Grief is: pasting on a smile. For a girl with a bad case of RBF, grief did nothing to help my smile. Honestly, it’s ok not to smile. (Lord help those JW missionaries who paid a visit after Micah’s death. My scowl was probably frightening. I didn’t even attempt to be pleasant 🤦🏻‍♀️😆)

But even on really hard days, there have been spaces that weren’t about me and I needed to figure out how to muster something other than despair – especially when meeting strangers.

Unfortunately the pain was often so consuming that I literally couldn’t make myself smile. It didn’t feel right on my face. So I gathered my big girl panties and went to the mirror. I made my self smile. A really big, full, crinkly eyed smile. And I held it. And I memorized what the muscles felt like in my face. So after that, when I needed a smile, I could paste one on. I would make a quick check that all muscle memory was engaged. And I would walk away knowing that I had faked something believable. Guys. I cried and vented and sobbed and screamed when I had the space. But there’s a lot of functioning required of a grieving single mom. So I functioned the best I could.

I have found there is something really beautiful in hanging with trauma buddies. Fellow sufferers. You can talk explicitly about your stories. Heavy tears are tolerable and you have the freedom to really, generously smile. Even belly laugh. Because the shared space is known.

These smiles are real. Not pasted on. Real crinkly eyed, silly, fun hopeful, clear eyed smiles. These smiles give me strength to keep going. And strength to share real smiles with the world.

Rachael Flick