When days become months and months become years it’s hard to explain to others how grief is both always present but not always in focus.
I’ve struggled to help those outside the loss community understand that the absolute weight of the burden is precisely the same as when it fell on me without warning that dark morning.
Dominic’s absence, if anything, has seeped into more places, changed more relationships and influences more choices than it did seven years ago when I was only just beginning to comprehend what a world without him would look like.
But I, and my family, have continued to live.
We’ve added family members through marriage and birth. We’ve gone places, made memories and made career moves. We’ve gotten older. My husband retired. Children moved away.
All these things and more mean that life is simply bigger than it was when Dom left us.
It’s a slow, gradual process.And for some hearts who are forced to endure multiple losses in a short time the jar may never get very large because the grief is so great.
I remember when I realized that sorrow was not ALL I felt nor Dominic’s absenceALLI saw.It was a bit frightening to be honest.
Did that mean my love for him was waning or that his importance in our family was forgotten? Was I a bad mother because I no longer cried every day for the child not here? Had my heart grown cold?
But then I realized none of those things were true. What allowed me to feel joy again, to participate fully in family outings or gatherings, to plan holidays and birthdays once more was instead that my heart had found a way to hold both sorrow and gladness at the same time.
There are still days when grief looms large and my world seems too small to contain it. But those don’t come as often as they once did.
Life will march on, regardless of how hard we might wishit wouldn’t.
And, in large measure, life after loss is what we choose to make of it.
Yesterday I finished a short video for a bereaved parents event that should have been completed a week (or two!) ago.
I just kept putting it off and putting it off for no good reason other than I didn’t want to do it.
It wasn’t hard, didn’t cover ground I haven’t already explored dozens of times and really only took about thirty minutes to complete including set up and recording.
But I just wasn’t feeling it.
I’ve been more than a little undermotivated these past few months and as I enter what I call my “season of sorrow” marking Dominic’s departure for Heaven, it’s gotten worse.
There have been a lot of changes and adjustments in the past twelve months-some associated with the larger pandemic story and impact and some peculiar to my family. All of those in addition to the usual ebb and flow of grief (yes, even after nearly seven years!) have contributed to a (not laudable) attitude of, “What difference does it make?”.
It’s kind of the emotional equivalent of stretchy pants. It’s easy to ignore a few extra pounds or inches as long as you can still fit in your clothes.
I’m weary of death.
Weary of daily social media posts pitting one “side” against the other as if there could possibly be any “winners” in this awful scenario where the virus is claiming lives and the attempt to limit death is claiming businesses, young folks’ college years and individuals’ mental health as they face isolation and devastation.
I’ve been weepy the past few days thinking of the parents who have had to bury children (whatever age) and spouses burying lifetime partners. I don’t have an answer for any of this except that I wish we would all be more compassionate and less territorial or political.
There is a very happy and exciting visit on the horizon that is lighting a fire under my backside. I hope I can overcome my lack of motivation and choose to lean in and work hard to get ready for it.
I want to, with all my heart.
I hope to, with as much energy as I can muster.
My default (in the past) has always been running wide open.
Imagine being used to the modern convenience of electricity at the flip of a switch and then being suddenly plunged into darkness and disconnection.
Unprepared-no matches, no alternative fuel sources, no extra warm clothes for winter days and nights-just plucked from the world you knew and dropped into a world you didn’t.
That’s what it felt like when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. No warning, no chance to think through what life might be like, what changes I would have to accommodate, how I would need to face the days, weeks, months and years of his absence.
For some of us life’s twists and turns include unfathomable pain, sorrow and loss. Broken hearts beating side by side in the dark often find it difficult to reach out across a chasm of grief.
Marriage is hard work under the best of circumstances. Child loss makes it harder.
But there are ways to create space for one another and to extend grace even in this Valley.
It’s no secret that men and women are different.
It’s the subject of everything from romantic comedies tohundreds of books.
“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” and all that.
So it shouldn’t surprise those of us walking this Valley that our spouse may be grieving very differently than we do. But it often does. Because everything is amplified when it echoes off the high mountains on either side.
And just when we need it most-for ourselves and for extending to others-grace is often in short supply.