A few years ago Mitch came dashing into my office and said, “Dad, come quickly! You have to see the most amazing rainbow.” I put Mitch on my back and quickly carried him upstairs to our front door. Indeed there was a rainbow, and it was beautiful. A summer storm had just broken and the afternoon sun revealed a most amazing spectacle of light against the backdrop of deep storm clouds and mountain shadows. 

Mitch pointed to the array of colors and shadows and said, “Isn't it amazing, Dad?” I kissed his forehead and said, “Yes, son, it is amazing; but not as amazing as you. You, little boy, are more amazing than all the rainbows combined.” Mitch reached up and gave me a tender hug.

I stumbled into this photo recently and was brought back to this sweet exchange with my son. As I looked at this photo I had a moment of clarity that is difficult to describe; clarity about love and loss, grief and coping, and life after the storm. I am new to all of this grief stuff and I am sorting it out a little every day. 

Recently I've been thinking about the notion “Your loved one wouldn't want you to be sad.” I believe this is an abused and confused statement. Surely our loved ones want us to be happy, but they also understand our sorrows in ways we do not - and it isn't necessary to feel guilt or veiled shame for hurting. Hurting is hard enough. 

I believe Mitch knows, with great clarity, every tear I shed is a symbol of the deep love I have for him. They are also tender prayers to my Father that my weary heart might someday find rest. I believe our loved ones who have passed on, if they are permitted to see our sorrows, don’t look upon us with pity or disappointment that we hurt, but rather deep understanding. For they know the depth of our grief is matched only by the depth of our love. Yes, they want for our happiness, but they also understand our hurt. I believe they reverence our grief more than we appreciate.

At least for me, coping with grief isn't about faux bravery or denying my most tender feelings for my son. It isn't about somehow stepping out of the shadows of sorrow – as though such shadows don’t exist. Coping with grief is about learning to see the light despite the inescapable shadows of sorrow. 

I see the light. 

In my quest for peace and understanding I am learning that it’s okay to hurt, so long as I don’t hurt myself.