adoption, gifts from God, grief and loss

Passing Us By

It is not uncommon for some of  the most life altering events to pass us by without our realizing. That moment when the stripe turns pink and you realize you are going to be a parent is typically weeks after conception. The acceptance letter to college arrives days after it was mailed and maybe weeks after the admission board made their decision. That first meeting of someone who will one day become your best friend or spouse might not even warrant you taking much notice. Even that tragic phone call with the passing of a loved one can come hours after the fact. There are moments, days, weeks, or even years in which we live oblivious to the big moments that have already occurred and will alter life as we know it. It is our human nature to look back and wonder, “What was I doing then?” We calculate back to the day of conception or think about those blissful moments before our life shattered.

Sean came into our lives like this, and he left our life in the same manner. I could not tell you what I was doing when Sean was born, completely unaware that someone had entered the world that would change my life forever 15 years down the line. And when he left the world in a similar quietness, he left me blissfully unaware of the pain that was soon to come. Part of me is sad that I cannot go back and know exactly what I was doing at that very moment, but I suppose it is okay. In the quiet mystery, there is deep truth. A sovereign God, who knows all things, is still in control. My knowing or not knowing does not alter the course of such things. Maybe a few more oblivious days/hours of life as I knew it was simply a gift to hold off my sorrow for a moment more.

A year has passed since Sean’s death, but this is a date that I am grateful doesn’t stick in my memory quite like it should. My memories of Sean, however, will never fade.

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grief and loss, parenting teens

When the Stockings Aren’t Hung

Our family tends to be a little late in the game for getting ready for the holidays.  So there I was on the 23rd, pulling out the Christmas decorations. I was searching for a book to read on Christmas morning to the pre-K-K Sunday School class. In the third box I opened, I found the stockings. I began pulling them out and laying them on top of a box of ornaments when staring up from the bottom of the box was Sean’s stocking. I lifted it out of the box and a million emotions flooded me followed by a number of thoughts.

Do we hang it?

Do I mention it?

I certainly am not going to get rid of it, but will this become my new holiday tradition of finding his old stocking and weeping?

Should I move it somewhere I won’t keep bumping into it?

With the items I needed removed, I returned it to the box and tucked it back in the closet. I did’t know how everyone else would feel, and I didn’t want to create an issue that didn’t need to exist. But the next day, my daughter told me that she thought we should hang his stocking. I disagreed. I explained my reasoning, how we hadn’t hung it since he stopped sleeping over on Christmas Eve, and how I feared hanging it would create a tradition that would be difficult to stop.

As a parent I also worry that I might let my processing of grief hinder my children who might have different grief needs than I do. Parenting multiple children through grief while grieving yourself adds an entirely different dimension to every decision made, and one might be surprised just how many decisions one actually faces in life as you adjust to a new normal.

So his stocking didn’t get hung. It sat empty in a box in the a closet under our stairs.

Christmas came and went. Tears were shed. Memories recollected. And a whole new set of memories made for the first time without Sean. One more hurdle in the grief process was crossed although not gracefully.

Life after loss will always be a little bittersweet. There will always be the “should have been here” moments. Sorrow will always seep into every sweet family celebration. The grief will change, but it will never be fully gone. I have experienced enough of its ways to know this truth.

There will always be the stocking that doesn’t get hung.

 

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gifts from God, grief and loss, loss

The Cumulative Impact of Grief

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I’ve been thinking a lot about grief these past weeks as we move into the holiday season. This year will be a hard year for our family as we celebrate the first Thanksgiving, birthday, and Christmas without our son. I have cried a little almost every day since the week before Thanksgiving. I haven’t sobbed or broken down, but tears roll down my face during car rides, certain songs on the radio, or just at random moments. For me, this is the 3rd major loss I have experienced. Each being different, they began with the loss of my father 20 years ago. 20 years ago. It seems like I should be long over a grief that old.

 

“Cumulative grief” tends to focus solely on several losses in a short time. That isn’t me. Yet, I doubt that my grief experience is unique.

For me, the loss of my father was deeply devastating. I was a wreck for months. I gradually worked through the loss. I certainly don’t think I would consider my grief “unresolved”, but I definitely miss my Dad, wish he didn’t have to miss so many life events, and at times genuinely ache to have just another moment with him.
When my mom became sick a few years back, I grieved the loss of my father again. Certainly not anything like the original grief, but I thought of him more often, teared-up over little things more often, and longed for him more. As my mom deteriorated and eventually passed, I grieved for my mom, but oddly enough I grieved for my dad almost as much.

Just over a year after my mother passed, we would lose our adult son. It was sudden, like the loss of my dad, but he had not been healthy, so it was always in the back of our minds. We had long expected the day would eventually come. I cried, was sad, and missed him, but not the level of grief that one would expect for such a great loss. But the grief has built up these past days and weeks. It has grown heavier as we enter the holiday.

I grieved now for all three of them. Memories of any one of them might lead me to tears and thoughts of the others. Our son passed late in June. In early September, I remember crying at a family birthday party, because our extended family had gotten so small. There were so few of us now that we could all comfortably sit at our table. That same thought has crossed my mind so many times since that day. My Christmas shopping list is short. The entire family can comfortably be included in a single group chat. I know one day our family will expand. There will be weddings and babies (hopefully not mine). But for now, it is just small and my losses are painfully evident.

Sometimes I am fearful that growing older means that grief will pile upon grief and that each loss will magnify the previous ones. Do we simply accumulate our pain as we walk through this broken world, this world that was never meant to be marred by death?

Grief sure is an interesting beast. It morphs and changes, with an ebb and flow across the seasons and years. Many days it sits quietly, almost stealthily on the sidelines, but in an instant it can come out of nowhere to blindside you. While there are many ways to protect oneself from these attacks of grief, the truth is that grief is a gift. We are people who love and with that love comes a vulnerability to pain. It is only in our loving of others that we face such deep loss. It truly is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

So, no. We are not bound by a grim future of loss. While, Yes, these deep losses will impact us for the rest of our lives, there is more. There is hope and restoration and a supernatural comfort from a God who counts our tears and holds us through our suffering. And it’s enough. It really is.

 

 

 

 

 

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adoption, gifts from God, grief and loss, loss, Uncategorized

Tears

I have developed an intimacy with tears over the past few years. I no longer wipe them away or hide them from others. Unless they are hindering me, I simply let them roll down my cheeks often practically unnoticed. Many a day I have sat doing something while my emotions trickle from my eyes. I have embraced their salty taste and warmth. I need their release. I am not one to stifle my emotions. I don’t think I could if I tried. Tears are a gift.

Despite this, I still find there are times I need to remind myself of this. Just yesterday, I sat crying as I thought about losing my son. I wept, not loudly, but audibly. My breath caught in jagged heaves and the pressure in my face increased. Workers were in the next room rebuilding a home that now contains a shattered family, and I tried to hold the tears back. I thought, “I have to pull it together and act normal.” Normal? This is normal. Pain is normal; tears are normal; grief is normal. The only normal thing about this week is my tears.

We must become a people who are alright with tears: tears in ourselves and tears in others.

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adoption, Christian, grief and loss, loss, parenting teens, Uncategorized

Reckless Love

Here is the backwards way about life: the more deeply you live and the more deeply you love, the more deeply you hurt. Loving is messy and at times excruciatingly hard. You don’t get to choose the outcome; love is always a risk. I am not always a happy person because I have chosen vulnerable love. On the contrary, I am often sad. There are just so many more opportunities to be hurt. When God calls us out of the boat onto the waves, I do not think He so much cares if we can walk on water. Rather He calls us close enough to where HSeane can hold us through the storm.

16 years ago we could have chosen comfortable over reckless; lots of people questioned our choice. Had we chosen the easy road, our hearts would not be broken now. Our kids hearts would not be broken now. But messy, vulnerable, risky love changes the world, changes our worlds. We risked love, and we didn’t get The Blind Side ending, we just got blind sided. Yet still, we were privileged to see a young man grow up. We were able to become love for him. We got to be a part of so many other lives of people that we would never have met without him.

Best. Choice. Ever!

Even in the brokenness, Jesus, still I will follow you!

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