July 6, 2011

The Power of Vulnerability

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:13 pm by letterstoelias

Why do we come here?  Why do we write, or read what’s written on blogs like this – blogs that deal with pain, death, loss, grief?

I have a few ideas . . .

I had a blog to keep people updated when Elias was sick, and when I started this blog it was also in part to keep people up to date on how the girls and I were doing, but it became so much more.  For me personally, it felt much better to get the thoughts out of my head than just letting them swirl in there alone, driving me mad.  It can’t take away all the pain, but it helps.  I (thankfully) never tried numbing the pain with any form of substance, and as that would just create another world of problems (and not just for me) – so this was my release.

When Elias died, I lost far more than just Elias (though I have another post in mind for this).  Some people took issue with my writing, and let me know it.  Some people found it too painful to read and stopped.  My life represented fear brought to reality for some, and they drifted away.  I lost family and friends when Elias died too (again, perhaps I’ll write more of this one day).

What I didn’t expect, was to gain so many new friends through it.  I didn’t expect to make such strong, valuable connections with complete strangers, when people I had been so close to before Elias died, and turned away.

These new people in my life – even though for the most part they are not people I can see, hear, and hug on a regular basis (if at all) – are connected with me through grief.  We have been connected by death.  And, we are all willing to expose our vulnerability.  Our pain.  Our fears.  Our losses.  Our grief.

Of course I still have a number of family and friends who have stuck by me and still read here – which I am beyond grateful for.  And, it took some time, but I am coming to terms with the fact that those who have left had their own reasons which didn’t really have much of anything to do with me – and though still painful, perhaps it was a sign that I didn’t really need them in my life in the first place (though this is tough, as I valued what we had before . . .).

And, though I would take Elias back in less than an instant if I could, I am thankful for the opportunity to have made some of these life-long friendships since he has been gone.

And, I am beyond excited for the fact that I will be attending Camp Widow once again this year, and will get to connect with some of these beautifully, wonderfully vulnerable, loving people  . . . though hopefully more on that soon too.

I know there are some who read these blogs out of interest (one friend was told that he was actually ‘more interesting’ right after his wife died than in recent posts that were less focussed on grief) – but for the most part I think that it’s the vulnerability that brings connection on some level.  I always appreciate reading comments from people who, though they have not experienced a loss of any kind, let alone one as devastating as a spouse or child, tell me that reading about Elias and I have given them a new appreciation for life and the people they love.  Nothing warms my heart more, as this was one of the reasons why Elias and I shared our story before he died, and I have continued to do so since.  It was important to him that people didn’t have to face death in order to appreciate what they have, and when I read these comments it helps me to feel his death was not strictly in vain.

I watched this amazing video a few months back on the power of vulnerability.  The last half in particular speaks of how important it is to avoid numbing the ‘hard stuff’ in life, for we can’t selectively numb.  If we numb the bad, we don’t fully experience the joy and the good.  I want to experience all the good in life.  All the good my girls bring me.  All the good that life has in store for the future.

When Elias was sick, if I chose to numb and ignore what was happening, I would have numbed the joy and love we shared in our life.  It was not easy to stare death in the face, but it was the only way.  And it hasn’t really changed in his absence.  His death continues to stare me in the face.  It occupies every moment of every day and it still hurts, but I continue to try and use that to ensure that my time here is spent well.  He, too, had the courage to be vulnerable.

If you have 20mins to spare, I promise you it is worth it.  You can also read the transcript here, but if you can, at least read her last few words:

“This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place I believe that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”

I am enough.  And so are you.

* * * * *

My Love,

Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with those who were willing to face it.  You made a difference in the lives of so many.

‎”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life! And, if God choose, I shall love thee better after death.”~Elizabeth Barret Browning


P.S.  I Love You



  1. bridie said,

  2. My blog started out as a way to keep my family updated on our family, and the humor involved in raising six kids.
    Three months later it became, sadly, what your blog became.
    But now, not just sadly. I was able to express myself through the keyboard in a way that I would never have been able to otherwise. I never planned what to write …. the words and thoughts just came flooding through my fingers, sometimes so quickly I could barely keep up.
    I, too, faced criticism about what I wrote …. because I wrote the truth. The gut-wrenching, painful-to-read truth. I could not write less. I know without a doubt it was therapy for me. I have yet to go back and read those posts during the cold, black days of grief. One day I will, but not now.
    And I, as well as many others, cannot wait to see you at CW!! We all do have an amazing bond that I found so surprising from the first widow I met. Words are often not needed. Nothing needs to be explain. Nothing needs to be defended.
    We all know better.
    We know much too well.
    And we all wish, very, very much, that we didn’t.

    But in being vulnerable (I also posted that video on my blog a few months back ….. LOVE it!!) with our truth, with our grief and everything it brings …. especially all of the changes, for good and bad, we help others who come on this path behind us.
    And I am so very blessed to know that something so suckily horrid that happened to me ….. and to you ….. can be used for good to help others.
    That’s something.
    Something very big.
    See you soon!!!

  3. letterstoelias said,

    Thanks SO much Janine! I wanted to get more of a chance to get to know you last year at camp – it was a little overwhelming that time – but I’m really looking forward to getting more of a chance to chat this time around (I was also wanting to touch base with you about volunteering for an hour or two if needed)

    The video is amazing. I posted in on fb a while back, but hadn’t been able to find the words to put it into a post. I’ve been so inspired reading Mel’s blog recently – and the vulnerability she has shown in the part of the journey she’s on right now . . . I felt moved to get it out there.

    I still remember how valuable my first connection with a widow was – little did I know at the time just how many of those connections I would make, and how much they would pull me through.

    See you soon!

  4. Mel said,

    Powerfully said…

    It is scary to be this vulnerable, but finding the community of supporters (and cheerleaders!) is totally worth it, eh?


    • letterstoelias said,

      It is scary – nothing comfortable about it at all – but I’m happy to cheerlead for you any day, and am so happy to have you in my corner too!
      ps. are you trying to sound Canadian, eh? =)

  5. Dianne said,

    As a childbirth educator and birth doula, I inform couples of the amazing benefits of an unmedicated birth. I emphasize how important it is for the couple to connect on an intimate, emotional level like never before. This is the greatest tool, not only to get them through the birth process, but through life in general. There is no epidural to take away the pain and fear when you’re told your daughter (or spouse) has brain cancer. What will you do? How will you cope? You’ve got to dig deep and draw on that same strength that got you through birth. I’ve read the birth stories of your girls…I think you get what I’m talking about, Chelsea!

  6. Annie said,

    Much love…

  7. Laura said,

    Hello there!
    I am a student at the University of St Andrews, Scotland and I am currently doing a research project on the role of online blogs for individuals impacted by cancer. I was wondering whether I could talk to you about your opinions, I am especially interested in how bloggers can creatively express themselves(symbolically) in virtual environments and how important the blog design is in this process and why. But most importantly if a blog can be a site of healing.
    I hope that my research will promote online blogging as a critical resource and increase its awareness.

    Please email me back if you would like to.
    Thanks in advance 🙂

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