Child Loss · Crazy Good Grief · Grief · Healing · Mattie · Special Needs Education

Back to School and the Grieving Heart


As I flip the calendar each year to August, my stomach drops. Mattie died on August 21, 2014. School started the next week, though our lives did not carry on as normal. So for the past two years, the back to school swirl is a bit muddled for me. It is muddled with memories of the most hellish time of my life, and it is muddled with movies I play in my head of the should-have-beens.

Mattie had pre-school at home. Due to his health, his teachers and therapist came to our house.

For his big pre-school evaluation, he went to the school where at least a half a dozen teachers and therapists evaluated him. He wore little red shorts, a grey checkered shirt and a red tie, with his white shoes over his ankle supports. He held his head high and he was so proud.

School time at home was full of fun and celebration for us. We even had little teacher assistants from time to time. We watched him reach milestone after milestone. We were looking at a few more months of home education, and the possibility of going to school the following spring with Daddy as his personal assistant.


My eyes are full of tears as I write this next sentence. This is the year Mattie would have started Kindergarten. The lump in my throat will not go away.

So as I get everyone new backpacks and lunch pails and school shoes and first day of school outfits, as I buy pencils and notebooks and folders, my heart will ache a whole lot that I am not throwing 4 of everything in my cart.

And as I work really hard at making space for healing in my heart (and friends, it is the hardest work I’ve ever done), I am reminded that Mattie was always more of a teacher than a student.


So to my little teacher, my sweet boy, my steady joy, 

I wish that I could lace up your high tops and tighten your tie. I wish that I could order a Land’s End back pack embroidered with, “Mattie Loux” because that’s what your brothers and your sisters all toted through Kindergarten and beyond. I wish I could buy you crayons. I wish I could take your picture on the first day of school with a little sign that read, “Kindergarten.” I wish that I could follow you to school and hide in the corner and watch every glorious moment of your first day of school. 

But you, my love, came fully knowing. You came as a teacher. So this whole Kindergarten thing that I’m mourning, though it would have cracked you up and made your head tilt to the side with pride, you never needed it in the first place. 

You came knowing all the things that matter in this life and this is what you have taught me: to love everyone with abandon, to laugh at life even when it’s hard, to make funny faces for no reason at all, to be joyful over the little things, to treat the ones I love like the treasures that they are, and to live every day to the fullest.

And my son, you have taught me that I am stronger than I ever knew and braver than I could have ever imagined. You have softened me and turned my heart upside down. For every “broken” part of you, you reached out and healed the broken in me. 

The though of you, still leaves me breathless for a moment. But I inhale with the very next thought because you taught me how to truly breathe. 


Thank you, Brené Brown for so often putting into words what my heart feels at its very core, “To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees- these are the risks that often involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I am learning that recognizing and leaning in to the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.”

And so to all of you, breathe in, love fiercely with your whole heart.

If you join me in walking into a new school year mourning another missed milestone- crying in the Target school supply aisle, gasping when you see another child’s photo on Facebook with a “Kindergarten” sign, or standing at the window watching a school bus that will not pick up your child-  will you join me also in leaning into the discomfort of it all so that we can all learn to live with much more joy, gratitude and grace? It seems impossible doesn’t it? But I am telling you, it is possible, and together with our shared vulnerability, we can rise, we can heal.

To all of you, I challenge you to whole hearted, fierce love, even in the midst of a world that is full of risk and pain. Let’s be vulnerable together, lean in to it together, and be willing to truly learn the lessons life is waiting to deliver. I have to believe that it is worth it. My life is proof. I’ve walked the road of love poured out with no guarantees, and I promise you, what I have gained far outweighs having not risked at all.

Much love,





Photo via Visual hunt


3 thoughts on “Back to School and the Grieving Heart

  1. I love this beautifully written essay so so much. Thank you for sharing and uplifting others. I know it probably really hurts to write these blog posts but you helped our grieving family today. Your love for your children is truly beautiful and a blessing to all those who witness it even from afar. Thank you again and again!

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