Monday, August 24, 2015

The Missing (As featured on A Widow's Might)

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-
consuming ache.

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.   

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Nineteen Months: A Mental In-Between

It all feels recent and yet distant.

Painful memories are less prominent (unless it is late at night).

Sleep has returned to a normal cycle.

Beautiful memories, ones from before illness finally fill my mind.

The missing remains, but it is blanketed at times with new coping skills.

Here is where my current mental battle remains...irrational fears are still very present, usually surfacing at bedtime. 

At nineteen months out from experiencing one of my biggest fears become my reality...I am existing somewhere between wanting to dream of my future again and knowing dreams don't always come true.

It's a strange place to be; this in-between.  
The place where tragedy has touched and changed me deeply, yet hopes linger.

When I am exhausted, strange thoughts and feelings can enter my mind.  It isn't fully explainable, it is as though I am on the verge of dreaming of a new future, yet I am sabotaging it with crazy "worst fear" scenarios at the same time. My mind races off on a tangent.  "What if?"  How would I respond if my worst fears about the future came true (again)?  Why would I respond that way? Over and over, the scenarios play out in my mind.  I find myself frustrated over something that hasn't even happened.  Irrational fears are a little discussed part of the grief process.

Any new happiness will always be tinged with my reality that loss occurs in this life.  It is a mental battle to just experience the joy when it comes and not play out all the possible negative scenarios that could ruin it.  The thought process is unwelcome yet unavoidable.

So I turn to Scripture.  I read in my Bible and claim God's Word.  Taking thoughts captive.  Being reminded that He makes beauty from ashes.  Resting under the safety of His wings and taking shelter there from the vicious cycle of thoughts and fears that want to grip my mind and steal my future happiness.  Remembering that fear is not from God but is a weapon of the enemy, I lay my fears...rational and irrational the foot of the cross.

The peace He gives cleanses my mind and heart.

I am currently residing in the in-between.  Behind me lay ruins.  A greatest fear realized through profound loss. Before me exists an immediate future I can neither predict nor control.  Beyond that lies eternity, which is secured in Christ.

My responsibility is to be obedient to Christ, keep my mind steadfast on Him, and to trust Him for the details.  I pray he enlarges my ability to fully experience hopes and dreams again and diminishes my "devil's advocate" mentality that constantly wants to remind me things in life are hard and won't go as planned.  I depend on Him alone to balance knowledge of reality and the ability to dream of beauty again.  In the meantime, I am fighting hard to live in the moment and enjoy the now.  

I want renewal.  

I want to dream without constant filter of fear and loss touching it.  

For this in-between is where newness will sprout, if I allow it.