I had so many questions and so few answers. Our Afterloss did not begin with the first death. By the time we held Bryan for the last time we were three months into total devastation.

Loss for us began with a phone call. Our world of Before was obliterated when the call came asking us all to be tested for HIV. We knew for years something was wrong. We just didn’t know what.

Right after the birth of our first child, Matt, Lydia said to me, “I feel like something has died inside of me.” Matt spent his first month of life in the Intensive Care Unit. Three years later, Bryan spent his first month in intensive care. In those three years we made the rounds to all the specialist and no one could tell us why Matt was always sick. At the birth of Bryan, no one knew why they had to do a caesarian two and a half months before due date. All we knew was he was going to die if he wasn’t born that day.

Questions change in the Afterloss. Life changes when loss takes everything. At the time I had this image of walking through my life as if I had just gone through a massive earthquake. I stepped into the rubble of everything that once was just like someone would step through the ruins of their house after it had been leveled by the massive movements of the earth. I envisioned stepping through each thought, each feeling and every belief I once held dear.  I would pick up a piece of me, hold it in my hand and asked, “Do I keep this or is it no use to me now? Is this salvageable or is it gone forever?”

The gift my Afterloss has given me is the permission to ask anything unconditionally without retribution. If I am to find peace, I must exclude nothing, embrace everything and accept, at the deepest level, what I can find. It is an uncomfortable process sometimes, but ultimately, it shapes of my comfort.

I don’t know why things happen the way they do. Good people die. Kind people die. What could Matt and Bryan have given to this world that now rests in ruins? Lydia, by far, had more to give to this world. She gave all she could, but her world was cut short. I don’t know why.

I’ll never know why. I searched for years the trails and tributaries of why.  However, I found in my Afterloss the meaninglessness of why. It does not serve me. What illumines my path are other questions – What now? What can I give to life now that life has been taken? How can I still love when there is so much pain? Can healing and hurt hold the same space? Will this ever end?

I have millions of questions. I do not filter, judge or censor any of them. Every fragment of me is examined, honored and released to make its way into the creation of a new me.

When I watch the survivors of earthquakes, hurricanes, or any natural disaster, I pay close attention as they walk through the ruins of their homes. They slowly step over the debris that once was their place of refuge, their piece of land that carried what they held dear. I pay close attention to their sorrow.

I know that sorrow. So much is irretrievable. Loss is loss. I never compare loss. There are degrees of loss. They can rebuild. I will never hold my children again. There is a difference, but underlying it all is the common anguish of loss.

I find their demeanor in the demise of their homes eerily similar to the many walks I’ve taken in my Afterloss. I had to touch the devastation. I had to pick up the shattered fragments of my life and hold them until they let me go. I had to ask all the questions and accept some questions simply have no answers.

Ultimately, I had to rebuild. My rebuilding is in the shape of healing. The life I have now is not the same life I had, but it is a beautiful life. I have been blessed by love.

The love for my first wife and two children are part of the magnificent landscape of the love I have for Rachel, my wife, and the world I live in now. Lydia, Matt and Bryan guided me to the very foundation of love where we built our lives. It is on this foundation I stand today.

The greatest pain I’ve ever experienced has now become my greatest healer. Because I have been willing to lean into my hurt with everything that is in me, I am experiencing the healing of everything that is me. My Afterloss is not a place of sorrow. It is a place where sorrow heals. It is a safe place where I can ask anything, feel anything and experience everything. It is where I sit in my deepest gratitude. For my Afterloss is where I found the greatest answer of all – the true meaning of love.


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