While smiling and nodding, they ask me how I am doing. It is as if they are willing my response to be something along the lines of, “I am doing well. The kids and I are moving forward and healing. Life is back to normal.”
Sometimes it feels like people “need” me to be doing better than I really am. After all, we’ve passed the One Year mark and their lives have moved past our pain and loss.
The missing of him in year two is a strange beast.
We teeter between loving memories and an acute knowledge of his absence.
This painful missing in our lives can at times be so real, so overwhelming, so heart shattering that it feels as if the MISSING itself has become the fourth member of our family unit. Don’t even get me started on the managing of three distinct grief journeys all under the same roof. It’s flat out exhausting, and not just for this Momma; it is tiring for all of us.
This emptiness of space our loved one filled is a unique pain, isn’t it? Its severity will waiver; it lessens at times and intensifies at others, but it never fully goes away. Ordinary life events trigger significant pain. A pain that is physical. A breath shortening, heart racing, tears brimming, all-
I answer this question of “How are you?” with some version of the truth I am feeling at that very moment. I’ve put my brave face on with a “We are holding on” or “hanging in there”. I’ve bitten my lip to hide the quiver with an “It really stinks, but God is still good.” I’ve even wordlessly collapsed into a few strong hugs with tears spilling at the simple gesture of kindness.
More often than not, I soften my answer in an effort to not burden the one asking. Probably though, I do it to maintain my composure without falling off the cliff upon which I find myself precariously perched. Because you see, I don’t get to dictate when the missing of him will overwhelm me. My children don’t get to dictate when the missing of him will slam them into a wall of grief.
The asking, while I assume it is hard for the asker, and I assure you it is hard for the answerer…is in itself is a beautiful gift.
I hear widows complain that people “don’t really mean it” when they ask how we are, that they “don’t really care or want to hear the truth.” Hey listen, I wouldn’t want to be the one tip toeing around the land mine that is me in these early months or years either. Let’s cut them some slack.
I tend to think their desperation is more than just a need for me to be doing well so they aren’t made to feel uncomfortable in my mess.
These are people who have been prayer warriors for me and my family.
They have shed tears over our loss.
Many have had to navigate their own grief in losing him from their lives too.
Some encounter my children on a daily basis and see the odd mixture of healing and fresh pain in real time.
I truly am grateful for their considerate questions. Even when it is unfortunate for them that they caught me in a not so wonderful moment, my heart swells with gratitude. Their simple gesture of asking, even when awkward for us both, is a precious gift. It means they are acknowledging our pain and willing to share our burden of “the missing”, if only for a few brief moments.
Lord, instead of me bristling at the brevity of the encounter, help me choose to praise You for bumping me into people who care enough to ask the question. Keep moving me forward in my healing. There is no cure for this missing, but I trust that You can make something beautiful of the pain. Amen.