On Gratitude and Grief

I have five healthy, kind, intelligent, good children.’

Five.

That’s more than most, I know.  I know many who long to have one.

I have an amazing man who loves me fiercely and does everything in his power to make sure I know it, no matter how crazy I get.

I’m blessed.  I have so much to be grateful for.  I am grateful.  So grateful.  Yet, gratitude doesn’t cancel out grief.  Grief has been very heavy as of late.

My big lovies begged their way to watching Lord of the Rings over the last few weeks with Brig.  I sometimes joined in.  So, here’s my metaphor tonight.  Grief feels like the one ring.  It’s heavy.  So heavy.  There are times it doesn’t seem as horrible as it should and then it feels like the weight and pain of it on my chest and shoulders may very well break me to pieces.  It burns in my chest like a wildfire that won’t be contained.  As I sit here now, my chest physically aches.  It’s as though I’m being branded right in the center of my chest.  The hot iron is piercing my skin, putting pressure on my heart.  What’s left?  A charred “G” that stole who I used to be and left this broken, changed version in her place.

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I won’t bore you with the details, but during our marriage Brig and I have seen plenty of trials.  I remember telling Brig about six years ago that sometimes I was afraid to be happy because every time I started to feel happy, something so difficult and trying would happen.  Yet, we’ve always taken things in stride and tried to look for ways to grow and become better.

This last weekend I told Brig I feel like I’ve spent so much time in the Refiner’s fire it’s to the point where the heat’s just being turned up to see if my bones will burn.

Something changed in me last week.  I broke in a new way.  There’s too much to feel right now, so I just don’t feel anything.  I look at old family photos and part of me thinks, “That’s such a nice picture.  They look so happy.  Those kids look so happy.  What a fun family!  She looks like a fun mom.  It sure was nice to know her for the time I did.”  That family, that mom, they’re people that I used to know.  That hurts.

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My grief counselor says this is all okay, as long as I don’t stay here for more than a few months.  It’s all normal for all the tragedy and grief we’ve faced on so many levels.  That doesn’t make the disconnect better.  I just don’t know how to humanly process and feel all of this.

I still pull it together pretty well, though.

This is life.  This is approaching my son’s birthday, but first passing the one year mark since his death the day before.  This is Thanksgiving and being reminded that I have so much to be grateful for, as if that cancels out the pain of Caleb’s death.  As if it’s a weight, counterweight experience.  This is Christmas with presents that were never given in storage.  This is going to the store and seeing so many things I wish I could give him.  This is hearing my bedroom door open in the wee hours and knowing it will never be him coming in for ‘nuggles, dragging his blankie, but still thinking for a second it might be.  This is everyone at the store tonight being pregnant.  This is yet another news story of someone abusing their child/children while I mother a grave site for a child I loved and protected with everything in me.  This is hand and face prints that haven’t been washed off walls or windows from hands and a face I long to wipe clean and love on.  Instead, I clean a headstone where matchbox cars and stuffed animals age with weather.

Do I always feel like this?  No.  Will I always?  Of course not.  But it’s okay to feel this way sometimes.  It’s okay to talk about this.  Don’t be afraid of the harder times.  This is so often when the most growth and learning happen.  If nothing else, new perspective and wisdom are gained through the process.

Be kind to the grief stricken this holiday season.  We are grateful.  We love life, friends, and family.  It’s just that we have a burning in our chest as we look around and see one fewer face than we should.

-Jenelle

 

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