The day Nathan passed away we were handed a horrible decision to face. Our world was being changed and we ultimately held the fate of how we would face the new world being handed to us. September 2, 2012 we were a family of 5. September 3, 2012 we were a family of 5 with a child in heaven. We were grieving parents.
In the weeks that followed, we were overcome by heartbreak, by loss, my memory, by just pure raw broken pain. We barely functioned each day but merely for our children. We functioned merely by muscle memory of what you are supposed to do each day. People came and went through our house, delivered meals, cards, and flowers. Some days, friends would make me eat because there wasn’t an ounce of energy or need for me to eat. I cannot begin to adequately describe what the loss of a child feels like. It is like your world, literally, broke and won’t ever be whole again. The world we knew was gone in an instant. Like your heart is crushed inside your chest. You are breathing but it feels like your body is dying. You feel the weight of grief all over your body. It feels like you are carrying hundreds of pounds of weight on your shoulders daily. You smile when you see familiar faces but it’s not real. It is exhausting. It is stressful. It is…unimaginable.
In the months and year that passed I began to not only grieve Nathan but also grieve my old life. I would never be able to return to the person I once was, the life I once had, or the life I once dreamed. The mom I was, the friend I was, the spouse I was had left too. I had to find my new changed self. The way the grief changes you is hard to understand from the outside in. Because from the outside I looked the same, but on the inside everything was broken, spinning, and unsteady. The grief isn’t just of Nate and the child we loved so dearly. It quickly became the grief of the life we dreamed for him as well. The sports star we saw him being, the friend we knew he was, the graduations we won’t witness, the birthday’s that are now different, the father we saw him becoming, the daughter in law we will never have. We grieve the dreams we had for him.
“You must be willing to let go of the life you had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us” - Joseph Campbell
Shortly after our loss of Nate I remember someone telling us, who had also been through loss, that there would come a day we look back and see our lives separated into two categories – the time with Nate and the time after losing Nate. It is true. Our lives changed the day we lost Nate. We left behind our old life and pushed our way into a new life we didn’t want. So yes, looking back I see, our life journey is two separate pieces. It’s never easy. It’s not fair that our lives are here in this journey.
In the early days of grief, everyone felt the hurt with us. As the days, months, and years have passed it often feels like the world has moved forward and we have to keep up. The world forgets we have a son who died. The world doesn’t know that there are still some things that are just too hard for us to do, or talk about, or listen to. I still can’t listen to songs that were played at Nate’s service or songs that I listened to when my grief was the heaviest. It’s too hard and I can’t go back there… yet. The world doesn’t know what hurdles we have to overcome. The world doesn’t understand our perspective on life and I don’t expect the world to understand. The perspective we were given has allowed us to see the world through different eyes. I have to constantly remind myself, challenge myself, and calm myself when I am disappointed in the difference of perspective.
September 2, 2012, I curled into a ball and barely moved. September 3, 2012 we began making really tough decisions about life. That same day we made the biggest decision that, I truly believe, has been our rock. We made the decision to trust and love God. To lean into Him even when we are screaming mad at Him. We made a decision to Hope and let our life be His song. We made the decision to surround ourselves with a support system that was faith filled. We made the decision to step right back into church. We refused to let our life, our story, crumble. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s our choice.
"Suffering will change us but not necessarily for the better. We have to choose that." - Wayne Cordeiro
I’m entering, what feels like, a change in this grief journey as I find myself stepping back and looking at the journey and how we’ve gotten to where we are. I can look back at how crippling the pain was and feel sadness in finding happiness now. But I want joy. Real and honest joy. I want to show unwavering love like God shows me. I want to have compassion despite perspective. I want God to use me and be seen through me. That is so hard to do, to truly surrender, and let God just work. I’ve wavered from that recently in letting life just take me spinning but I’m spending time now really stepping back and letting life just… be. To really love every second, not be scared, and take each breath in. Life is scary, and in this really hard year of milestones in grief, I don’t want to miss a second. We’ve made a choice to get up each day since we lost Nathan, to continue life, to take care of Drew & Kaylee, to laugh, to love, to LIVE. And not just merely exist but really live out each day. There is guilt that comes with finding joy after loss that weighs down so deep, and reminds me of the early pain of grief, but God is clearly reminding me that it is okay and to surrender that too. Yes, nearly 4 years later, joy is finding us because we have prayed, hoped, loved, laughed, and searched out happiness in life. Joy doesn’t just happen. It takes work, strength, and unwavering faith to pursue joy after grief. And even in relentless grief and pain, joy is possible to find.
All My Love,