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  • Writer's pictureJaime Clemmer

Building a community of the "not broken"

I don't know when it happened, but at some point my husband Jack and I found ourselves talking to a lot of people about helping out their other friends who were grieving. We dubbed ourselves "grief ambassadors." People would reach out to us when someone they knew was experiencing tragedy and the conversation would go something like this:


Friend: "Hey, can I ask you about something. My other friend is going through something-it's not as bad as what you all are dealing with-but it is pretty bad {insert their specific comments about the death of a parent, a sticky divorce, death of a spouse, the loss of a their company, general malaise, a child leaving for college, whatever}. They are so sad and I don't know what to do for them. What do you appreciate when you are having a particular rough day? "


OR


"Hey, can I ask you about something. My other friend is going through something-it's not as bad as what you all are dealing with-but it is pretty bad {insert their specific comments about the death of a parent, a sticky divorce, death of a spouse, the loss of a their company, general malaise, a child leaving for college, whatever}. What do you wish people had done or would do for you? "


Our emotions would inevitably be put in check as we were regularly reminded that we did not have a corner on the market. We found ourselves often reassuring friends and even strangers that while yes, our grief was probably a different type of grief, and yes, perhaps magnified in a different way, but ultimately, grief was everywhere and it was heavy, regardless of the reason.


We found ourselves, for a variety of reasons beyond our control, grieving very publicly. As a result we had a lot of people privately messaging us or telling us directly how grateful they were to see us grieve. It was almost like our public expressions made their grieving acceptable, and allowed them to acknowledge their own grief, over whatever it might have been. Our public grief also seemed to allow people a chance to ask questions.


Before Sawyer died I had experienced very little by way of death. It was trial by RAGING fire. We didn't know the rules for grieving, and I am grateful we didn't. As it turns out, the "rules" are stupid.



When I committed to try and launch this brand my husband sincerely asked, "Are you trying to make money from this website?" My answer was no. Not primarily. I have bigger goals than money. I want to build a community of people who can feel the strength that comes in knowing that other people have their own grief. I wanted to build a community of people who know that it is okay to grieve in whatever way, for however long, in whatever private or public means necessary to help them heal (barring all obvious law breaking and morality bending actions, of course). I want to build a community that understands the "healing" means different things to different people and everyone gets to define that word for themselves.



In order to build that community I want to have a symbol that can, over time, be recognizable. Like the various colored ribbons or the rainbow that symbolize certain causes. I knew the name of our little band of misfits would stem from our family motto (a story for another post, deriving from a vary critical moment in the hospital with Sawyer). I believe with my whole soul that there are things seemingly impossible in this life with which we are called to endure, but they do not have to break us. We came awfully close at many times, which is why we needed the reminder. We verbally had to repeat our mantra, "we are not broken," over and over again in the beginning. It was like we had to remind our brain not to shut down. When other people would say things to us like, "seeing you survive this helps me realize I can survive {insert trial or tragedy}," we were strengthened. We were strengthened by those who have survived their children dying. Strengthened by people who have been betrayed by their partners in terrible ways. Strengthened by people who know death and dying more than anyone in this life should know. Strengthened by those who are "not broken" but who are willing to expose and share their own heartbreak and near brokenness.


Grief so many times hides because of shame. I don't get it. I try but I don't get it. I know people who want their grief to be completely private. I respect their desire. If I hadn't been denied that opportunity myself, maybe I would be one of those people. But I had much of my sorrow splayed out for the world to see from the moment Sawyer was rushed to the hospital from his 6th grade history class. So while yes, much of my heavy grief comes when no one else is around-in the shower, on my pillow, in the quiet aisle of a grocery store, or the middle of my dreams- many of my tears have been shed where the world is watching. And it has taken time, but I am okay with that now. And I want other people to be okay with it too. I want the shame of tears to go away and the empathy of humanity to take its place.


My husband loves t-shirts that carry the symbol of a product but don't spell out what it is. Probably stems from his punk rock phase. It inspired the need for something discreet, thus our symbol within our name. When you see someone with our jagged heart on their purse, backpack, card, sign, necklace, wherever, treat that person with a little extra


grace. Offer some dignity. Be understanding. We should all be doing this anyway, I just thought a gentle reminder never hurt. Consider it the modern day version of the black ribbon around an arm. And if you are a griever yourself, you can silently nod, knowing you are not alone in your grief.




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