“Mommy, I want to go play in the little house.” My son told me one day. “What little house are you talking about bud?” I asked confused.
“The little house that we always drive by. I want to go see inside!” He answered.
I thought through our normal route we take to get home. There were no “little houses” I could think of. I tried to brush it off but he was persistent.
“Mommy, I really, really want to know what is inside of that little house!” He said in exasperation.
I didn’t figure out what he meant that day, but it all came together the following week when we were in the car once again driving home.
“Mommy look! Mommy!!!! It’s the little house I told you about! Over there!” He squealed pointing out the window.
I turned to my right, that is when my heart sank. He was pointing to a cemetery. The little house he was referring to was a crypt.
“Milo, that’s not a little house and it’s not somewhere we go play.” I said.
“But why, why Mommy? What is it?” He asked.
“Well, that is a hard one to explain, you'll just have to trust me on it. That place is a cemetery and it’s not a place people really go to have fun.” I said choosing my words carefully.
“Oh…….” He said quietly.
I bit my lip, saying a silent prayer that at least for today my answer would suffice. It did. Subject averted-for now at least.
For most people a conversation like that may not induce the kind of stomach-in-knots reaction I had in answering a simple question from my son. Problem is that’s one of the easier questions he has asked. Most nights as I rock my son to sleep he pummels me with them.
What is Heaven?
What is death?
Why did Daddy have to go to Heaven?
Will he ever come back?
Why can’t he come back?
When will I die?
When will I go to Heaven?
Why does sickness happen?
Why doesn’t God heal us every time?
Why does death happen?
His little heart is desperately trying to understand the sorts of things my adult heart is still trying to reconcile about his Daddy. Why? Just why?
It makes a simple act like driving by a cemetery (which we do frequently in our part of town) a moment of holding my breath in hopes that once, just once, we can make it through a day without the kind of questions that make me want to curl up in a corner and weep.
This is our life.
As hard as the questions from my son are, this is simply one part of the complexity of loss. The longer I have had to live with the loss of my husband the more I wish people understood about it.
I recently tweeted that “The loss of a spouse is not something you ever ‘get over’. It is something you journey through, daily, for the rest of your life.”
One could even define loss as one play with two acts. The first act is the initial loss. The second act is the resulting loss.
The initial loss is like the rock you throw into water, the resulting loss is like the ripples and waves the rock continues to make.
Loss is all-encompassing. There is not one part of our life that hasn’t been affected by the death of my husband. Not one.
In my world I have come to understand something about how people view loss vs. the reality of loss.
When you hear of someone experiencing a loss, this is how most people view it:
One marble in a bowl.
-Rachel lost her husband.
-Ashley lost her child.
-Jim lost his Mom.
-Eric lost his best friend.
They see a singular event, a singular loss.
Here is the reality of loss for the person who has experienced it:
Numerous marbles in a bowl.
-Yes, Rachel lost her husband. But Rachel also lost her best friend. Rachel lost the father of her children. Rachel lost every plan she had for her for the future. Rachel lost her protector, her provider. Rachel lost her love.
-Yes, Jim lost his Mom. But Jim also lost a friend. Jim lost his trusted confidant. Jim lost the one who cooked him his favorite pie. Jim lost a grandmother to his children. Jim lost the person who gave birth to him. Jim lost the wife of his Father.
Loss is not singular, it is plural.
It is marble, after marble, after marble. Sometimes a marble will leave, other times new ones will appear. But the bowl will never be empty. Ever.
In losing my husband I lost my best friend. I lost our sole provider. I lost my children’s Father. I lost my partner, my greatest love. Everything we knew was stripped away. The ripples remain.
Having a bad day and need someone to talk to? That person is gone.
Want someone to just give you a hug and hold your hand? That is also gone.
Date night with your love? That is gone.
Want a Father to teach and mold your son? That person is gone.
Have a Christmas party to attend? Well, you will be going alone.
Have a bill to pay? You will have to find a way to provide for that on your own.
That nagging grocery list? You will be taking care of that on your own.
The honey-do list? That's all on you.
Tired and you don’t want to have to cook? There’s no other cook around-so that would be you.
Driving by a cemetery? That becomes a minefield.
The holidays/most wonderful time of the year? Not as wonderful when you are missing your husband.
The local Daddy daughter dance? No Daddy to take his daughter.
All the boys going to football games with their Dad’s? Your son won’t be going because his Dad is gone.
When a kid comes up and innocently asks where Milo’s Daddy is? A simple question that makes you want to flee the room.
On and on the list goes.
Each time I encounter one of the issues above, I feel my loss over and over again. It was not just a one time event. It is a daily reoccurrence.
Loss is not just one marble. I will say it again, loss is not just one marble.
Every single day there are numerous moments that cause me to feel my loss intimately. It is not just that Joel is gone. That event was the largest of the dominos causing the others to crash one after another. Every day. With no end in sight.
I know as time goes on we become more adaptable. The loss, more palatable in ways. That’s human nature. But you never “get over it”. No matter how adaptable I become my bowl will always be full of marbles. In my own life I still find myself in a world where even many who are the closest to me still only see one marble.
Our loss is not one marble. Truthfully, it won’t ever be.
I know this subject can be heavy, but I felt so compelled to write this post. I know not everyone has experienced loss, but we all know someone who has. This time of year is one of the hardest for people walking this road. The holiday’s aren’t what they were, to many they are a painful trigger.
It is my prayer we can begin to have a greater understanding for what loss looks like. From greater understanding comes greater empathy, from greater empathy greater love.
If you are one who has experienced loss please know: I see and hear you, and so does the Father. You are not alone. Death’s sting has taken so much, your bowl is so full. My prayer is that you would feel the love of the Father so deeply. That He would surround you, not only with His embrace, but also a circle of people with a heart-moving understanding of the pain you feel, and the journey you continually endure.
As for us, may we become a people who love deeply.
Who search for understanding.
Who feel others pain, as if it were our own.
"Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything." CS Lewis