Saturday, March 24, 2018

The messy parts of life

Life can be so messy sometimes... especially when you give a 2 year old a rice cake smothered in sticky Nutella!

Most days life is sweet where chaos is under control and bright smiles are shining all around. My girls run around dancing and twirling into cartwheels while singing along to the soundtrack from “The Greatest Showman” as the boys perform flips and wrestle each other to the ground over and over again. We eat a lot of ice cream... and dark chocolate. Open arms are constantly filled with tight warm hugs from little arms. We work hard as a family, we have fun, and we pray a lot.

But during each of these sweet and precious days there is always at least one child who breaks down into tears missing their dad. Usually it’s something relatively small that sets their grief off. In my children’s eyes I can see so much love and light but there is a deep yearning to have that connection with their dad again. When one of my kids have a meltdown, I just hold and rock them in my arms. I tell them I am so sorry their daddy is gone and that it is okay to cry and to feel hurt because losing their dad is such an incredibly difficult thing to continue to go through. Feeling the pain of loss is the only way to take this messy journey and start to find the small glimpses of joy that eventually does bring peace. It’s so hard though.

We talk about Tony often, sharing stories and memories, looking at pictures, listening to his favorite music. Our family and friend support is incredible and my kids have so much love from several people. Yet even with moments of joy, moments of remembrance, and moments of love, the ache of missing Tony doesn’t change. The sharp pain of it dulls, now a slow and throbbing ache that we have learned to live with every day. This is the messy part of grief that can’t simply be washed away. It has to be worked through slowly, and just as you feel the bulk of it is gone, you realize how much more there is still left. As days and weeks and months go by, the mess becomes more manageable, even so much so that it starts to become sweet. We are all at different points in our grief journey but what matters is that we are moving forward together, becoming closer and drawing strength from one another. And those amazing kids bring so much strength to me. I feel so blessed and honored to be their mother.

It has been almost 16 months since Tony died and even though I have worked through a whole lot of my grief and have once again found enthusiasm and new dreams for the future, grief has left some unexpected messes. I often feel alone even though I am surrounded by so many who truly love me. Sometimes I feel that I’ve been abandoned by Tony as the reality of being a single parent hits me hard on some days. I feel scared to fully open my heart again because I know I am broken from my grief. And I hate the weight of the burden of having to make decisions alone without Tony by my side. I try to take the advice I give my kids by letting myself feel the hurt and pain. It’s a really hard thing to do because I know that when I let go and allow those emotions to enter my heart, the ache is almost more than I can bear.

This happened just a few weeks ago as I tried to get one of my daughters dressed for church. She refused to wear any of her dresses and started to throw a little tantrum while I rushed to get everyone else dressed to go. I finally just knelt to the ground and all my frustrations and my pain came flooding in tears from my eyes. I think I cried for 45 minutes straight. It was so painful but it cleansed my heart and soul in a way that I had needed for several months. Laying on the ground with mascara running down my cheeks, encircled by my kids and their hugs, I realized that I needed to let go and let life be messy for a bit. What I am dealing with— grief of losing Tony, of being a single mother, of being subjected to others opinions about my parenting— it was all okay. I can’t fix it. And no one else can fix it for me. But I can learn to get through the mess.

So after my long cry, I picked myself up off the ground, washed my face, put my mascara back on, wriggled a dress onto that sweet but stubborn daughter of mine, and took my kids to church.

This is real life: sweet but very messy at times. And all we need to do is accept those messes in our lives not as faults to dwell on or as road blocks to our happiness, but as opportunities to be real and to grow and strengthen each other as God intends for us as family and friends. I know you have continued to do that for me. Thank you.