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Granting yourself grace in grief

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

16 Oct 2020, I received a phone call.⠀

One no one ever wants to receive.⠀One that, as a Soldier & Family Readiness Advisor for my husband’s battalion, I have received⠀too many times.⠀The voice on the other end informed me that First Lieutenant Dax Conrad from Charlie Company had passed after a completely unforeseen battle with multiple organ system failures.⠀I hung up the phone.⠀I tried to carry on.

Staring in the face of grief, into darkness, a loss that I hope never to understand…

An hour later, my phone rings⠀again.⠀It’s an out-of-state number I do not know.⠀Usually, this is not good news.⠀I answer.⠀On the other end is the Executive Officer from Hound Company; that’s my husband’s unit.⠀He asks me if I will help him get a meal train started for a family who has just lost their infant daughter.⠀I agree to meet later for the details.⠀I hang up.⠀I look at my daughter, and I go to the bathroom so I can close the door and cry.⁠ _______________________________________________⁠ ⠀⁠ Staring in the face of grief, into darkness, a loss that I hope never to understand, I can’t help but feel selfish for not understanding that pain.⁠ I look to heaven and thank G-d that I am blessed to live this day with my child and husband and to have a friend who I could call upon to hug me and invite me in for a cup of tea as I process what is happening. Who can hold space for me while I try to be able to do the job for which I willingly signed up and frequently ponder, “what the F&#$ possessed me to do such a thing?”⁠ ⠀⁠ I slow down.⠀Hug my daughter.⠀Call my husband.⠀Speak to the commander and other personnel and find my bearings.⁠

What the F&#$ possessed me to do such a thing?

I remember why.⠀I feel it in my heart, and I remember precisely “what the F&#$ possessed me to do such a thing”⁠.⠀I remember how alone I felt when I had no one to ask for guidance on something as simple as finding the legal office.⠀I’ll be damned if I let someone else feel that sense of abandonment on their darkest day.⁠

I go to the closet.⠀I pull out my slacks, my blazer.⠀Where is my unit pin? Ugh, never mind, it’s just as well.⁠ ⠀⁠ I will bring flowers and a card tomorrow for the couple; tonight, it’s meal drop-off to Dax’s young widow and coordinating assistance moving forward.⁠ Thank heaven for my sister-in-arms, who shouldered so much of the load — more than most realize. Dax wasn’t merely a soldier in her husband’s unit. He was a friend, a comrade. Someone she and her family had shared time and stories. Had laughed with on countless occasions. This wasn’t just a responsibility for her; it was her way to honor him and mourn his loss. ⠀ I get home.⠀I look around.⠀I am thankful.⠀Shaken to the core, but I am thankful.⠀And I thank G-d that I am learning it is okay to be grateful.⠀Even possible to feel blessed while supporting others in their times of need.

This is when we find our ground, our family, our community.⠀When we grab others’ hands to build a bridge strong enough to carry others whose foundations have been washed away, these are days to be thankful we have chosen to be a part of the Army family where we are never truly alone. ⠀ On our darkest days, in our loneliest moments, we are not alone.⠀We have a village that surrounds us even when we don’t see it.⠀They are there.⠀Always.⠀Like a lighthouse calling to a passing ship in the night to guide us and lead us ashore.

On our darkest days, in our loneliest moments, we are not alone.

Knowing that you can, and should, feel however you need to during these times is critical to being there for yourself and others.⠀Allow others to do the same, and you have taken the first steps to heal this trauma and move forward.

Lieutenant Dax Conrad, an infantry officer assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment (Sykes’ Regulars), passed away on October 16, 2020, after battling medical complications that arose while conducting training to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge

This post was originally published on Medium. You can view it here.

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