Category Archives: grief

Ending Well

February 23 is when I first dared speak it. I was at an extra-curricular fair at the high school and connected with a safe sister who teaches there. I knew she would hold my words in confidence while holding me accountable to them. I had spoken them to my husband the day before.

I’ve made the decision to leave Good Shepherd at the end of this school year.

It felt terrifying, yet I knew I was the only one who could make the decision. No one else could do it for me. I needed to use my own voice. Hearing that voice speaking the words aloud stirred a mixture of fear and peace, confidence and uncertainty, joy and sorrow, relief and grief.

There was So. Much. Ambivalence. attached to the decision to end my teaching season.

There were nudges in the direction. I had agreed to two years when I signed on to return to the classroom. This was year four. There were changes going on in my world both internally and externally. There was little margin for the best with all of the good I was doing.

Wrestling with the decision was hard.

It was hard to imagine leaving the students and other teachers whom I dearly loved.

It was hard to imagine finding a replacement for my income.

It was hard to imagine walking by faith and not by sight. It was terrifying, but I knew it was time to step out.

I don’t know what’s next, but I know what’s now.

I penned these words in my journal the weekend I composed a resignation letter.  I turned in the letter on Monday morning, and then spoke in person to those I knew needed to hear the words directly from me, not in a memo or through the grapevine. I let them feel their feelings while I felt mine, not rushing through or trying to fix. It was so hard.

Again I wrote,

There are so many feelings inside. So much stirring. With the end of this chapter in sight, I need to be attentive to what is required to attend to the hearts around me and finish well. I am trusting what God has in store for me as good.

Last night was rough when the lights went out and things were still. I began to wrestle with the reality to end my time at Good Shepherd and with adulthood. What about all of the unknowns? Will you be there, God? Of course you will! How can I not trust that you have been and will be?

Holding my decision until an official word from the school office was released was challenging. I longed to write about my version of The End, May’s theme for Red Tent Living, and process on my blog, but the timing wasn’t right. I wanted to honor the timing.

I am glad that I did.

The day that the student intent letter went home with the information that I would not be the classroom teacher in the fall, there were many big feelings from small people, some of whom I had taught for all four years due to the nature of our program. There were feelings from adults, as well.

Today my students found out I am not returning next year. There were lots of feelings and emotions. Next week will be long. I need to trust.

There is much to ponder and process still about how that final week went. It was long. It was good. It was full. It was kind.

It is finished.

Major Marriage Milestone

Twenty-five years.

Twenty-five anniversaries, holding on and holding hope.

I want to have big silver anniversary words, but I don’t. And that is okay. It has to be.

I have the words that a friend offered at the end of his congratulatory Facebook comment on Steve’s wall.

. . . a great example of a rugged marriage.

YES!

rugged marriage

Thank you, Alvin. Those are exactly the words that affirm the beautiful hard that is found in celebrating 25 years of becoming one while growing up together and having three of our eight children before our brains were fully formed!

This day has felt rugged. It certainly hasn’t been the stuff of which silver anniversary dreams are made. As a final blow, we had to cancel the sitter for our evening out due to uncertain stomachs. We had to engage disappointment and pain.

This season feels rugged as I find more words for my own story and style of relating and engaging and how that has affected those closest to me. As Steve and I struggle to find more words for our story together, we recognize the help that we need. It is okay to need help.

A dear sister heard my heart and affirmed my words as I processed with her via text.

A silver star with a 25 on it doesn’t negate the hurt and disappointment. Or the joy. There is joy underneath, but right now it is being eclipsed by the ache. And marriage is about more than just how I feel today.

Climbing out of the valley and learning to walk on level ground isn’t as easy as it sounds!

One of the significant assaults of evil in this period is to try to triumph through regret. It is easy to survey all that might have been and grieve that it has taken so long to savor and delight in life. Add to this the desire to remove all the debris we have brought into the lives of our children, friends, and family, and it is easy to feel terrible and to work frantically to restore all that is broken. We must resist this seduction. Grief is freeing, but regret is the cul-de-sac of despair. (Dan Allender, Healing the Wounded Heart, 233).

So tonight we will have our regularly scheduled date night and not the fancy dinner out gifted us by our kids. Rather than circling the cul-de-sac again and again, I will try to feel the disappointment and grieve what is not, and then move on to the goodness that is an evening together with the hope of a future ahead of us.

We will persist. We will toast our twenty-five years of beautiful, rugged marriage with chicken soup and ginger-ale!

Here’s to us!

Aftermath and Anticipation

I sit in day two. That’s what this is. The aftermath. Burial.

Christmas Eve Eve was day one. Death. The melting down day that started full of such hope and excitement.

Brunch at The Little Grill with my luvvvah to plan and regroup for the next few days was a breath of fresh air. After so much fullness to manage in both of our lives, it was nice to have a moment to connect.

The day stretched before us, and we mapped it out. Shopping. A movie with the kids. Pizza night. Good things. We began to execute our plan. Check things off.

Home for lunch and a dog walk and assessment of who really wanted to see Rogue One found five of us going and three of us free to stay home.

I went.

No spoilers here. I watched most of the movie, missing only the dozing-off parts, but waking in time for what mattered. I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD.

The fullness in my chest at the end was a combination of nostalgia, Star Wars is the first movie my family watched on the Beta Vision in our living room back on Nicholson St. ~ in Spanish, remembering, I saw Return of the Jedi for a middle-school friend’s birthday in a fancy theater with a curtain that pulled back followed by a sleep-over at her house, and grief, I miss playing that bass line on the bassoon for pieces like the Star Wars theme music. Music just stays with you like that, and you remember the rhythms and notes and feelings.

I didn’t cry, though. Much. Maybe a tear.

This has been my clue that something big was brewing. My lack of tears. I attended two funeral/memorial services over the past two weeks and had few tears. I have felt big feelings that deserved the honor of weeping for them, and nothing would come. Just numbness.

I was aware that this wasn’t good. I kept going. I have to keep going.

After the movie, my son needed to go to Costco with a member, and that was me. It was empty and calm, and I decided to get the rest of the Christmas groceries while the space was less frenetic than usual.

Pushing through the heaviness mounting inside, I began to fill the cart. Realizing the blessing of being able to do so, I tried to smile, to trick my brain into feeling happy. It wasn’t really working. I kept going.

Sparing the details, my stress level boiled up and over and all of the kind tears that have been inviting me to feel them were shoved aside by the ugly ones that I was able to keep in check until returning home where they spilled and spewed up and over and out.

There were a lot of tears. And sobs. And tissues. I filled an entire Target bag with soggy sobby tissues. All the things I had to cry for, the griefs to feel, the achings and longings came pouring out.

So here is today.

Christmas Eve.

I sit in the aftermath of copious tears with a throbbing head and puffy eyes. Lots of voices chatter outside of my bedroom door. I hear other doors open and shut. People come and go. Discussions take place. I try to find motivation to finish up the few things that I have left on my list. They are important.

In order to do that I must get moving!

My hope is that yesterday’s tears have watered my heart enough to keep it soft and open with anticipation for what is coming.

Resurrection.

Tissues and Tears

I am away with my love this weekend. We are relaxing at Lake Anna in the midst of a season of difficult challenges. Maybe it should be seasons. The seasons have rolled into years.

The years have been hard.

It is difficult for me to be in the early morning quiet. I recognize this, as anxiety begins to mount at the prospect of an unstructured day ahead. I do not have words to give the man sitting at the opposite end of the sofa as I stare out the window at the sun rising over the water.

Pulling a creamy-soft throw from the back of the sofa and tucking it around me, I curl into a fetal position, resting my head on a square pillow. A tear falls. I feel it slip out of the corner of my eye, roll down my cheek and drip off of my face. More threaten to fall, betraying that all is not well.

I am not fine, and I have thirty-six hours to figure it out, before I have to go back. That is how it has always felt.

This is your chance. You had better not waste it or squander it or use it unwisely, because another one won’t be coming around any time soon! Redeem that time, Sister. You have been given much, and of you much is required.

Mustering every ounce of courage to make any sound come out of my mouth, I use my voice to share what is inside. It feels terrifying. There is a battle raging in my head. I want to stay behind the wall.

I don’t know how to be me by myself, and I sure don’t know how to be me and you by ourselves, and I am going to just ruin all of this!

Tears explode and fall in full-force sobs. I am sobbing on our first of two mornings together without parental and adult responsibilities before we have to go back. I feel self-contempt mounting and fight it fiercely.

Why can’t I just be carefree and fun?

Love pulls my feet into his lap and offers me comfort. He lets me ugly-cry and sob and leans over to rub my scalp and hug me. I feel so much resistance and try to stay present. I try to receive care without gauging what it will cost me.

Care comes at a cost, you know. Will this be worth it?

I fight against resistance to share with and be real with this life-partner who sits with me on the other side of the wall. Coming out from behind it is so scary and so hard and so risky for me.

I am met with safety and kindness. There is no judgment or expectation.

Love shares his feelings about sitting on the same side of the wall with me. I try not to twist them into something they are not.

They are only love and gratitude. I can choose to receive, which I do.

Grateful for the kindness offered to me to just be and process, I pull out a journal and begin to write. Thoughts come. Curiosities. More tears. I reach for tissues that begin to pile up. I consider taking a picture of them. That just seems wrong. I resist the urge.

Love gives me the space that I need. Little do I know I am being watched from above.

Always.

They Matter

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Facebook reminds me of this, and friends post their words on this, and stories flood back to me, and my heart grows heavy. I wrestle the with words I long to share, swirling inside of me, as my own darlings yell and fight over Saturday chores outside of my bedroom door.

Sitting in the space of pregnancy loss is uncomfortable. Something about the way it appears we had and have control over getting or not getting pregnant causes rationalization and hasty statements to make sense of the senseless. We want to push ahead to the but then this happened and look at how everything turned out just fine. In fact, if I hadn’t lost x then I wouldn’t have y.

And yet, x mattered, too. Every moment of x. The days written for x were x’s days to be, and I think we lose something if we leave x behind in the dust and ashes of rationalization and spiritualization. We cheapen all things working together for good when we fail to acknowledge all that is not as is should be. Working together for good and good are not the same.

First, there is grief and loss. Those things are not good.

I remember each pregnancy test I took. I can still feel the edginess of ambivalence, wondering if I really wanted to know, wondering if my life was about to change ~ again, wondering how I would break the news ~ again.

To write this from a place of eight pregnancies carried to term with relatively little complication is not meant to be insensitive to those who have struggled or never have or never will. There are pieces still in process in my story. I have struggled deeply. More than I am ready to share with the world today.

It is to say, I know the strong, life-changing feelings that occur simply by anticipating peeing on a stick (or in a cup as it was once-upon-a-time when pregnancy tests were more like chemistry sets!). I know the panic that blood during pregnancy brings. I have been there.

Knowing that blood equaled loss in my mother’s story, I thought it would be the same in mine, and prepared to lose my first dream, weeks into my marriage.

As it turned out, that first child has always been strong and made us well aware of her presence with the sound of a heartbeat, earlier than was supposed to be possible, according to the midwife. Nothing was sweeter and more reassuring than that sound of life galloping away inside of me.

But for a time, I was preparing for loss. I was on the edge of physically and emotionally losing the little one I had dreamed about and hoped for. Even in my ambivalence of newlywedded overwhelm and uncertainty, I wanted that little person so badly.

I wanted every one of them so badly. In the hard places, when I was not sure I was ready, once they were there, I could not imagine them not being. It is why I believe we usually get nine months to prepare. In best-case scenarios.

I have lost siblings to miscarriage. I have watched my mother grieve.

I have sat with women in hard places of loss, hearing heavy words and big feelings. I have held the fragile, lifeless body of my nephew born too soon while the same size of life grew inside of me. I have been unable to be there at times when I wish I could, leaving loved ones to suffer loss in loneliness.

I grieve.

Those little lives mattered. Each one of them. Even the ones that are hard to understand and process and place.

Every day that they lived was the life written for them. They had something to teach us and something to say. I find great comfort in Psalm 139:16, Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Even 49 days matter. Even if another child is conceived two months after that. A child born after loss does not negate loss.

The secret things belong to the Lord, and there are things we will never understand this side of Heaven. Those who have experienced the profound loss of a child, or the hope of a child, or the death of the dream of a child, or a dream that they had for a child know that there are no easy answers. There is no making sense.

To those who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss, some of you sit in a space of longing for and missing your child, knowing with certainty your story of what was and then was not. Others sit in a place of confusion and conflict, not knowing for sure. I believe it is possible to know deep in your heart what was, even when no empirical evidence exists. Your body knows.

I invite you to consider what was written for you in the life of your child. What did that little one have to say to you? What were you taught through your little one’s days?

Because it matters. They matter.

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13.

Guide Us

Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.
Luke 1:78-79

Am I the only one sitting in darkness tonight?

I wonder.

I sit heavy-hearted, longing for the light from heaven to break upon me.

It was family Christmas tonight. Cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends gathered for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration. The house was full, the food was delicious, the gifts were plentiful.

Except for that one that I forgot. Sorry, D. Thanks for grace!

And yet…

All is not picture-perfect. There is heartache and unmet longing and disappointment. There is sickness and pain. There is mess.

There are hard words to hear and hard realities to face. There are let-downs and sorrows and tears. There is darkness.

This season has not been what I expected or what I hoped it might.

It is what it is to be this year. I long to rest confidently in that as I continue to walk the path created uniquely for me. Sadly, I struggle. I resist the tidings of comfort and joy.

So my prayer tonight, these last hours of Christmas Eve, is for God to guide me, to guide us, to the path of peace.