Today is 18 months.
A year and a half. It’s actually harder for me to believe six whole months have passed since my 10 posts in 10 days. Time marches on. Or, more accurately in our house, races by like a bullet train.
Over these past months, life has been a blitz of energy and productivity. I have started a dozen blog posts, but have been unable to finish any of them. This is partly because my anniversary project took all I had left. I desperately needed to rest and restore. Hibernate a bit through the winter. Now, most of my energy and time is spent building this new life. Spring has indeed sprung.
Lovely and inspiring things are happening. Everyone is moving on in a new way. And, of course, holding on in other ways.
The truth? My truth?
I’m still bleeding love.
Right now, this very minute, my grief feels both pervasive and immense.
There’s the now status-quo heartache. The inchworm approach to recovery. The up and down ebb and flow.
There’s also new stuff. Life coming at you hard and fast. When those deeply beloved to you are missing. Suffering. Deteriorating. Dying. And you just have to bear it.
Then there’s the world around you. Loss. Is. Everywhere.
One thing this last 18 months has done is opened up my Susie Sunshine eyes to the world of profound loss. Tragedy. Unimaginable pain. Out there at any given moment.
I am blown away by how extraordinary people are in their most horrific and vulnerable moments. How far grace carries us. How much we endure. Everyday, in my life, in my ministry and thanks to the internet and social media, I meet new people. New heroes. Pilgrims bearing so much more than I could ever imagine. Not that grief should be measured or compared–gracious NO–but some people go through so much it is beyond what I can yet comprehend. I peek into their pasture and am absolutely positive I would die if I had to do the same.
But that doesn’t seem to be how this all works. Somehow, we make it through.
My heart just feels so tender and worn simply living day to day, seeing how loss devastates at any given moment.
For example, last month a man I went to high school with lost his baby in the most agonizingly beautiful way.
I am also still reeling in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. I have been almost unable to process it; I just can’t fathom so my brain and heart get all twisted up in empathy and heartbreak over the horror. The innocence lost. The families forever broken. And the mentally ill man behind it all.
And anytime another suicide hits the news, it takes me back in time and I suffer that anguish all over again in certain parts of my body and psyche. Then I remember a little of what it’s like to get washed over in that supernatural light. That healing balm from another dimension that carries you for awhile. It graciously gets you through the initial blow and then fades away leaving you beyond raw and totally empty.
Sometimes, it’s all just too much.
I hate that I am getting used to not having Andy here. It is a loathsome reality.
Mostly because “getting used to” is the only phrase I can think of to describe it all, but it is not even close to accurate. Acceptance can be a quiet and harsh phenomenon, moment by moment.
There is just so much that’s been lost. I hate that 80% of the time it’s hard for me to see the glass as half-full, though God knows I am trying. That used to be so easy for me. I also hate that there is a smattering of family and friends gone too. Not dead, just absent. Likely because they don’t know how to be with me or with us…anymore. It seems easier to just avoid us altogether.
I miss them. I miss my life. I miss feeling excitement and joy that doesn’t have a huge hole in it.
I also greatly dislike the more than nudging feeling that we may have passed the point where it is acceptable to grieve publicly.
Fortunately, I don’t really give a crud about those societal standards or innuendos and I’m going to keep writing and grieving and feeling it and sharing it. I can’t NOT.
One of my great heroes and all-time favorite writers, Anne Lamott, just shared this on her Facebook page:
Don’t let anyone tell you ever that you are supposed to stop mourning and missing people you’ve lost. What a crock. Our beloved people are forever…Leonard Cohen wrote that there are cracks in everything, and that’s how the light gets in. Stay cracked; don’t let people shame you into using caulking.
Goodness, I just love her. She writes this about the father she lost nearly 35 years ago.
Not that anyone is actually telling me it’s time to stop mourning. There are many platitudes about how your loved one is “always in your heart”, but in time there is also this feeling that it’s time to get your poop in a group and focus on something else. It’s an annoying feeling, like a mosquito you keep swatting at.
Friends, I am learning that grief really is part of our human journey. I mean an integral part. A constant. And not like a marginal constant. Like a main player. Most of us have experienced it on some level, but if it hasn’t yet broken you beyond imagining, you can pretty much bet that at some point it will. That in and of itself seems like a very dismal future to live into, so I understand why it makes people uncomfortable.
And we humanoids naturally withdraw from that which makes us uncomfortable. Like a contagion, we will avoid it like…well, like our life depends on it.
On the other hand, there is amazing bounty in embracing the following truth:
This is supposed to be hard. Life is supposed to be this brutal.
It is part of what we are designed to bear. It is part of how our souls grow. And though it seems strange, the brutality actually forces us to love bigger. Love better. Try harder.
This scares the you-know-what out of me! Knowing this. Hearing these other stories. The consecutive losses and multiple traumas. Sometimes, it feels a little like I am clinging to all of the sweetness and love and joy in my life while constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Again. Terrified and wondering who or how or when. That if I am embracing the spiritual truth behind the challenges in our lives, I am somehow opening myself up to the possibility of even deeper anguish.
Lord, have mercy.
All of that is, primarily, fear-based thinking. Perfectly natural and part of the process, of course. However, you’ve probably heard me say that in every moment, I believe we essentially have two choices: fear or love. Fear or Love. Fear. Or Love.
So right now, I choose Love.
Standing in Love, I see that this reality, this painful broken world, is so full of mind-blowing beauty it’s hard not to cry tears of joy RIGHT NOW.
I see that our collective tragedies create a place where redemption can plant itself. Where hope can grow.
Where our stories…our scars…our strength…our survivor-ness…these things heal. They inspire. They transform us at the core. In fact, they remind us of who we really are and what we are here to do.
I think it actually feels harder and more brutal when we DENY that “hard as hell” is actually how it’s supposed to be.
Or when we brush aside our own hardships because “other people have it worse.” Of course they do; that’s the nature of it. But that doesn’t mean your burden is any less. That your suffering doesn’t count.
And when I say you, I mean me. I mean we. Because we are all in this big picture life-thingy together.
You see, friends, I really wanted to write a little update post about how my family is picking up the pieces of our broken lives. I wanted to give you some sunshine and fresh air and a maybe a flower for your hair.
In so many ways we are picking up the pieces…really we are.
But in just as many ways we are still so so so broken. Such a mess.
Just when something beautiful seems to be created or break free from the mire, something else gets ugly and fractures my love-worn heart. Something else is left hanging.
In spite of it all, what seems to light the way are the moments of grace. The things that make life rich and wonderful like clear blue spring skies; casual and comforting family dinners; children giggling and squealing with glee; spectacular golden light and rare moments of clarity.
Sitting by the ocean; experiencing kindness, however small or random; extending compassion; giving/receiving kisses; enjoying decadent dark chocolate and holding hands with the people you adore.
These are the moments we must cling to and savor. We must relish these delicious bits at every opportunity because they will nourish us, fuel us and sustain us.
Because the other inevitable truth, and a more compelling and desirable one than “this is supposed to be hard”, is that Love will triumph. It’s what endures. Forever.
So I think I will take St. Annie Lamott’s advice and keep writing through the cracks. Living through the cracks. Breathing through the cracks.
To let the light…and the love…shine through.