Here we are, three years without him. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago, in other ways it seems like it all just happened yesterday.
So how do we feel three years in? I would say it's all still a mixed bag of emotions, but I'll do my best to sum it up.
It Still Hurts
Losing someone you love is painful. And you know what else? It always will be. We keep living every day because we have no other choice, but that in no way means we've "moved on". We never will. We have moved forward, because we have to. Yet we do so with a crucial missing piece because Joel's no longer here. It always feels like someone is missing in our daily lives. Always.
We Still Miss Him
I've said this before but it bears repeating, you don't miss someone less the longer time goes on, you miss them more. Each year we mark off our calendar is another full year since we have been with the person we love the most. As time goes by details that were once so sharp get a little fuzzier. It used to feel like Joel was so close he could walk right back thru the door. It no longer feels that way. So much has changed, so much life has been lived without him, yet I still think about him and long for him every single day.
We Still Have Hard Days
Everyone assumes the anniversaries are the toughest part for us. While those days do carry a lot of weightiness, sometimes the smallest thing can throw me into a tailspin of a day. Finding an old letter from him, a tough single parenting day, a forgotten memory, a song on the radio...you name it. Sometimes the toughest days are due to the smallest memory that will make the feelings of loss come rushing in like a river.
Grief is Still A Journey
I'm prepared for this to always be. Any new firsts we have are bittersweet. On one hand I'm excited for the milestones my kids are conquering but on the other hand my heart breaks that Joel is not here to see them. Grief and loss come in all aspects and forms. We don't just grieve him in a singular sense, we grieve all of the ways he was supposed to be here and he's not. This will forever be a part of our story. We grieve because we loved.
Life is Harder
Particularly for me. I never in a million years thought I would be a single parent. It's the hardest thing I've ever experienced. Sometimes the weight of all I have on my shoulders feels like more than I can take. Loving, parenting, providing for, teaching, counseling my children all by myself is unbelievably difficult. And if I'm honest life can be really lonely at times. I miss my love, my best friend. I miss having a partner in life. When I have my tough days, there's no one to talk to about it. And at the end of the day our families survival is on me, it's a big load to carry.
He is Faithful
Now that I've given you all the tough points how about a bit of good? God has been with me in every step of this journey. He has taken my hand, led me and loved me. I've seen Him take our ashes and make them beautiful. I've seen Him take our story and use it for His purpose. Do I wish it could've happened a different way? Of course I do. Yet in a large way I would never want to go back to who I was before, because suffering has made me a better version of myself. I've gotten to know Him in ways many never get the chance to know and experience Him. It's the greatest good to come from a whole ball of bad.
So that's my truth. All the real, all the raw.
We are a broken heart that's been mended back together, but we will always be missing a piece of us. That's something we will live with forever. We keep going forward because that's what Joel would want for us. Even when it seems like some days we've slowed from a walk to a crawl, as hard as it is, we keep going.
Our lives are better because we knew him and our lives will never be the same because we lost him.
Three years in that truth is more real than ever. Never forgotten.