I am certainly not an expert on grief, but I do know that when emotions are high, other emotions, even those not related to our loss enter into equations that seem impossible to solve. I have heard terrible grieving tales of hatred within families; anger, battles over things, comparing levels of grief…to the point that families or individuals within families sever their relationships. I cannot think of anything worse for the person who is gone. My heart aches for the deceased because certainly he/she would want family to come together to celebrate life, love one another and move on trying to improve ourselves in his/her honor. These tales seem so very hard to comprehend, and then it happens and interrupts the important grieving process. I think of my sweet son who wanted to do nothing but make people laugh and to make those around him happy. I know that if hearts break in the afterlife, his is breaking now and this is something I cannot bear as a protective mother. As badly as I want him back, it pains me to say that for the first time, I am happy he is not here. I am thrilled that he is in a place free from the ugliness, selfishness and cruelty of some whom he loves dearly. Grieving such a great loss is more than I can bear and something I need to do, yet the happenings of this life are distracting me and preventing me from healing. I have a desperate need to work through my grief with Jake as my focus, but instead the irrational anger and hatred of others torments me. I pray for peace and wisdom in coping and I suppose all I can do is fight within myself to keep the focus on my sweet son who deserves nothing but love in his death, because this is how he lived his life. I know I am expected to forgive even the non-repentant and those who feel no regret for harming others, but I will continue to pray daily for the strength to do so because this is the best way I can think to honor Jake, my peacemaker.

Can levels of grief be compared? I believe they shouldn’t be, as we all come from various backgrounds and our relationships with the deceased are all very different. It seems that no good can come from such thoughts and resulting behaviors. Can a comparison really be made between a sister’s grief and that of a wife? Can we even compare the grief of two sisters? Certainly not. If one believes that he/she is grieving more than another, the other person’s feelings are then dismissed altogether. I suppose that raw human nature is self-centered. We need some of that for survival, but as we mature, learn and grow, we gain something that improves the lives of those around us, consequently improving or own lives. We learn to empathize with others and even sometimes think of others before ourselves. We learn to contemplate our own feelings, but still have room for the compassion needed to accept and have sympathy for the feelings of those around us even if they are different than our own.

I am not an expert on grief, but I have seen that comparing levels of grief and creating hierarchies of relationship types to the deceased is nothing but destructive. Jake touched so many lives that countless messages, phone calls, texts, emails and conversations… have been shared by thousands. Each of these people has a story to tell and each is coping with a loss that cannot be measured and cannot be categorized. To do so is to remove truth and possibly remove a part of Jake’s life. Minimizing Jake’s influence on any one of us is to minimize his life story. That would be a crime.

The grief anger I had so frequently heard about amongst family members is not leaving our family alone, and it is destroying me and all who truly love Jake. Through this process of enormous loss, I have barely coped as my world has crumbled, and I have become the target of hatred and anger. Me? These are people who love my son too, but direct their anger and grief at his Mother? If I were to guess, the anger might be because my son left me as the person authorized to make decisions in the event of his death, but I cannot guess what is being said to cause such cruelty. I will continue to ignore the anger the best I can. I keep thinking of a fellow Gold Star Mother who said, “I couldn’t have gotten through this without my son’s battle buddies”, yet my son’s buddies are being turned against me and I don’t even know the story being told. As heart-breaking as it is, I must not join by responding to these cruel actions, even to defend myself.

The funeral will be held at Jake’s church because it was the choice recorded on his Army records. It is the church he grew up attending. Any other place would disrespect Jake’s beliefs and his wishes. There is only one seat on the small plane bringing Jake home from Dover Air Force Base and I believe that person should be Jake’s dad. Everything else is flexible, so at the request of his wife of 5 months, he will be buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery. At the request of his wife, the casket will be closed even though he’s viewable and many would like to see him, no hymns will be sung, the Book of Mormon isn’t to be mentioned, and the service is to be non-spiritual… Individuals from both sides of Jake’s family will speak including my brave daughter whom I love with all my heart. Don’t they know that Jake would dislike this contention? I will find peace in knowing that both God and Jake know I have been and will continue to be only kind and respectful. I will do this because it is the right thing to do and because I love my son. We should do this for Jake who loved us all.