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An open letter to parents of children who have passed from this world.

I want to write you this letter because I have been reading some of your posts and I feel a response is in order. I have been reading because your experience is also the experience of a family member, which means that I no longer have the luxury of looking the other way. So I have been reading your posts and looking at you rather than crossing on the opposite side of the road.

I am touched by the letter of a mother in my community to her son, he receives letters now instead of the hugs I give to my son. She spoke about the desire to walk in the world unmasked. Actually walking with both her grief and joy and that this would be acceptable. We live a few houses apart but the worlds we wake up in every morning seem lightyears apart instead. I feel moved to speak into this space between us from the common ground we do have. Walking in the world unmasked has been on my mind too, I wish to show you my face too. There is always a great risk in showing up in our vulnerability but it is in our nakedness that we are truly human.

I would like you to know that I am sorry for the fact that I make you carry the burden of my fear on top of your incomprehensible loss. The time limit you feel imposed upon you for grieving, his name that I do not speak, my metaphysical ramblings to explain the unexplainable, my inability to stand in the presence of your pain. All of the insensitivities you experience from me originates in one place. I am afraid.

Looking right at you, unmasked, will close the chasm between your house and mine in an instant and I will be naked and scared. I will have to face the fact that my son is not promised tomorrow either and that I have no control over the flow of life. The mere act of this admission brings me to tears because I love him so much that I cannot even bare the weight of the thought. I feel myself completely unworthy and incapable of looking you in the eye because of this. I am so scared of my own precarious position that I become unable to face your tears. I want you to know that I know the difference between pity and compassion. Unmasked is how compassion enters the picture and compassion asks me to comprehend a world where I am the one who writes letters instead of receiving the hugs that I now may even take for granted. Compassion requires courage and it is only on this common ground that I can fully meet you in your experience. It is difficult for me to stay here so I ask your forgiveness when I opt to turn my face away from you. Please know that I am willing to stand in your presence and hold the space for you when you show up unmasked but that I am scared and sometimes fall short because of my own humanity.

I am scared sometimes and courageous on other days. I am also completely invested in growing into the woman I feel I am capable of becoming. In her shoes I can enter compassion at will, even in the face of my fears. I can show up unmasked even at the risk of being ridiculed for it. I will be able to take your hand and be a safe place for you all the time.

I see you, and I honour your path.

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