The Truth of Grief (Part 2)

Yesterday the boys and I were on our way to a store and one of the songs from my dad’s services began playing. Sweet Hour of Prayer. I used to love that song. Now it brings bitter sweetness.

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne –
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.

Immediately my brain time-traveled right back to the viewing and funeral. (Nearly seventeen months ago – what?!) Vivid images of the church, the flowers, the people and the casket came to the forefront of my mind. Painful memories began to play like a movie reel in my head. Dad’s funeral. Dad had a funeral. Dad is gone. These phrases sabotaged the images in my head. It just seems impossible. Fresh feelings of shock, overwhelming sorrow, a sense of directionless in my loss, extreme sadness for my mom.

I can’t go there. It’s just too hard. I mean, he’s not here anymore. He’ll never be here. I’ll never see him again, at least not in the father role which I knew and loved. When I see him again, he will not know me as his daughter. I will not recognize him as my father. He will be a Brother in Christ, but not my daddy – the first man who held me in his arms and the first man I ever loved. I won’t be able to sit with him and talk about my boys; the things they did while he was gone; the young men they became. I can’t share with him the things he would’ve loved and appreciated here on earth.

And then I get slightly angry. God, why have You taken him from me? It’s not even that I need him anymore – as I originally thought – it’s that I want him here. I miss him.

It’s easier to function in life by stowing away the thoughts and feelings related to my dad’s death; stuffing it down deep and rarely allowing it to surface (at least not enough to cause much of a painful response). I don’t want to think about the funeral and the casket. I don’t want to think about him lying in the ground…gone, waiting for time to desecrate his body. I don’t want to think about the huge hole that can never be filled and all the precious moments we’re missing out on. I don’t want to think about the days in the hospital nor the minutes that passed as we hung on his last breaths. I don’t want to feel the extreme sadness. I don’t want to feel the stab as his death penetrated my heart (I still know exactly how it felt), nor do I want to feel the continual ache which now lingers. I don’t want to allow my mind to remember because it still really hurts.

I get it – others don’t know what to say. They don’t know where I am in my grief; because at a certain point the grief is only felt deep inside the heart and so on the outside I may look fine. Well, it still hurts.

Those little reminders. Seeing his truck pulling a trailer filled with brush and branches, reminds me of a once familiar sight as he was so often seen hauling who-knows-what; hearing the news that one of his grandsons just started Bible School (which would’ve warmed his heart); hearing how God’s using each of us for His glory; going with us to the PA Grand Canyon, which is a place I’ve never, until this year, visited without him; witnessing the 76% eclipse – though we didn’t get to see too much with the naked eye – it was still a big event which he wasn’t part of. New things to happen to our family can’t be shared.

I had been busy enough lately to keep my thoughts regarding my dad light and pleasant – purposely reflecting on the positive, but my son going to school seems to have made it extremely difficult to bury my heartache. I can’t help as my thoughts seem to drift deep. Deep into the trench of my wound, where the pain is still raw with sorrowful ooze. The pain seeps out of my heart and often floods from my eyes.

When your heart aches and nothing can satisfy; when you miss someone but nothing can bring them back; when you need someone and no one else suffices; when you miss his comfort, advice and big bear hugs; when you just miss your dad.

As life carries on without someone, so does the pain of their departure. It’s there…always.

There’s something about the first year. There’s a countdown. Each month becomes a marker of time. You hang on each day, week and month as the feelings are new and fresh in your mind. But once past the first year, it’s like the clock disappears. No longer are you hanging on each day, not sure what to expect. You’ve been here before. No holiday, special occasion, activity or birthday is new anymore. The weeks and months start to weave together. Each month’s anniversary day slides on by as does any other day. Eventually you start to wonder how many months it’s been. And soon the months become years (or so I imagine).

And perhaps, if I didn’t just send my firstborn off into the world by himself (yes, that’s how I see it!) a few weeks ago, then maybe I would be speaking a different story. But I did and it’s harder than I imagined. Grief twofold.

Sending my son off to school – though a significantly lesser form of loss – has caused a whirlwind of grief emotions. It has caused every memory and emotion to resurface, with a surprising punch of rawness. I really didn’t expect it. It makes me feel alone. It makes me withdrawal because no one understands.

I see a lot of parents sharing pictures of their children going off to school and I think, how can they seem so happy about it? While I sit there struggling as I watch a piece of my heart ride off in the school bus. He rides off somewhere into the unknown, where I can’t see him and I can’t care for him or protect him. My heart aches. I watch my son sprint into my arms every afternoon when he gets off the bus and I receive the biggest, most intense hug I’ve ever gotten. I witness some unexpected tears from a child who holds himself together better than I do and I realize he’s struggling too.

And so…life goes on, but the pain still lingers.

Letting Go

Letting go of the life we always wanted. Letting go of the people we love. Letting go of expectations or desires. It’s one of the hardest things to go through.

My first child is going to kindergarten today.

This struggle is different than others. It’s not caused by anxiety of the unknown – as many struggles are, but rather the heartbreak of losing my child little-by-little. A part of my heart will be walking around at school.

Continue reading “Letting Go”

This Thing Called Life

I have been trying so hard to understand this thing called Life, but my focus should be on the One who created life. After all, how can I expect peace and joy (oh, how I long for peace and joy!) and spiritual growth without seeking Him first?

For so long I’ve been completely unsure what to think or what to do, mainly for myself and my son. My husband and I struggled (still do!) to handle our out-of-control son. This has been from the time he was a toddler. To us (and others I’m sure), it looks simply like disobedience. Years of this! I avoided (still do!) going places because I wasn’t sure how reactive he’d be and I wasn’t sure how to handle it if he was. Often, we would leave a place as soon as we arrived because I was either already in tears or nearly there. But as the years unfolded and new struggles immerged – ones apart from merely behavior, I began to realize there was way more to it. (Also, he has been receiving therapy for a speech delay for over two years.) When I reflected back, I realized he always struggled, even from the day he was born. Recently, I began to suspect ADHD and a few weeks ago he was finally diagnosed.

Meanwhile, I struggled with intense emotions. For years, really. I equated it to my back-to-back pregnancies (three boys in three years). The anger, the constant Continue reading “This Thing Called Life”

Confessions from the Fast Lane

The last few years, especially, have been some of the roughest years in my life. Many, many days spent extremely perplexed and distraught because I had no idea what to do or what was going on. A child who looks totally out-of-control in behavior and appearance. Restless, constantly in motion, disobedient, inappropriate, meltdowns sometimes all day long.

We were told our discipline needed to be firmer and more consistent. But why were our other two boys responding appropriately? We were told it’s middle-child syndrome (is there such a thing?), but he struggled since birth. I prayed and prayed for wisdom. Finally, through a seemingly endless maze of paths, people and phone calls (otherwise known as God’s guidance) we had an appointment with a psychologist. Continue reading “Confessions from the Fast Lane”

On The Cover

The cover of my life displays three beautiful boys and a wonderful husband. But if you lift the thick, protective jacket, you will see intertwined in our storyline complexity, uncertainty and burdens.

We love to share with others our best moments, fun adventures, amazing trips and huge accomplishments, but behind the cover of life’s book – attractively decorated with bookmarks of success and ribbons of bliss – is the narrative called reality. Everyone has a unique one. The cover does not adequately display our life; it’s only our showcase. The cover is only what we want others to see.

Certainly, reality has countless moments of sweetness, joy and satisfaction, but it’s not full of fun adventures and stress-releasing vacations, as we like to portray. Often, it’s habitual, challenging, sorrowful or even ugly.

Because this is real life, folks.

I always wanted a family. Always. I could’ve gone to college or an art school, but I chose to work instead. I wanted nothing holding me back when the time came to start a family. And I wanted to devote myself fulltime to raising my children.

I was around children all my life so I was not naïve when I became a mother, however nothing could prepare me for my own. Continue reading “On The Cover”

Think Before You Judge

Going anywhere with three boys aged between two and five years old is rarely simple or quick. In fact, some days if I’m not in the frame of mind to handle the challenge we simply stay home.

This morning, with no advanced warning, I ask the boys to get their shoes on. They eagerly obliged, which is normally their reaction. I had some errands to run, so not feeling up to the task was not an option.

At Walmart – as I routinely stroll with two carts through the store, pushing one and pulling the other behind – several people made comments. One remarked, “You won’t see men doing that!” Though I’m sure there have been plenty of fathers who have trudged through a store with an engine-caboose-cart-train hauling three boys. Another sought me out to comment that he just “had no words.” “I have so much respect for you.” Another woman commented, as I turned the corner with ease, “You are super-mom.” And she quickly added, “They are so well-behaved.” “Why do you think they are in the cart?” I replied with a sly smile.

It would seem easy to take these comments conceitedly, but I know the truth lurking behind our facade as we seem to perfectly and smoothly stroll through Walmart. No, they were taken as encouragement for this struggling mom. Most days I struggle. I struggle in the home; I struggle taking the boys out. This is not a plea for pity and it’s not because there aren’t any good moments or that I regret having them so closely aged (though God had more to do with that than us). But it is a continual struggle to keep a good attitude and patiently guide them, whether we’re in the boundaries of our home or out amongst the public eye.

I just pulled all three boys out of the carts right inside the exit and ask them to wait as I put the carts back. I turned around to grab the two hands which were beside me as my two-year-old took off out the door, running across the pedestrian walk. I yelled “Stop!” A horn honked. I immediately was upset. He did not have to slam his brakes; he had plenty of time to stop. I called out, “Why are you honking? You are supposed to stop for people crossing.” Continue reading “Think Before You Judge”