"An open heart that is grieving is a 'well of reception.' It is moved entirely by what it has perceived." —Alan D. Wolfelt

My boy, Micah, was born with severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He was “full care.” Nonverbal, non-ambulatory, incontinent, ate through a G-tube, etc. Simply put, his body did not work for him; he was 100% dependent.

I was his primary caregiver. At some point in his 18 years of life, I started to call myself, “CEO of Micah Company.” Caring for him required me to work with, and continually learn about, the social services, medical, school, and legal systems. I worked with doctors and nurses, case managers, staffing companies, school personnel, advocacy groups, therapists; trained, hired and fired individuals, and was constantly advocating for Micah across all venues.

When he passed, the loss of him alone was devastating. What I had never known about, or considered, were the “secondary losses.” Those losses occurred like a water faucet that refused to stop dripping.

It took months, sometimes years of effort to secure something Micah needed. I signed “1 million forms” and faced constant “red tape.” One of the most vivid experiences after the initial loss of him was this community. I basically had a revolving door on our house. Staff coming at different times and durations, meeting with service providers, therapists, and case managers.

Always people, in and out, but then deafening silence! Micah passed on a Wednesday morning and Thursday became silent. No Micah to care for, not one form to ever sign for him again, not one system to work with, and no people coming in and out. Eighteen years of extreme busyness and then nothing. It became chilling and I maintained shock that Micah was gone. I also gained a vast emptiness from a secondary loss — my community.

Secondary losses do not occur only with physical death of a loved one. Any loss can, and often does, have secondary loss. For example: loss of part of self, loss of security, financial loss, emotional loss, loss of desire to go on, loss of faith, to name a few.

Grief is multi layered and unique to each and every loss we experience. The beauty is found as we journey from our heart with and through the loss. I lost an entire community in the same instant that I lost Micah. Eventually, this secondary loss created a yearning in my heart for a new community of people. Simultaneously, a vast opening had occurred and something unexpected happened over time.

I had chosen to be authentic, believing I had things to learn through the grief journey. This kept an opening in my heart enabling me to be a “well of reception” allowing and encouraging healing within. I didn’t get a new community of people as I pictured. Instead, nature nurtured me! A spectacular new community was formed around me through the elements, animals, and mother earth. Something so mystically beautiful arose out of these lived experiences, and each one helped heal my heart!

Cheri Thomas

Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.