There are all kinds of heroic stories of mothering. Just look out the window.

Here's one of them.

Meet Tamara Thomas, who shares her crushing loss and enormous heart in her blog "Where There is Life... There is Hope"

Sometimes you read someone's story and you marvel at their strength and perspective and wisdom and wonder how is it that they are even able to get through the day. Grieving people look at others in grief and think – how does she do it? What keeps her going?

Getting a glimpse into these lives, hearing or reading these stories is a reminder. They remind me that nobody is grieving alone, although grief is the loneliest of journeys. And they remind us all that human beings can endure unspeakable loss.

The Grief Club

Sometimes in this space I will introduce you to one of these fellow grievers. So today  I'd like you to meet Tamara Thomas. She's in the Grief Club. Big time. She lost her beautiful teenage daughter, Ava, in May of 2008. And her husband and parents. She's been hit very, very hard.

She, like many of us, is writing to feel, and writing to heal. And to remind herself, I'd assume, that she's still here.

Her blog is called Where There Is Life…There is Hope, and is inspiring and heartbreaking and then inspiring again. She's a lovely, thoughtful, brutally honest writer and when you're in deep grief, that's just what you need.

She says it doesn't get better; she doesn't try to sell you on the time-will-heal-all snake oil. But she shows you by sharing her own life, that you can grieve and live at the same time. She's still in the ring, wrestling with life to make it worthwhile. She writes about life, death, grieving, loss of a child, healing, organ donation and adoption, among other things.

I'll let her introduce herself to you. This is from her blog:

"My name is Tamara Thomas. I suffered the loss of my only child in May of 2008. This mind-boggling loss and subsequent pain changed me in ways I am still discovering.

I was born in Sun Valley, Idaho a bunch of years ago to a wonderful set of parents and a problematic older brother. He and I didn't start getting along until we were both near adulthood, and now we are quite close. He's been my hero many times through the loss of our parents and my daughter. I hope I never have to return the favor.

I live in Arizona and am the editor of a small-town newspaper here. I adopted a wonderful little girl (who keeps getting bigger!) in 2010. She was 8 years old when she came to live with me. I frequently refer to her as my little "lifesaver." Perhaps we are that for each other.

More recently, I have been fortunate to add two lovely teenage sisters to my family. They lost what remained of theirs, sadly, so we have happily joined forces. Being a working single mom of now three young ladies, I am busier than ever, but also happier than I have been since – well, since Ava died."

A Shattered But Open Heart 

Her story is riddled with pain and loss, and then full of redemption and some kind of healing. Not the kind of healing where she's moved on or is over it or that it's even any better. It's just different. She made room in her heart and in her life for more children. As she says, she adopted an 8-year-old girl and then two teenage girls! She is clear. They are not a replacement for Ava. Her heart remains shattered.

But somehow she found a way to piece enough of it together to open it to this new chapter of motherhood in her life. That just slays me; to be able to hold to such deeply cognitively dissonant truths at the same time – the deepest of shattering grief AND the openness of hope and generosity of mother love. Right there existing in the very same heart.

Here's the thing I keep thinking about. I'm struggling to figure out how to honor my brother, his memory, his righteous life, without feeling constant searing pain. I was reading Tamara's blog and she wrote this sentence that just stopped me cold.    

"Ava was far too great a person – and is far too great a spirit – to be memorialized by my life's ruin."

I know this is so obvious but let me tell you, when you're in deep grief, you really are moving and thinking and processing in slow motion, like deeply under water. You're kind of delirious. And sometimes you are so blind and shut down you aren't ready to receive any information that feels like an assault. Then, somehow, the fog clears a bit, and you hear something or read something or somebody says something and it clocks you right in the forehead or in the heart maybe. And you say, right, right. That is so right. How did I not know that?

That's how I feel reading Tamara's blog. I keep getting clocked in the forehead. Which, in my case, is a good thing.

My brother, Josh, was far too great a person – and is far too great a spirit – to be memorialized by my life's ruin.

So time to get living.

About the Author

Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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