Seasons of grief


I laid in bed the other night, eyes brimming with tears, threatening to overtake me at just the thought of Jeremy's smile or to hear him laugh just one more time. Ultimately, I couldn't shake it and balled at the overflowing grief that seemed so prevalent.

It's weird that lately, my ache for his personality and presence is so strong. The way he got excited about things, his voice when he was happy, the way he brought life to a room....I miss that. More than I think I ever have before.

It struck me the same evening that my grief goes through different seasons. In February and March, while my children were celebrating birthdays, I was really grieving the loss of their daddy in our lives. It was hurting me that Jeremy was missing them reaching new milestones and getting older and bigger, and he wasn't seeing any of it. I couldn't seem to turn a corner without feeling a stab of bitterness that he wasn't here for our kids.

Now that I think back, I can remember going through different seasons of grief. Not just the stages of grief like anger, denial, or depression....but grieving different specific pieces about the man that I loved. I went through a long phase of grieving not being able to experience Heaven with Jeremy, or constantly wondering what it will be like and yearning for the experience. Anything that was different than life without him. I went through a phase of really missing his knowledge of being able to fix anything, answering the questions I couldn't, and figuring out every electronic in our home. I remember for weeks in a row focusing on the absence of his physical presence - the feeling of holding his hand, the physical space he took up in the bed next to me and how empty it felt without him there, the comfort of his embrace. Then, it was smells - I missed his cologne, and the smell of his deodorant could have sent me on a downward spiral of tears....I even missed the smelly work clothes wreaking of cut grass, sweat, dirt, and body odor!

Has anyone else experienced these different seasons of specific pieces of grief? I call them seasons because they inevitably come back around. I will eventually grieve those pieces again in different situations along the way. And I also wonder what other pieces of him I haven't fully grieved yet.

Ultimately, it's all pieces of the same whole. All the parts that made up the man that I fell in love with. I grieve him completely, and apparently separately for all the different voids he left in my life. Different views of the same heart. Seasons taking affect on the same tree. But, oh, that tree sure was beautiful. I will miss it in every season.


Love is bigger


I was thinking about Amanda's post last week on Widow's Voice comparing divorce to death and how perturbed it made me what some people have the nerve to say (you can read it HERE). I've been lucky that no one has been dumb enough to try to compare the two to my face....or I should say, they've been lucky enough.

Not even my husband, who has been through one of the most painful divorces I know of, tries to compare the two. Just as I don't ever try to play the widow card to trump the hurt and pain that he's gone through. We know they're different and both painful in their own right.

But in my own personal experience, I have recently really noticed the difference that those tragic experiences have played out for our children. I ache every time I realize that Jeremy is missing out on things in his childrens' lives and there is nothing that will ever fill that void. But there is one thing I'm always certain of: Jeremy was an incredible daddy and his children will never doubt the love he had for them. Now that our oldest girls have gotten to a place where they realize their biological mother is not in the picture because of her own choice, that is a much harder topic to trudge through. The questions of why dad was the one who did the things that moms were supposed to when they were little are hard to answer. Knowing that we look for opportunities to honor Jeremy and talk about him in our household is a stark contrast to the care and sensitivity we take to not expose the pain and hurt the runs deep (and unfortunately current) caused by a mentally and physically unhealthy person who wants other people to be as unhappy as she is. I never thought the ripples and scars left by that tragedy could be as complicated to heal as my own.

How could you choose a more painful experience between watching a child that has night terrors about their parents leaving them or a child who has a hard time trusting people because they don't feel safe with the person who is supposed to care for them the most? A child who asks why daddy had to die or a child that ask wonders if it was their fault that their mom never did their hair or bathed them and would leave for days at a time? Which is worse? The truth is, they both are and comparing the two only makes it more painful.

What is boils down to is that it's ultimately not about divorce vs. death, but it's about love. While I wouldn't wish a death of a spouse on anyone, I can say that I am thankful for the love that Jeremy gave me, and I would NEVER trade it, even if I had known I would lose him so soon. And while I certainly would never wish a divorce on anyone, I know that divorced parents are not DEAD parents. But to feel a parent choose to leave is a painful trail in and of itself. I get frustrated in either situation by people who abuse these experiences to hurt others, or put children in the middle of it. In my book, that's unacceptable. To feel unconditional love is to be given wings in a very heaven laden world. Love matters, and when you get to experience it, no matter how short of time you have it for, it changes you and the way you see the world. It makes the harder parts easier to walk through. It make life worth living.

At the end of the day, we love our way through grief and divorce when our children struggle, because love is bigger than both, and the only thing that gives us the strength to keep going. We might not always have the right answers, but we are sure they cannot be out loved.

In the end, love wins.


Through Your Eyes


Yesterday, my 6 year old turned into a 7 year old. Like any birthday, I can hardly believe it. But birthdays after loss can be so much more bittersweet. Bitter for the every moment that Jeremy is missing out on his daughter's life, and sweet that in spite of the great tragedy of losing her daddy, Faith is growing into a beautiful young girl. I'm so proud of who she is and the heart she carries with her.

While I am always proud of my children, I've also recently taken notice of what a spectacular thing it can be to stop and look at them through Jeremy's eyes. It's like I can see his smile and hear his voice in the same way I heard it for days on end after Faith was born saying "she's so beautiful." Or see him sit back in his chair with arms crossed in satisfaction at Caleb when he makes something amazing with his legos. I can almost hear his amusement when I get a belly laugh out of Carter. Somehow, my chest sticks out a little farther to take pride in them for the both of us.

I've often wondered what purpose Carter was to serve in my life, having never had the chance to meet his daddy face-to-face, and then had to come into the world with a mother who was broken hearted and didn't have a clue how to put one foot in front of the other. I often call him the boy who saved my life because he literally forced me keep going, not for myself but for him, because he depended on me for survival. But I questioned God's purpose in his birth so many times, because it was so painful to endure. Then, the other day when I was having a bad day, upset on the couch, he came and brought me a blanket and pillow and even brought me an ice pack (cause he thought I was hurt) and then laid with me and patted me with his tiny little hands chanting "it's ok mama"........this guy just turned two. What kind of 2 year old has the sense to take care of his mama like that? It's like he knows. He's my protector. And suddenly I got the sense that maybe he sees me through Jeremy's eyes sometimes too.

I know my children's futures have unending potential, but I think maybe part of their purpose in this world was to show me how to see more of the world through Jeremy's eyes and to recognize how Jeremy saw me. What a gift that truly is.

I continue to remind myself to stop and look at the world through his eyes, not only to keep him close to me but also to feel the passion for the things he loved....which just so happen to include the people I love. Sometimes, the change of perspective is all I need to remind me to keep going.


Brace yourself.

I always find a way to prepare myself for grief when I know it's coming. Holidays, birthdays, significant milestones or memories...like I can brace myself knowing that grief will feel heavier during those times. And sometimes the brace is what makes it a little more bearable.

But it's when grief hits me outta nowhere that I find myself whirling without a clue. Tonight as I sit in the pews at church, it occurred to me that the last full day of Jeremy's life I spent in that auditorium with him. This was not a new thought, but I hadn't thought it in awhile and it suddenly felt new. Fresh. Raw. The last evening I shared with my husband was in that room. It instantly made it harder to breathe. And how could I forget that I was also 6 months pregnant....

was that really me?
did this happen to someone else?

Sometimes in those moments, it feels like a lifetime ago....maybe even someone else's lifetime ago. Not mine. Surely I can't be still standing here after having gone through all that. It's almost like I imagined it all.

Then I look down and see my 5 year old who looks exactly like his daddy with his hand in mine, and peaking out from behind is my tattoo that is a constant reminder that this IS real. I didn't imagine it. And sometimes I can pretend long enough to feel normal again, but then I remember where I've come from.

And those out of nowhere grief are the hardest to swallow. I have no time to brace myself. No time to put on my brave face or choke down the tears. I've got a good game face, but not good enough to catch every unforeseen grief moment that crosses my path. And that's ok. I can still smile knowing that I am living out my life soaking up the moments I have left and trying to make Jer proud. And those moments I can't brace myself for remind me that I am human. That I loved and felt loved. And it reminds me that the love and loss I experienced was worthy of a deep and heavy grief.

It's ok if you can't always brace yourself for grief. Sometimes the best thing you can do is allow yourself those moments, experience them to fullest and give them due time. It's at the end of the moments you realize you're still standing.


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