It’s overwhelming to face a tragedy that you never saw coming.

Grief rises up suddenly from the meadows of life like an insurmountable peak. The base is vast and panoramic. You can see nothing beyond the moment and the ascent seems impossible. Even though we are stranded in a woeful valley, it’s apparent that nothing prosperous blooms once the season has passed. There is no reason to linger in a fruitless depression, especially when those who have already crossed over are urging us on. If we simply relent without any effort to lift our selves up, then there is no hope of gaining a new perspective.

I have barely begun to climb, though I can comment on the early stages of the journey. The degree of anguish is immense and difficult to grasp. You will immediately feel the effects in your body. Your legs will tremble and your heart will pound. It seems there is nothing to cling to, and more often than progressing, it will feel like you’re sliding back down.

Each tiny step will drain you completely, and the further you go, the more diminished you will become. The air is so stagnant that it will seem like you’re forgetting to breathe. You will shiver uncontrollably and struggle to function in the bleak atmosphere. Instability is to be expected, and exhaustion will force you to take frequent breaks.

Emotions crumble without warning and crash down on your spirit, adding to the weight of the sorrow that you already bear. Every time you look back, it will feel like you’re falling, and it would be easy to simply let go and plummet into despair. In those moments, you have to hold on to whatever you can. We have to remember that were not on this venture alone. Many hands are reaching out to help us, others are counting on us to pull them up. If we extend ourselves, we might find a way to grasp some sense of normalcy. Or, at least reach a point where we’re able to see things differently.

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John French

My name is John French. I was born in January of 1968. I own and operate a small remodeling company in Highland, MI. My wife Michelle and I married very young and we celebrated our 20th anniversary in May of 2009. We had two amazing children: Veronica, who is 20, and Brandon, who was 17. We worked very hard to build a life that would afford us the luxury of giving them all the things we never had, including a stable home, committed loving parents and every material thing imaginable (within the means of a middle class family, I should add). Over the last few years, it seemed we had finally arrived, and living was easy. Then Brandon passed away in August of 2009 from an undiagnosed heart condition. The devastation of that one single moment has crushed our view of reality and cast us down into a state of perpetual winter. I’ve been writing all my life, though not publically. Brandon’s death has so overwhelmed me that I can no longer contain my thoughts. Although my stance is undermined by despair, and frosted by the bitterness that follows the loss of my son, I will labor to plant some seeds of promise in the barren future that I'm so unexpectedly tilling. Perhaps something beneficial will stem from my mourning. If you can gather even a grain of hope from my reaping, it may help to sustain you through your own emotional storm.

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