Do you find that dates trip you up? Like you are wading through the grief just fine until you look at a calendar or the season changes and you realize that time of year is rolling around again?
This time of year — mid-February through March — has been tough for me for a very long time. For starters the weather is so hit or miss, bouncing between sunshine and a snowy, muddy, dreary mess. Compound that with a list of hard events that have occurred at this time over many years and it becomes down right depressing.
Almost every day I am reminded by a photo that pops up, or a date on the calendar of the awful hardships I have witnessed during these dates. And it hurts, easily bringing tears to my eyes and leaving me feeling anxious.
Remembering the feelings of fear 14 years ago as I went into preterm labor with our firstborn while my husband was still deployed to Iraq. Then the news of my grandpa’s colon cancer diagnosis weighing down on my already troubled mind.
The uncertainty and inadequacy I felt six years ago as I watched my baby son fight for his life battling RSV on a ventilator.
The helplessness and urgency I felt three years ago watching my sister fight for her life against an abrupt cancer that was spreading like wild fire.
When this time of year comes around I often find myself mentally marking off the days, sometimes even hours or minutes that we received terrible news, that procedures were done, or when hard conversations happened. Trying to hold back tears while remembering the pain.
I know I’m not the only one. I know that for most people living through grief or a traumatic situation, dates are triggers. And it seems like many people react one of two ways: they re-live it making them absent minded and unable to function well during this time or they bury it so deep that they do not allow themselves to think about it. And as I am sitting here processing these dates on the calendar once again, I know I have coped both of these ways in the past and neither of them served me well.
I think it is valuable for us to step into that painful moment every once in a while. Reflect on how difficult it was, cry the tears, maybe even beat the tar out of an inanimate object. We were made to feel all these emotions, the pain, the sadness, the anger. There is value to remembering how hard that period was. It is a reminder of the strength we have inside and it renews our empathy for others.
But once we step into that moment and hash through it all, we then need to remember to step back out and open our eyes. Take a good look around you and inside you to recognize how far you have come. Recognize what God has done for you. The God Things He has placed on your path to remind you He was right there through it all, and still is. We were also made to fill the emotions of gratitude, grace, grit and joy that come with being present in today.
For me, I remind myself that the doctors were able to stop Aleigha’s preterm labor. That my husband made it home safely from Iraq and in time to see her birth. That my grandpa’s cancer was removed with surgery and he spent many years adoring his first great-grand daughter.
I remind myself that my son survived and overcame every single obstacle in front of him. That despite all the hard times and hospital stays during his first couple years of life, he is a smart, thriving kindergartener today.
And I am comforted by the thought that even though this time marks Angie’s diagnosis, it also marks the moment we quit taking life for granted. It marks the moment we became thankful for every minute we have with our loved ones. Ultimately, it marks my gratitude that my sister moved into Heaven, the home we all long for one day.
When these dates show up on the calendar, it is hard to pull your mind away from the scene of it all and refocus, but once you do, it provides peace and a healthy way to cope. It renews hope and strength.
These dates hurt. They will forever remind me of heartbreak and hardship. I will continue to honor the memory of the hard days because they made me stronger and helped mold me into the person I am today. But, I am making a choice not to live in those hard days forever. I will fight for my peace. I will fight to live in the present. And, I will fight every day to make joyful memories of these dates to balance out the hard ones.
Faith over Fear.
Anyone else feeling a little lackluster lately?
Like December squeezed every bit of energy out of you?
Like you just woke up from a coma and you don’t know what day it is, when you last showered, or what it is you should be doing?
Ugh. I feel it.
The start of December is filled with so many promises, all these events and things leading up to the perfect holiday season. And while it’s fun, it’s a whirlwind. It’s exhausting, draining, and leaving me craving hibernation.
Today was my first full day without an agenda in months. And tonight I was finally able to take out my paints, find my happy place and let it all pour out.
The guilt of not being enough this season.
The expectations laid on me by others.
The inadequacy I feel as I’m unable to complete it all.
All of the anxiety and exhaustion poured out. And all of the hope and grace poured in. This painting is called “Light My Soul”.
And while I still need a good long snooze, I feel renewed. I feel hopeful and excited, I feel that spark once again.
Amazing what happens when you go home to your Creator.
Let’s light up 2020!
Be the best pieces of those who went before you.
My Grandpa Ray adored farm magazines. The ones with the photos of baby calves and rolling landscapes, filled with the stories and awful knee-slapper jokes of farmers just like him. He was humble and kind, yet stern and outspoken when it was something he was passionate about. He believed in humanity and keeping perspective on life. We could sit for hours at his kitchen table with a pot of coffee solving all the world’s problems, one conversation at a time.
My Grandma Annie was a maker and an avid cloud-watcher. She was perfect example of a survivor of the Great Depression. She could scrap together something amazing out of nothing. Cookies that tasted entirely different each time because they were always a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Entire queen size quilts made from scraps of worn out clothing that others wouldn’t think twice about throwing out. Her resourcefulness was always awe inspiring to me.
My sister Angie loved people. She had this uncanny ability to make an authentic connections with complete strangers. She listened with warmth and grace and spoke with a wittiness that left you speechless. Her genuine conversation and huge heart never ceased to amaze me.
And as I sit here in this space, grieving these three people and others that meant so much to me, I know I cannot dwell in the space of deep grief. That space is not where I will choose to live. Instead, I must move forward, carrying their memory with me, continuing their legacy and do my part to become the best pieces of those who have gone before me.
It doesn't matter if your house is spotless.
It doesn't matter if you are a top earner at your workplace.
It doesn't matter what your title is.
It doesn't matter how many hours you volunteer.
It doesn't matter if you are the ideal weight.
It doesn't matter how much money you stick in the offering plate.
It doesn't matter what brands you wear.
It doesn't matter what car you drive.
It doesn't matter many tattoos you have.
It doesn't matter what school you graduated from.
It doesn't matter what game you won.
Your worth is not tied up in any of that. None of that matters.
The way you smile back at people, that matters.
The way you send a silent prayer up when you stumble across those in need, that matters.
The way you show grace when someone slips up, that matters.
The way you stop drama instead of spreading it further, that matters.
The way you are willing to extend a hand even when you feel overextended yourself, that matters.
The way you hold a safe space for those around you, that matters.
The way you allow others to lean into you when they are struggling, that matters.
The way you fill others up with encouragement, that matters.
Quit giving weight to the things that do not matter. Start seeing your worth in the value you are adding to others' lives.
The news of another’s loss, prompts the grief all over again, ripping open the wound. Remembering what the deep trenches of grief feel like, my heart aches for those living in that space right now.
The constant fight between being in the present and wanting to dive into the past to soak it all in and remember every detail. So many emotions flood through your mind. Bouncing back and forth between thankfulness, sadness, regret, anxiety, and love like a pinball machine. Grateful for those who are reaching out yet overwhelmed with the responses and duties that must get done.
The arrangements to be made.
The people to notify.
The acknowledgements to those who took the effort to assist or show up.
The incomprehensible energy it takes to bear your face to the world.
The gifts and food and flowers that fill the kitchen, ride the fine line between a blessing and a burden. Thankful for not having to shop or prepare meals yet overwhelmed with the vast amount and what to do with it all.
So stunned by what has occurred and equally shocked by the outpouring of support, that you become immobile. Burying as much down deep as you can and still unable to contain it all as it seeps through your eyes every hour of the day without warning.
The deep trenches of grief are not confined to the week of the death. You don’t just crawl out the day after the burial, or the day you go back to work. You dwell in this space for weeks, sometimes months, occasionally seeing the light of day through others. Carefully navigating the trenches, you learn to avoid the sinkholes that suck you way under to the dark space. Gradually finding your footing, you slowly climb out of the trenches using others who have been down this road as stepping stones to help you find your way out. You constantly ride the balance between participating in real life and finding a dark corner to sink into, to be alone.
Slowly the trenches of grief dry out. They become less muddy, the ruts become more familiar to walk on. You find solid footing and are able to feel the sunshine. You begin to let others back into your life and can see a greater purpose beyond your pain. It still hurts and the grief can hurl you back into that space in a moment’s notice, but you no longer live down in the trenches. You live in the daylight. You recognize that space was not your forever home, even though it felt like it in the moment. You arise from the depth of the trenches of grief as a strong hope for others just arriving to that space.
Hi! I'm Jessy, one of the co-owners of The Norway Center Store and co-authors of the book Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home. My husband Kyle and I live in an old general store, converted to residence, with our three kids, Ally, Charley and Rad and our German Shephard dog. You will usually find me with paint on my clothes creating my next repurposed piece.