Last week I survived the 13th anniversary of my son’s death. Even after 13 years, it is a painful day. In fact, the days and weeks leading up to the anniversary date are extremely emotional and anxious and heart-wrenching.

Those who have not experienced this kind of loss are probably surprised and confused and dismayed by this fact. How can someone live 13 years and still not be “over it?”

“Emotional isolation is a major problem for grievers” (John James and Russell Friedman in The Grief Recovery Handbook.) We are not taught how to handle grief. We don’t know what to do when it happens to us or someone we love.

Life goes on right? “God never gives you anything you can’t handle” and “Even though you can’t understand it now, there is a reason for your suffering.” This is what well-meaning friends and family members say. What people don’t understand is the pain of losing a child (or a sister or a husband) is not something you get over; it’s something you get through. You can learn to have a full and happy life again but you never forget and the pain does not magically go away.

When my son’s anniversary date came along this year, I took pictures of his headstone and bench at the cemetery. The only care-taking I can do now for him is to clean up his resting place and make it look pretty. I wanted to share the pictures but I felt people would find it morbid and strange. Then I decided to share anyway and hope people would be enlightened and learn it’s not weird nor is it a sign of ongoing unhealthy attachment. Ongoing attachment is normal when you have loved deeply and suffered loss.

This is one of the pictures I took at my son’s gravesite. It’s pretty and peaceful there. I realize this photo is sad and depressing to some but it is my reality. I share this not because I am a basket-case who cannot get back to regular life. I am simply a mother who loves her son and wants to share about him, not in a “support group” but in everyday life with everyday people.

So today, as I remember my son, I ask you to remember it’s not weird for people to want to talk about their loved ones who have died. It’s natural to talk about the people we love, whether they are alive or dead.

As you continue on life’s journey I encourage you, “Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.” (Margaret Wheatley) Start a conversation with someone you love who has lost someone they love. In doing so, you will give your loved one a tremendous gift.