Each year around Goodwin’s birthday I like to reflect on my thoughts about life and how Goodwin’s death has influenced me.
Goodwin was due on the eve of my 30th birthday. I was busy getting things ready for Baby’s arrival, and we didn’t even have a named picked (Goodwin was going to be his middle name – like Eldon – to honor Eldon’s maternal grandparents). At that time, I felt like I was moving upward in my life, balancing kids and my personal pursuits. Life was pretty happy. We were on the brink of finishing the hard years of grad school and ready to start the next chapter.
As one can expect, the news of Goodwin’s death completely blindsided us. It was an absolute shock. Having his death connected to so much anticipation was very painful. I really feel like his death stopped me in my tracks.
I don’t like to admit that I have struggled a lot these past five years. I used to pride myself in my emotional health. I am a pretty even person by nature, and although I have certainly experienced difficulties, I felt like I had weathered them pretty well. After Goodwin, though, I felt like my heart had been broken. Everyday difficulties became triggers for deeper wounds. I felt more vulnerable, scared, and unsure. I almost felt numb to excitement for fear I would get hurt again. Feeling like it was much harder to manage my emotions took its toll on my confidence and my ability to feel successful.
While these are not pleasant realities of my loss, I bring them up because they have influenced me to be more compassionate and aware of those dealing with emotional and mental struggles. It reminds me that everyone has a complex life story. It helps me see that my children do frustrating things because they experience frustrating things. It reminds me to be more patient and to talk with my children openly about what they are going through. And I think sharing with them my own difficulties has helped them develop more sympathy.
A few months ago, I watched Disney’s “Inside Out.” I was so struck at the end of the movie when Joy realizes that Sadness was not to be avoided or denied. I love when she realizes that Sadness actually helped unify individuals with her honesty which had the potential to bring about deeper joy.
So, while I don’t think it’s healthy to just focus on the sadness, I do believe that sad things can remind us to treat others with greater humanity. And I believe that sad things remind us to be grateful for what we do have. I think when we are honest with each other and don’t just pretend to be happy, we can help each other deal with difficult things.
So, on this day that brings about a mix of feelings, I hope we can all try to be a little kinder and more understanding. Hard things don’t really go away, but we can certainly bring joy into the lives of others as we show greater compassion and love.