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.
My family has regular discussions about current events and while I don’t watch televised news, I read widely each day about what’s going on in the world.
Even still, a steady diet of nothing but dire reports is anything but good for a heart.
So each day I try to focus on some happy moments as well.
Let me share a few with you.
This past week I’ve gotten a good bit of outdoor work done, sweated tons and walked farther and longer than usual.
Our weather turned from rainy and excessively humid to sunny and actually pretty dry (for Alabama!).
My chickens are laying well and our little local produce man had watermelons and peaches.
This afternoon I’ll hop in my not-very-big above ground pool and cool off between choreswhile Frodo the goat watches me.
Black-eyed Susans are blooming by my mailbox.
I had lunch with a friend.
And I had a video chat with four other amazing bereaved mamas.
Finding at least one thing each day for which to be thankful helps my heart hold onto hope.
I make a conscious effort to breathe in beauty and enjoy those moments.
When I was fresh on this journey it was hard to receive anything as “good”. Everything was filtered through the lens of loss. So I understand if you think this is a futile exercise.
But eventually I was able to see more than my son’s absence and feel more than pain and sorrow.
Life is still life and there are still beautiful moments. Sunlight through the trees, a baby’s laugh, friends and family around the table, flowers, furry friends, a favorite meal, or the perfect cup of coffee are all things I enjoy. They don’t take away the sorrow of missing my son but they are worth celebrating.
I’m learning to hang onto them with both hands and to cherish them as a gift.
Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I could be awfully self-righteous.
I could not understand how some people (notice how I dehumanized them by lumping them together) couldn’t just act right, do right, pick themselves us by their bootstraps and get on with life.
Now I am more apt to wonder, “What awful thing has happened to this person?” instead of “What is WRONG with them????” when I notice someone acting a bit out of character or not quite living up to their commitments or somehow missing the mark of societal expectations.
Take all this coronavirus craziness.
Some of us are being more cautious.
Some of us consider caution a sign of insecurity or fear or lack of faith.
None of us have enough information (really!) to make an informed decision.
Lack of testing, lack of research, lack of transparency and not enough time means we are all essentially guessing what is the most prudent and appropriate individual response to this threat. I’m choosing not to judge anyone’s choices even if they are different than my own.
I’ve felt judged many times in the past six years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
People who haven’t buried a child really don’t understand how it changes EVERYTHING. But that doesn’t stop them from offering an opinion or advice or making comments on social media that are clearly intended to correct or shame me.
Now that things are opening up on the back side of blanket stay-at-home orders I’m probably going to be judged again.
What people don’t know about me-what they can’t see and can’t know unless they ask-is I suffer from an autoimmune disease. The treatment impacts my ability to fight off infections. It lowers my white blood cell count. It makes me susceptible to things that other folks never have to worry about.
I had latent (non-contagious and asymptomatic) tuberculosis a couple years ago.
I’m not part of population that would normally be considered “at risk” and only found out about it because it’s protocol to test for TB before prescribing some of the more potent medicines used in treating rheumatoid arthritis. I still have no idea where I was exposed to it.
Eight months of antibiotics with unpleasant side effects later I was disease free.
Based on first person accounts of what it feels like to have Covid19 (not even considering the most dire outcomes) that was a cakewalk.
So I’m not standing in line to try my hand at surviving this new threat.
And I have other, very real, very painful, experiences which inform my choice to be more cautious. I know that regardless of odds, of treatment and of what a heart HOPES will happen, things don’t always go as planned or as predicted.
I know the horror death leaves in its wake. I know the toll trauma takes on a life left behind.
My family has already had to deal with more than I could have imagined and I will not purposely expose them to something else if I can help it.
So regardless of local, state or national guidelines, protocol or recommendations I will be mostly staying home.
It’s not lack of faith.It’s not fear. It’s prudence based on experience.
You can make a different choice and I will absolutely positively respect that.