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The Hurt Behind the Smile

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

By: Dana Romano, author of The Littlest Brother Blog



Going into the second year of life without Julian may leave some people wondering less and less about how I am doing.


Maybe you tell yourself that I must be doing well because you see me out and about with life.


Maybe you think I’m doing okay because I haven’t written as much as I used to.


Maybe you think I’m fixed because you see pictures on social media of me with a smile or laughing.


Maybe you wonder if you should really send that text to ask me how I am because so much time has passed, I must be doing better.


Maybe you’re quite over seeing me post quotes, stories, pictures in relation to my son who is not alive, but wouldn’t bat an eye if it were a child who was living.


Maybe, just maybe, my grief hasn’t gone away. Just because the waves are coming at me fewer in between does not mean they don’t hit me just as hard.


People who grieve are also very much allowed to feel happiness and joy. And when we do, sometimes there’s a wave of guilt that comes along with it. Such a major piece is missing from our life that it seems almost cruel to go on without them.


But I am learning how to keep going.


Because I have a husband who I love more than anything.


Living children who I love more than anything.


Family and friends who I love more than anything.


And there is still good in life, even if it has taken me a while to find it again.


But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments where I’m longing for my son. It doesn’t mean my triggers have come to a complete stop.


Maybe I can now attend a baby shower without that extreme heaviness as I had before of having to catch my breath as the thought of watching baby items torn open ripped me apart. Maybe I can now see photos of three children without the constant wondering of who and where Julian should be at this very moment. Maybe I can now see a pregnancy announcement without having a flashback of that being the time where Julian was kept safe inside of me.


But please don’t take my growth and yet dismiss my grief. Because things are still very much hard in this world.


Because people who are hurting months, years, decades after their loss, still have their moments of sadness and crying out, even if you’re not there to witness it.


We choose to cry on our way to work. We choose to crumble when we close the door behind us, safely back home. We choose to wake up early and slip into another room so our children don’t hear our sobs. We choose to scream in the shower, hoping the water will drown out the noise. We choose these things to shield others from seeing us in pain, knowing how uncomfortable it can make you.


So what do we do in those moments?


Smile behind the hurt.


My point?


Always be kind, never assume. Always ask, never avoid.


Kindness goes a long way to a grieving heart.


Assumptions gets you nowhere.


Asking always opens the door to new conversations.


Avoidance leaves us more broken than we already are.


The truth is, this kind of loss never goes away, even if what you're seeing on the outside doesn’t match what we feel on the inside.


So if you're wondering how I’m doing…


still ask, still reach out, still speak my son’s name.


Still remember his birthday is just as important to recognize as if he were here living and breathing.


And still know, behind the smile, there will always be hurt, whether you see it or not.




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