This question is so natural this time of year – a simple question really. “What are you planning for the holidays?” In my head, I answer: Isolation. Pain. Sadness. Darkness. Anguish.
My son loved Thanksgiving. He just loved Turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing – the whole menu. I would roast a huge turkey, just to make sure he had plenty of leftovers. He always said the leftovers were one of his favorite parts. Now, I don’t want to roast a turkey, smell a turkey, or even see a turkey – maybe never again. It hurts too much. I miss him so very much – always.
Instead of happily rushing into the holidays, my husband and I are bracing for the overwhelming pain, loss, and grief.
Many friends and relatives extended invitations, sincere and heart felt. We declined them all.
Not because we do not appreciate the invitations. We do.
Not because we do not love the people. We do.
In fact, it is because we love them. I don’t want to drag down some one else’s holiday. I don’t want to make them uncomfortable. And I just don’t want to pretend I am OK when I am not. I don’t want to put on a happy face – when I feel like crying. This holiday, I need to be able to just “BE”
BE sad or BE broken or BE still or BE hysterical or BE nostalgic or BE in communion with GOD or BE …. whatever I need to BE.
If I am around others, I must consider their feelings. I must conceal my pain and put on the smile facade. I always feel like I need to BE what they need.
So my husband and I will stay home over the holidays. We will BE with each other. We will remember. We will sob. We will pray. We will BE.
I miss you, Jay.
Holidays and Parties – for me – are definitely on the casualty list. I used to love parties and family gatherings. In the fall, we would always build a huge bond fire and invite family and friends to the farm. We would eat my husband’s chili, roast hots dogs and marshmallows – just enjoy.
I have not hosted or attended a party since losing my son – I just struggle being around groups of people. Truthfully, I cannot get “in the mood” to host a party and I don’t want to attend some one else’s party and bring down their mood.
Has anyone else experienced the awkwardness of the grief journey? The isolation? When I encounter people, acquaintances who either do not KNOW or I do not see on a regular basis – there is an awkwardness in our interaction. I can tell it is on their mind and they feel uncomfortable – and I feel uncomfortable. Conversation just feels “forced”.
Holidays and party days are ahead – AGAIN. If I muster the courage to accept invitations, will I would be socializing with people I have not seen since my son’s memorial service? Will they feel uncomfortable? Will I be a dark cloud on the party?
I cry privately. I grieve privately. I work to always maintain my composure in any public situation. I do not want to burden others. What to do? Go? Say no?
Look at those nice, relaxed ears. I can hear the Great Spirit in the trees.
My brain just won’t shut off – the thoughts, memories chase the sleep away. I miss my son. It hurts – time will not heal that. My Charlie dog sits here with me – we talk. It’s OK I trust you, GOD – sleep can’t run forever.
I have always loved the Book of Ruth – beginning way back in my childhood (about a million years ago). It was like a fairy tale to me. Ruth was beautiful and loving and kind. She did not abandoned Naomi in her pain and grief. In the end, Ruth and Boaz fell in love – and in my mind “live happily ever after”. I was so absorbed in Ruth’s story, I never really considered Naomi’s.
Now, I am living Naomi’s story!! Suddenly, I read Ruth from a whole different perspective. Naomi lost both her sons. I lost my only son. I know her pain. I feel her pain. Naomi had a loving daughter-in-law. So do I. I cherish her.
In Ruth Chapter 1, Naomi tells everyone not to call her Naomi anymore. That name meant pleasant. Instead, Naomi wanted to be call Mara which is bitter. Yeah, I am bitter too – I understand. Sometimes the bitterness is all-consuming. But I am trying, everyday trying – not to be bitter. I am trying to remember the end of the story where Naomi is blessed by Ruth’s love and ultimately, her relationship with Boaz. GOD saw her pain and grief and heard her sobs.
So, the loss of Naomi’s sons was not the end of her story.
Maybe this is not the end of my story.
My morning began in a blanket fort.
First alarm just went off at 5:30 am. My mind acknowledged the alarm with a snarky snarl, “I have 20 minutes before second alarm goes off.”
I am snuggled in my blanket fort with the blanket pulled tightly over my head. It is a soft, cuddly blanket – feels like kittens – fresh from the dryer last night, smelling sweet. I want to burrow down into my blanket fort and just think of you. No grief, no tears, no pain – safe in blanket fort with happy memories.
I remember pulling couch cushions and blankets and turning our living room into a camp site. I remember looking through the view master at dinosaurs, and pretending they were binoculars and real dinos and we were brave explorers. I remember the giggles and the tickles – blocking out the whole world in our little blanket fort.
The second alarm pierced my perfect memory – had to finally drag it out of my blanket fort. But don’t worry, Son, I will be back. Does anyone else have a blanket fort?
My grief is not weakness. My grief is not sin. My grief is not a lack of faith. My grief does not offend GOD. It is a very human response to a very profound, devastating loss.
I am flawed, broken person. I make mistakes. GOD knows me and loves me anyway.
I live for somedays. Somedays, I am OK. Somedays, I am not OK. Somedays I make good decisions and I make progress. Somedays I make stupid decisions and I slide back. Somedays, I do all that before my first cup of coffee. I know GOD loves me anyway, that’s why I keep trying.
Some days, I do things I don’t really understand, like carry a pebble around all day, clutching it for dear life. Someday, I will retire and explore other ways to support my family. Someday, I will go to the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina – and Someday I will go to Ireland and take my followers along. Someday, I will be able to devote myself full time to hobby farming and crafting. Someday I will something- …. Or maybe never, maybe nothing – I really don’t know.
I chose to share my journey, not force it on anyone. I do not know where this journey will lead me – I don’t have that kind of “written-in-stone” plan. I cannot look that far ahead. I may have to change directions, alter my path a few times as I trod along. I will stumble. I will take wrong turns. I will continue. I will make my journey with GOD, communing with and answering to GOD.
If in my little rantings even just one person can find a pebble they want to pick up and hold for comfort – I am grateful. If sharing my journey can let them know they are not a bad Christian if they scream out in pain, if they cry in the shower, if they suffer with grief or depression or pain – let them know they are loved as they are– then this is a journey worth sharing. GOD loves us all anyway.
2 Corinthians 5:8
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
I should be happy for you, my Son – I guess that is what this passage is trying to tell me. That is a hard thing for me to process. You are absent from your body, but also absent from our lives. I know you are with the LORD, present before HIM. That must be glorious. At the same time, I know you did not want to leave your family and friends. I know being with LORD is wonderful – but I selfishly want you with me, with us.
GOD, YOU have my baby – I know he is YOUR precious child too. I believe, I know YOU love my baby– so please take care of him.
Help me to focus on the joy he is feeling being with YOU. Help me to understand. Basically, just help me.
This definitely does not get any easier. 30 month and 4 days – and it is still a pain that defies words.
Hold it in. Keep trying.
My prayers are with all who are hurting and struggling. Just keep holding on.
Today, this Lakota prayer for the dead shared by a friend comforts me – I pray it comforts others too:
May your songs of the winds and clouds sweep the pain and sadness out of my friends’ hearts; as they hear those songs, let them know the spirits who are with those songs are at peace.
Now, truly – I love almost all music – from classical to show tunes to rap to pop to R&B – but grew up in the age of Rock N Roll!!! Unfortunately, I find, in the deepest of my grief attacks, George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Joan Jett just don’t reach me. AC/DC, Pink Floyd, and CCR don’t not relieve my mind and Sugarhill Gang or Led Zeppilin just don’t do it. I have tried them all.
Somewhere in my travels, on a friends radio, I heard the familiar lyrics “You’ll see green alligators and long necked geese…..” The Unicorn song!! I remember that from a far distant childhood in a whole other lifetime. So, I recently purchased 20 years of the Irish Rovers from iTunes. I can’t help myself – I am tapping my foot. I found myself dancing to “The Bonnie Lady”!! What!! Dancing!!!
I know, it is only a temporary diversion – but for a moment…just a brief moment – I felt lighter. Thank you, GOD – for the moments. I know my journey is made up of moments – help me to see YOU in those moments.
Music truly has power.
For me, on my grief journey – I feel grief is like quicksand. There are times, I feel like I am beginning to come out of the heavy, dark, painful weight of the grief. I feel like I can smile and maybe get excited about a craft project or event.
Then BAM!!! It sucks me right back down. This weekend was one of those mired in the quicksand weekends. I didn’t answer the phone when people called. I didn’t even go into my craft room. I didn’t read. I just didn’t.
My husband was having the same experience so we just wallowed on the couch together. We talked. We shared. We hurt. We raged. We remembered. We cried. We grew closer.
I wailed and yelled at the world, and cried out to GOD – I begged and pleaded for forgiveness and grace. I looked at photos and drenched each one with fresh tears. I let myself sink. My husband let himself sink too. We just held each other at the bottom of the quicksand. Our dogs curled up with us too. What an odd little “PACK” we are – but we support one another.
Maybe, the quicksand periods are necessary and useful – my body needed rest. My marriage needed work. The pain is still there – always will be. But at least, today, my head is above the quicksand. I may not return any phone calls. But I am up, showered, at work, and fake smiling – so that is a start.