what’s next?

In many ways, things were easier this time last year.   

Stephen died on December 7th and I don’t really remember much of the 3 -4 months that followed.  I was inconsolable and totally immersed in my grief. Nothing intruded – not the need for food, personal hygiene, my job, holidays, birthdays, or other commitments; these things never even entered my mind.  My world consisted of grieving, crying, remembering and sleeping.  It was unimaginable, but I had no idea how much harder things would become.

After I decided that I wanted to live, it took all my strength to get through a day – one minute at a time.   I was consumed with figuring out how to “do” daily life: return to my job, deal with obligations, interact with people and simply act normal.  I struggled to care because it hurt so much; I just wanted it all to stop. This was the hardest thing I have ever done.  I am thankful for the support and love from friends and family which kept me going as God continued to heal my heart.

I realize as I reflect on that time, that I succeeded in handling daily life but failed to figure out how to live.  

I’m still not sure I have an answer, but I know what I don’t want:

-If I stay “in” my grief & live in the memories, I keep Stephen close to my heart, but I lose me.

-If I cram down the pain and try to get on with my life, then I am packing him away so, I lose him.  And I’m living a lie, so I lose myself too.

Neither of these is an option.  The only thing that I can do is make my life count so I can honor him and keep on living.

Now I just have to figure out what that looks like……..

 

 

 

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8 months today

I can’t believe 8 months has passed since my son’s accident.  I wasn’t watching the calendar, but should have realized as the physical pain and emotions began to build yesterday.  One thing that is different though – the memories of the accident day haven’t gone away but they do have blurry edges……..  

Last week, a friend offered to help me look through the last box of my son’s belongings.  I had been saving that last box; probably the same impulse that makes me delay reading the last chapter of a really good book – because I don’t want it to end.  But it was time.    

What an odd experience – I was in the moment and I was also watching myself

……..holding his Boy Scout shirt; reading little notes that he wrote; getting teary looking at the old photos; smiling at finger-paintings from 1982; and laughing out loud at his 8-year-old Christmas list (He cut pictures from every catalog he could find, stuffed them inside a manila envelope and wrote on the front: all i want is in here)

a wonderful flood of bittersweet memories

 And I kept thinking, “Why didn’t I save more of his things?”  

Maybe we need to live each day in a way that celebrates the present.  Is that the lesson I need to understand??

Together wherever we go

After 2 weeks of company…… I was amazed to realize that I hadn’t “lost it” while family was visiting; I was too distracted.   Of course we spoke of my son and his accident, but with few tears.

After a sharp pang of guilt, I was almost relieved to feel my constant companion again. That is when I understood that the grief was always there. It is a part of who I am.

This imagery keeps running through my mind…

In the beginning, you run outside because your grief is too large to contain.  You thrash about and scream in pain from grief – as if you are under siege from the elements that are beating at you.   Finally spent, you retreat to inside the house where it feels safe.  

Once inside, you tuck your grief away, wrap yourself in a blanket and rest.  As long as you are inside and safe, you can keep the memories at bay and hold back the tears. But, each time you go to the door and try to open it, the grief storm is there waiting.  So, you slam the door shut and stay put.

You are on guard, because the memories and reminders push at that door.  A song, a book, a harsh comment (even a kind remark on a bad day) will try to drive the door open.

As time goes by – you are able to walk a few feet from the door without worrying that it will be breached.  Those are the days that don’t start and end with anguished thoughts.  In other words, you feel almost normal. 

But, eventually, you have to leave the house.  And when you do, when the door is finally open, it is there waiting for you.

 As my father says, “It doesn’t matter what you do, it never goes away.”  Kinda reminds me of that old (kitschy) song:

“Wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re gonna go through it together “

 

 

out of step

Isolation is such a circular process. 

There are times when I need to be alone, so I withdraw into my head – to think, to remember, or to just be.  

After a while, I become aware of my isolation, and the loneliness creeps in.  I feel heavy – as if I am draped in sadness; and I am convinced that no one could understand how this feels.  At these times, I’m so tired of being in pain, I start projecting my self-disgust on other people.  I have to force myself to reach out and break the solitude. Even then, the support of family and friends can’t always reach that place deep inside where it hurts.

just hanging on   

Getting through the day without breaking down is now a bit easier.  When I reach the point where it gets to be too much – I can “hide” in plain sight.  I stay in the bubble and try not to think, feel, or deal with anything painful or controversial.  It feels safe there: no fatigue or tears, but also no laughter  – and no strong emotion of any kind.   I just realized today that I spent the last 3 days there.

 “The pain of grief never really goes away. Healing is not a cure (there is no cure for grief).  Healing means facing the future with acceptance, gratitude and hope.”   Grieving God’s Way by Margaret Brownley