Where do I begin? Even writing that number comes with such disbelief! So much life has happened yet I can still feel the hole in my chest, the ache in my heart and the anger at what felt stolen from me and my family. None of that comes from a place of discontent with my new husband! That honestly couldn’t be more perfect! But, I still ache over what was, that is no more. I feel anger at what needed some work but was left unfinished. I feel pain over missing the one I gave my whole heart to all the way back in 1993.
At times like these, when milestones like this one come, my whole body and mind force me to reflect on the past year and take inventory of “where am I at?”; “is it normal”?; and “how should I move forward?”. Everything around me beckons me to remember! I feel it in my bones — the cooling of the temperature; the turning of the leaves; Christmas music begins to play and lights begin to appear; and, my daughter’s upcoming birthday becomes a topic of family discussion. I am keenly aware that another year has gone by and the memories of losing Clint are on me and the processing of it, deep inside my soul, begins.
I’m not in my early stage of grief and shock. And, it’s apparent I’ve moved forward, despite the pain that threatened to kill me. I genuinely laugh now. Colors are more vivid than l’ve ever experienced in my whole life. I appreciate the little things more than I ever dreamed I would. My spirit has experienced a calm that I often struggle finding words to describe. My only large frustration typically comes from not understanding why so many cling so tightly to life and worry about every little thing or try to control so much around them, rather than just trusting and enjoying life. It can sometimes seem to me that people really work hard at making things complicated for themselves. But…I digress.
At 3 years out, I realize I will always walk with grief. It is a constant companion…though I’ve gotten really good at keeping it from even the ones closest to me. I’ve been trying to understand it myself. I’m not really sure why it matters so much that I do. I have a genuine desire to understand myself so that others can be more understanding with themselves, I guess. But, this place isn’t as cut and dry as it was in my early days of all encompassing grief.
As I was verbally processing all my jumbled thoughts with Jorel, I told him that I feel like when someone loses a person super close to them, they are forever attached to a huge “trunk”. All of us carry some sort of baggage. I don’t mean this in a negative sense…like our loved ones are “baggage”, but this is the only way I can describe how I feel, so try to go with me for a bit 😉.
When we lose one so dear to us, we don’t just carry an emotional “purse” or “briefcase” or “backpack”, we emotionally carry a whole ginormous “trunk”!
Right after we lose them, we immediately find we are attached to it…FOREVER! We also come to see that we do NOT possess the strength, muscle, or understanding for how to navigate life with this new, unfamiliar “burden” attached to us. We find that literally EVERYTHING is now hard to do with this “trunk” attached to us. When we lie down, it is on our chest and prevents us from breathing! When we walk, it drags behind and causes us to trip, fall, and take lots and lots of rests. Often, others look at the “trunk” and feel there just isn’t enough space for us AND our “trunk”, so we begin to avoid gatherings. At other times, we need help carrying our “trunk” and find that some are ready and willing which is wonderful. But as time goes on, it becomes harder, more awkward, and uncomfortable for others to keep helping. We see their discomfort and that also makes us avoid being around people.
In the beginning, we may constantly open our “trunk” to tell everyone we can about its “contents”…our person. In time, we begin to feel that people are tired of seeing the “contents” of the “trunk”, so we cover it with “camo” or a blanket to make it easier for others and less conspicuous. People begin to see that we are getting around on our own easier or faster and without the aid of others helping. They may even forget about the “trunk” and think we aren’t still feeling the effects of it being attached to us. What they don’t know is that NOTHING has changed. We’ve just gotten more adept at navigating life with the “trunk” attached. The problem is this…we still want to share our love for the person the “trunk” represents, the pain and struggle from our loss, but we get soooo good at dragging the trunk everywhere and making it as invisible as possible, that we get really good at not letting people know when we hurt or it feels heavy. Sometimes we don’t even realize it ourselves. The “permanent marks” on our body from where the “trunk” is attached, becomes “normal” to us. We don’t notice it “cutting” into us anymore or “bruising” us. Sometimes we want to tell people how bad it still hurts but it becomes increasingly hard to even talk about it. We don’t want to feel like we are a burden or “stuck”. People are drawn to strength…”look, I can lift my “trunk” with one arm and the other tied behind my back!”
In an effort to talk through all these “crazy” thoughts with Jorel, I tried to seek affirmation or understanding. “Help me make sense of my brain and how I feel”. He assured me that I’m so “normal”. That I never need to feel awkward to pull out the contents of my “trunk”. He said he sees me as a person who decided not to drag the “trunk” by it forcibly being attached, but that I learned to carry it and it made me strong and I have learned to open it when I want and close it when I want and talk about it when I want.
I’m glad he sees that.
Sometimes I don’t see it in myself. Sometimes I still struggle opening the box and looking in it or talking about it. I often feel like a burden when I get going on stuff that I’m sad about or bothered by or angry at. At 3 years out, I can feel like a broken record. I hear myself saying the same things over and over again and the ending never changes. I often wonder if my heart will ever catch up with my head and realize that no amount of “fixing” will ever change the outcome. Will I be stuck in this particular place forever? Will I ever not feel like a burden to talk about what was and what is no more?
I think much of my discomfort comes from being so happily remarried. No matter how often Jor-el or anyone tells me not to worry about it, I struggle being so happy and fulfilled in this marriage and talking about all my hurts over losing Clint and my marriage with him. At this point, it feels like I will always struggle with this…taking me right back to my “trunk” analogy.
I don’t really have a point to this post much beyond opening my heart and letting it bleed out in random words that have sought to express where I’m at in my grief walk at 3 years post loss. I think in many ways, I look at myself as an anomaly. I never could have understood widowhood beforehand and it often still eludes me, even though I live it. It’s a truly curious, dark, painful and then at times painfully beautiful, deeply confusing place to exist. We humans are like that…aren’t we? So complex.
I’m so thankful for a God that doesn’t shudder when He looks at me. Who isn’t shocked at my musings. Who isn’t perplexed about what to do with me. And Who has sent me some of the most wonderful people on this great, big, beautiful planet, to do life with me and help carry my “trunk”. I’m thankful when they walk over to my “trunk”, remove the covering, and say, “I see “it” and I want to hear about its contents”. And, then they don’t shrink back when I start making long, crazy analogies to describe what’s in this crazy mind of mine 😜🤣🤷♀️🤦♀️.
3 years has been an awfully long time in so many ways and yet in others, it has flown by. This loss has in many ways set me apart from what I still see as the majority of the world…or normalcy. Deep loss has removed an innocence of sorts and left me permanently changed…sometimes even at odds with a world I understand even less than before.
I continue to navigate it with Jesus’ help and those beautiful people He’s filled my life with that have been an absolute lifeline!
If you have read this and actually get me and my confusing or all over the place thoughts, feel free to reach out! I genuinely care! I can’t save the world and I don’t have all the answers…only One person did that and I’m not Him 😉. But I care and I’m here for a chat…anytime! Don’t feel you have to stay strong all the time. I’m here if you just need to tell someone you’re struggling without fear of judgement!