Newton’s laws refer to motion. To physics. Subjects I know little about. Grief, however, I know something about. My grief, anyway. Everyone’s experience is different. But I think most people agree that while grief changes, it never truly gets easier. Especially not when holidays, anniversaries, or milestones come around. This is my third holiday season without Ethan. The fourth without my dad. The second without my mom. Those empty spaces at family gatherings. I could fall into the holes they’ve left behind. The pull is as strong and the loss is as raw as it was last year, and the year before that.
So if every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the only way I can think of to counter the sadness is to seek joy. The only way to ease the heartache is to put love into motion. That’s where my mantra comes from: Just love harder. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it pushes back against it. It keeps me moving forward when I don’t feel capable of breathing.
My other life rule is to love like Ethan. When I want to shut down and pull inward, I imagine Ethan holding out his hand, pulling me up, showing me opportunities share and reach out.
What’s absolutely magical to me is how Ethan’s love has grown and spread. Throughout the year, people will share times when they felt inspired to be kind or generous to honor Ethan’s memory. Friends will keep bags of snacks and toiletries in their cars to give to people in need. They’ll pay it forward at a store or restaurant. They’ll make a donation in Ethan’s name. And weeks before Christmas, a group of friends will seek out a family that we can shower with gifts. The whole experience is so meaningful and emotional for me. My friends and I look at the ages and interests of the family members, then there’s a flurry of brainstorming and sharing and shopping and wrapping. Ethan feels present in every step. Besides the actual beauty of all these actions, I love knowing that people are thinking of Ethan. That his light is present in their kindness, eternally in motion.
I know many people don’t like to share the ways they help others. It may feel boastful or showy; I get that. But if you perform acts of service or love in Ethan’s name, I’d love to hear about it. One of my worst fears is that Ethan’s memory will fade or be forgotten. It means the world to me that there are people keeping his spirit alive.
Along with the glow and excitement of this season, there is so much pain and longing. I feel all of that and know many of you do too. The pain is a fact of life after losing a loved one. There’s no way around it. Be gentle and loving with yourself and know that you’re not alone. And when you feel able, push back against that pain. Counter it with an open heart. Push back with a love that is equal and opposite to the grief. Love as hard as you can to honor the light and memory that lives on. And on days when you’re incapable of motion, be still and know that’s okay too.
May you all feel moments of warmth and comfort this season.
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