On February 10, 2016, my life changed forever. I’m a week away from that year anniversary and it seems utterly impossible that I am here….in the wilderness….wandering, searching, and feeling exposed to the elements of grief. It has been a year of exhaustion, confusion, and despondency that has shattered not only my heart but also my life….into a million pieces. Just imagine trying to piece together a puzzle with a million pieces…literally try to imagine what that would feel like. It would feel impossible and inconceivable to even try to put that many pieces back together. That’s exactly how it feels when you have lost a child. Your heart is broken and fragmented and the pieces will never fit together like they once did. You will always feel the cracks between the pieces…it will be forever be fractured and scarred…it will always have a gaping whole that can be filled by no one ….fragile and intensely sensitive.
The Christmas season was so unbearably difficult and somber that I unconsciously returned to the forest of numbness…a place that allowed me to self protect by cowering under the canopy of trees to conceal my heart from the pain and anguish that has so often consumed me. I have isolated myself not only from people, but from the world itself….hoping that I could escape the continuous cloak of artificial happiness. It is this cloak that permits me to remain numb to the heartache and reality of the world in which I now live. This has undoubtably been the most distressing year of my life…and what’s even more difficult is that so many unknowingly send the message that it’s time to move on with life. I’m aware that those who have never experienced the loss of a child can, in no way, understand or empathize with the heartbreak a parent feels when their child has passed away. I also understand that others often feel uncomfortable around grieving parents because they don’t know how to communicate with them…that they are afraid that what they say will cause even more pain. This is true in many cases, and I myself have oftentimes become very sensitive to the comments of others. And I try to remember that they just don’t understand how their remarks are received by those who are grieving. Sometimes I can do that, but sometimes I can’t. So if we grieving parents come across as blunt…please understand that we going through an extremely oppressive season in our life and that we may even often sound rude in our responses. Whatever the case, all are affected by grief in some way…some of us stand on the outside looking in (where I once did) and think that we might handle things differently. Those of us on the inside have no idea how to deal with all of the conflicting emotions that often switch on and off throughout the day. We are trying to manage one feeling when another manifests itself unexpectedly, startling us into a new realm of pain and unconscious awareness of the palpability of our current state in the wilderness of grief.
It has been a dark year, but I’m beginning to see some lift in the clouds and some light splintering through that wilderness, shedding a small amount of light…just enough to lead the way. The wilderness is where I often wanted to stay…I wanted to be left alone to deal with my thoughts and my feelings privately. And I have done just that. For months, I have exposed myself to the world only when it was absolutely necessary…a mode of self preservation. I have longed to be at home on weekends so that I can just be…I don’t have to explain anything to anyone, I don’t have to surround myself with people that irritatingly stand in the way in a grocery store…I don’t have to face someone that looks like Aaron..or one that has his hair…I don’t have to face someone in the military with a back pack on….I don’t have to relive those painful moments. But do you know what I’ve noticed? The fact that I avoid those types of encounters….is that really healthy or is it destructive? Well…I believe that it’s a little of both. Avoiding painful situations does allow me to protect myself from those reminders that drop you to your knees. But on the other hand, I’m wondering if allowing myself to only feel what I want to feel and avoiding the pain that I should be feeling does more damage than good.
So, upon that revelation, I have begun to do some grief work. Grief work is exhausting, intensely painful, and is particularly arduous. It is the absolute hardest experience I have ever had. But, it’s time to get down to some work…otherwise, I will continue to find myself in the lowest pit possible. And I don’t believe that Aaron would want me to live this kind of life. I believe that he would want us to honor him in being a part of this world….sending out his love through us in many situations. As a result, I am beginning to do some difficult work that will hopefully bring some happiness and some inspiration to work for the cause that Aaron struggled with. I’m counting on God to get me through this…because I know that it won’t be easy…but it’s something I must do, most importantly, for Aaron’s memory, but for myself as well.
How have I managed all of this erratic emotion….one step a time. I have NO idea exactly how I do that, but I know it’s something that I must delve into…otherwise, I will not move through my grief…I will continue to be stuck in this perpetual state of reclusiveness, loneliness, and a toilsome state of agony. It’s almost like the Serenity Pray: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is the first time in my life that I’ve been able to to take things one step at a time. But in this situation, you have no choice. You must take it day by day because if we were able to experience the magnitude of our loss all at once, it would be almost impossible to endure all that we feel and internalize. As a result, I have begun looking at the different aspects and beliefs of my grief and have energized myself to evaluate those beliefs that are restricting my ability to move through this grief. I’m in the beginning phases of doing this work…so, I’ll let you know how it works and how I might possibly move through this wilderness. So, in reference to the Serenity Prayer, I believe that God is daily strengthening me to accept the things I cannot change (Aaron’s death). I feel that He is also giving me the courage to change the things I can (this is my grief work). And lastly, I feel God is giving me the wisdom to know what I can and can’t change….little by little.
For a while, I doubted that God was with me..because I felt like I was in a desert….completely depleted of any ability to walk due to the heat of the situation, depleted of any energy to find my way out of this desolate place, and depleted of any belief that I could find my way out. So during this time, I felt God had left me….that He wasn’t there…that He hadn’t answered my prayers…that He had taken my child from me. So, I had to first work through the anger I experienced. That anger comes and goes, but this is one of the longest stints without anger. So, I believe that was my first step. Now, I have to take the next step…which is identifying beliefs that are hindering my ability to move through the wilderness and back towards God.
Over the last 10 months I found that I couldn’t even pray anymore…that I didn’t even want to. I also found that it was difficult to even think about God in my grief, because I was angry that He had taken my son. Those are some pretty difficult feelings to move through. And while I have made advancements, I can’t say that I’m completely out of the woods. I may be nearing the forest boundary, but there are still so many steps to find my way out of the wilderness. But…I’m getting there.
I know that the following week will probably be immensely difficult…and I may even revert back to isolation, despondency, and desperation on February 10th. I may return to the dark abyss of the wilderness out of sheer despair of remembering what happened on that day. This will be a set back, yes, but it won’t be permanent…that I know. You ask, “How do you know?” Well….I know that because I have started on a path that is leading me to the light, not away from it. I am finding hope that there is life left to live yet and that I can do something to honor Aaron and to spread his loving and caring nature to others in the world that are experiencing pain. That is now my goal…I can’t change the fact that he died…I can only affect what I do with that….and I want Aaron to be honored and remembered for who he was deep down inside. So, I want to share his love to others so that he will be remembered…and will never be forgotten. I have in no way “arrived” yet, but I am on my way, even in the midst of one of the most difficult milestones I have yet to face. I know that God will be there with me…even if I can’t feel Him…I will know that He he’s there, because He always has been…it’s just been my doubt that has made me feel that way. I am working to change my perspective about God and to realize that He is not what I create in my mind and that He cannot be placed in a box. If we do that, we hinder His ability to work in us…because we focus our attention on what we can do. I am working to build my relationship with God once again, because the anger I carried caused a gulf to form between He and I…but it was me that caused that gulf. So, I’m working little by little to find my way back and to work through the pain. I’m working one step a at time to build my relationship with Aaron in a new way…it can no longer be physical…it is now a spiritual connection. This grief work is extremely difficult….but we can do it if we choose to do it….if we choose to do it one step at a time.
God bless all of you who have lost a son or a daughter.
God bless all of you who have lost a husband.
God bless all of you who have lost a parent…a mother or father…or both
God bless all of you who have lost anyone significant in your life.
Choose to work through the grief…one step at a time….that is the only way to move through Expect to have setbacks on anniversary dates and milestones. But be determined to get back to your grief work as soon as you can. Just because we work to move through our grief doesn’t mean we don’t love those who have passed or that we have forgotten them. It’s quite the opposite….we honor their memory when we work to have the ability to honor their memory and we work to redefine our relationship with the one who has passed….but remember…it’s one step at a time….choose one aspect to work on…and give it your all…give yourself time to work through each stage….one step at a time.
Love to my son who died last February….Your family loves and misses you more than you will ever know!
Love to my daughter whose life has forever been changed because of the death of her brother….Continue to work through your grief and to think of your relationship with Aaron as a spiritual relationship now. May God continue to give you the strength that you need to get you through many difficult days ahead.
Love to my mom and dad and to Susan…Continue your grief work…allow yourself to feel what you feel but to also begin to identify what is specifically causing you pain. Once you identify that work to change your perspective on that thought/belief.
Love to all of Aaron’s friends….continue to remember and honor his memory in your life. He loved all of you so much….work to honor him in your words and your actions.
Love to all that read this who have lost a loved one….Prayers for you and your family.
Remember…it won’t take place over night….it will take one step at a time to deal with our grief and our reactions to that grief.
Thank you for reading! I appreciate each and everyone of you that take the time to read! Godd Bless You all.