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What I Want My Small Town to Know Since My Parents Passed Away

I know you know who I am. You’ve been seeing me in the grocery store with my family for 24 years. You’ve watched me perform in Christmas concerts, on the basketball court, in the rodeo arena and on the school band stage. You watched me graduate, and you see me every day at work.

You know both of my parents passed away and left my sisters and I orphaned. You donated money to my family after each death and brought food to our doorstep. You’ve held fundraisers for us and praised us for our strength.

But there are a few things you don’t know. You don’t know I feel anything but strong the majority of my days. You don’t know some of the things you say, although they’re meant to be light-hearted, can pierce my heart like a dagger. Tears well up in my eyes, and my vision goes blurry, but I’ve become pretty good at hiding that from you. I’ve become adept at hiding my emotions and putting on a happy face.

You don’t know I get upset every time you talk about calling your mom or hunting with your dad. That’s not any fault of yours, of course. It’s a stage of my grief I hope you never have to know. A stage I hope I can soon overcome.

I have searched for support in grief groups and communities and in therapist and psychiatrist’s offices, but you didn’t know that either.

You don’t know there are days I wish I could hide in a hole and never see another human face again. You don’t know that when you’re upset about the weather or because something hasn’t gone your way, I want to shake you and tell you how good you have it.

You don’t know on some days I am the happiest person in the world. Invincible is an understatement when I feel like this. These are the days I may come off as witty and funny.

You may know who I am, and you may know loss. But you don’t know my story, and you don’t know my loss. You don’t know my grief.

Please don’t label me by my losses or my grief. Please don’t assume you know me. I’m not the girl who lost her parents. I’m not “the strongest woman you know.” I am me. I have a name.

Please just be happy to be alive and embrace every day. Relish in the moments you share with your family and friends. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve overcome. But please don’t assume you know someone or what they’ve gone through. Please don’t offer advice if it isn’t solicited.

Everyone is unique. Everyone experiences life and loss in their own unique way. So, embrace your uniqueness and accept everyone else’s.

Thank you for being there for me and for helping to make our lives a little bit easier. Thank you for being so kind in some of the darkest days of our short lives. Remember, there are still dark days, and there is still sadness. We are working towards our new selves, so please give us time.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images