Okay but not okay, and that's okay

Is it okay to be "not okay?" Discover one dad's heart-wrenching story.

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  • The funeral director told us it was time to close the casket, and suddenly I gasped for air and tried to hold back my tears. But nothing could stay my sorrow. This was it. I wasn't ready to look upon my son for the last time, to say goodbye to his little body, his sweet face, this little boy I used to cuddle, hug and laugh with. My youngest son Wyatt stood beside me and watched as I, with grief and sorrow, tucked-in his older brother one last time.

  • I carefully pulled Mitchell's favorite blanket up to his chin, like I did every night, and said, "I love you, little boy, my sweet son. Oh, how I love you." I cried a father's tears. Until that moment, I had tasted no deeper tears. I had never known so great a sorrow as to say goodbye to my child. Sweet Mitch trusted I could keep him safe from harm. He thought there wasn't anything I couldn't do. When he looked at me, he saw Superman. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a broken man. But I tried. God knows how hard I tried. But I was only human.

  • Months later, my oldest son Ethan came into my office while I was writing an entry for my Facebook page, Mitchell's Journey. I was unprepared for the interruption. My eyes were red and filled with tears. Ethan asked, "Dad, are you okay?" I immediately tried to be Superman and put on a brave face. As I wiped my eyes, I said, "Yeah, I'm okay," as if to suggest all was well and that I was simply rubbing my tired eyes. But Ethan was discerning and knew better. I could tell by his expression he knew I was grieving.

  • In that moment I thought to myself, "What good do I do my children when I pretend?" I realized I do them no favors when I am not being real. I paused a moment then looked Ethan in the eyes and said, "Actually, I'm not okay. But I'm okay. Do you know what I mean?" Relief washed over his face, and I could tell he not only understood but was also glad I was being real, as if it gave him permission to be real, too. I wanted my son to know that it is okay to hurt: that you can be "okay" but "not okay," and that's okay.

  • Ethan and I talked about Mitch for a while, and he shared some of his sorrows about losing his younger brother. We both cried together. I hugged Ethan and let him know how much I loved him every bit as much as his brother. We crossed a threshold with grief that day. My son knew it was okay to hurt and that pretending otherwise serves nobody, not even ourselves. On the contrary, we do a great disservice when we pretend.

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  • I had a moment of truth a few years earlier when I read the words of an 18th-century French writer, who observed, "We discover in ourselves what others hide from us, and we recognize in others what we hide from ourselves." When I read those words, I vowed to retire my masks and get real.

  • I've tried to have similar exchanges with my other kids. My children, each unique, process their grief differently. And that's okay, too. In all things I want to be real with them because it is when we're real, that we become equipped to deal with real life.

  • I am still walking on Jupiter, where the gravity of grief is great. The air is thin, and my tears fall as generously as spring rains. Yes, I have moments of sweet relief, and happiness is returning, but grief and sorrow linger. I cannot run from sorrow any more than I can run from my shadow on a sunny day. I must learn to live with love and sorrow: there seems no other way.

  • I'm okay. But I'm not okay. And that's okay. That is part of being human.

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Chris Jones is the co-founder of mycore, a technology company out of Salt Lake City, Utah. He is also the author of Mitchell's Journey (www.facebook.com/mitchellsjourney) -

Website: http://www.mitchellsjourney.com

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