I'm so glad at the start of a journey there's not someone there to tell you exactly what's in store and just how difficult it will be. It's been 13 months since I last saw my favorite person. I didn't know at the beginning of my grief journey what I was in for. Of course I knew it would be challenging, heart wrenching and the hardest road I would ever walk. But here, over a year later, there's still some very real things I've found surprising about the process. I wanted to share with you today five of the most surprising things I've encountered and am still working through 13 months down the line.
I do this for two reasons.
One, so if you are walking the road of grief you will know you are not alone. What you are feeling is valid and what you are feeling is normal.
Two, if you know someone walking the road of grief, hopefully this will give you a small idea of what they are facing. No matter how far they've advanced, there is still more to come.
#1-I've been surprised at just how day to day this grief thing can be. Sometimes I have a series of what can be described as "good" days (meaning days where the grief doesn't totally consume me). Those good days can just as easily be followed by a series of "bad days". Sometimes one 24 hour period can be drastically different than the one before it and the one that follows it. The big anniversaries are typically really hard days but the smallest thing can trigger a really difficult day as well. Something like a song attached to a memory, or passing by our favorite restaurant. You never know what could set you off. The only thing consistent about grief is it's unpredictability. That's been a really hard thing to get used to.
#2-It's surprised me how "needy" I still feel. I still need the prayers of others deeply. I still need the real and meaningful relationships in my life to surround me completely. I still need encouragement. I still need love. I still need intentional authentic moments. I still need laughter. Maybe now more than ever.
#3. It's surprised me how much/often I still think of my husband. I don't want people to misconstrue that last sentence as that I don't want to think of him or I want to think of him less. That's not the case at all. But it has surprised me how many minutes of my day are consumed with thoughts of him. Be it memories, things I miss, things I loved, things I wished could be. Really, he's on my mind most of the day. Far more often than not. It has not diminished. I'm not sure it ever will.
#4-It's surprised me how unreal this all still seems. It might sound silly but there's still days it can feel like all of this was a bad dream, like he could come home at any moment. The other day I was playing with my son and I was blankly looking at the back door because in that moment it felt like he was about to walk through it. I imagined him coming in and sitting on our living room floor playing with our son. That's how it was supposed to be. Not this. Some days I feel the weight of that fully and I have to remind myself it will never be. Your mind can really play tricks on you and that can bring on hard moments.
#5-It's surprised me how hard I'm trying to just get back to some kind of new normal. It's been extremely difficult to develop a new life routine with just my son and I. Often I feel as if I don't know what's around the corner for us. My sense of safety and security was ripped away from me and it's surprised me how long it's taken me to try to get that back. I've had to work on it daily, rebuilding our lives piece by piece. It's an ongoing process and feels as if it may be a lengthy one.
I heard a quote at the beginning of this journey that said you will grieve, in some form, forever. While that may seem daunting to some it brought comfort to me. It made me realize there was a lifetime of emotions I had ahead. It made me realize it was ok to miss my husband, and think about him, for as long as I live.
You don't just grieve what you lost. You grieve your past, present and your future all at the same time. Moving forward, all of our families happiest moments will always have a tinge of bittersweetness to them, because Joel's not there. And Joel should be there. But that little bit of sadness will always remind us of who we lost and just how very much he meant to us. The sadness will remind us of our love for him. And I'm ok with that.
When you love much your loss is deep. When someone has impacted your life profoundly you mourn their absence deeply. When someone is gone too soon you get to define their legacy purposefully.
Those are all gifts, even when they seem as if they are not.
Grief is a long road and a winding one at that. It is one I will travel for the rest of my life. But also one that, in the end, will lead me to the place of life and restoration beyond anything I've ever known. If you are on this road yourself, I am praying for you today.