidal waves and whispers of grief. But my grief, my enormous grief--is dwarfed by the love Jordan and I share. Will always share. And that is a gift to be thankful for. That love will get me through these early stages and allow me to Dominate the Day, in spite of, and in honor of, my grief.