Child Loss · Grief · On My Heart

Finding Happiness

One year came and went on August 21st.

I was asked twice this week what it felt like- the one year mark.

I wrote a little about it before it happened. It was fear and dread to be honest, the days leading up to it.

But I did it. I lived a year. I woke up, breathed in, and loved my family even in my utter weakness. I promised him I would and I did it. I kept living.

And somehow, I will do it again for another year.

Oh God, help me be brave.

From “Crawling Out of My Skin”

We honored the day with our children in a very private way. There were deeply emotional moments, tears and silence; and there was also story telling and laughter. There were flowers and pinwheels, food I didn’t have to cook, and wine. Yes, there was wine for sure.

And we woke up the next day.

There is nothing magical about one year, not button to push, or page to turn, or switch to flip; but things did begin to shift.

There is an awkward tension in the grief journey when you begin to find yourself looking at photos and videos with a smile instead of tears, when you can recount fun stories with laughter, when you are able to accomplish tasks without feeling quite as disabled, when you feel joy in new experiences. It feels good and it feels wrong. It’s not wrong, it’s just different and new. It’s like riding a bike without the training wheels, a little sloppy and awkward, and also a little terrifying.

I’m slowly stepping into a place of experiencing the joy of Mattie in my life. Not so much a remembrance, but a reality. A human soul doesn’t cease to exist. Only the body leaves us. The soul, the human spirit is eternal. Still very much real and present. As the deepest days of grief subside and the steady flow of my journey with grief continues, I’m beginning to enter a place of feeling Mattie’s spirit here with me, as very much a part of who I am.

Mattie in me can only be JOY, DELIGHT, WONDER, LAUGHTER, and yes, HAPPINESS. I want to be a Momma who reflects the beautiful life of my son.


Today was a day I will remember for many years to come.

It was like any ordinary day. Getting up before my body wanted to, packing lunches, turning down collars, making sure faces were clean, helping shoes find their way to the correct feet, and waiting for the bus.

It was a very late night, so I took my grumpy, tired self back to bed for an hour so I wouldn’t ruin everyone else’s day by being a grump all day long.

I got up, had my lovely coffee and my slow scroll through Facebook answering messages and questions. I got a shower and opened my drawer to find a t-shirt. The laundry was done and folded (no thanks to me), but there wasn’t much in my drawer, except for the few shirts that are normally way on the bottom.

I was greeted by the smiling face of Santa, a t-shirt I bought last Christmas because it made me happy, and happy moments were hard to come by last Christmas. Today when I opened the drawer, this shirt made me feel happy. It made me smile. So you know what, I put it on. I put my Santa t-shirt on my body on September 22, 2015 simply because it made me feel happy.

A friend we haven’t seen face to face in over a year came for a visit. I’m not going to spend a lot of time sharing about our visit because to be honest, it was deeply personal and something I’d like to hold close as a sacred moment for John and I.

What I can tell you, is that her visit was life-changing. It was affirming and encouraging. And it was in many ways a gentle nudge into giving ourselves permission to be happy, to paint a fresh canvas, to dream up the next story in our lives.

I don’t know where that story will take me or what the canvas will look like. What I do know is that I will write it, I will dream it, I will paint it. And it will be mine.

And Mattie will be there. He will be in it because he changed me; he turned me on. His very life flicked on a switch in my life, and death cannot take that away from me. My Mattie lived. He was very much a spiritual child. His physical body was hindered, and in many ways I believe that allowed his spirit to be more fully alive than I can ever grasp. He took his little light and it shined. It shined brightly.

I spent the rest of my day thinking about what it would look like to be happy, even without Mattie’s physical body in my arms.

I’m going to find my happiness.

What does happy look like for me? What will I paint? What will I dream? What words will become the story of me?


PS. After my Costco run today, I went to Hobby Lobby to find a “HAPPY” word art thing to put on the shelf in our gym and I am very disappointed that they have a gazillion word are things, but not a single one with the word “HAPPY”. 

PSS. If you’re newly grieving, this post might make you mad. It’s ok. I used to get a little mad at posts like this too, but deep down I wanted to believe they were possibly true. 

PSS. This is not me pretending that things are going to be perfect or that I won’t have to pick myself up off the floor from crying (possibly even tomorrow) or kidding myself that on October 20th, Mattie’s 5th birthday, I won’t be a hot mess. This is not me stuffing my feelings. This is me and my journey. 


10 thoughts on “Finding Happiness

  1. Tracie, I just want to say that I love your heart… Your heart for God, for your family and for others. You are a beautiful reflection of Papa. God bless you, Sweet lady.

  2. I love you.
    Today I realized something. I always believed that we were either strong in language or more suited to art — but not usually both. But you …..
    Your words are art.
    Your words are universal and speak the human language. Mattie is so proud.–and right there cheering you on.

  3. I read you…because you mend me. Yes, I know that only God can do that. I know. I really do know that. I’m hoping you understand what I mean. Sometimes I am struck by my own happiness. My own. Not my kids’ happiness- tho I am so grateful for that. But my very own. A strange unsettling new happiness…that belongs to ME. I like it. And it scares me, too. So…good words. And by way, good hair.

  4. Here’s what I believe about my words or anything I create. If I’m creating out of a place of love, I am allowing myself to connect with HIS LOVE. So it is a normal and natural thing for you to be mended by words that enter my heart, deposited by my Creator. Relationships are meant to reflect the Father’s Love. So if anything I do brings life or healing or hope, that it is simply His Light reflecting.

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