For two years now I’ve walked around in a fog. Or, to be more personally descriptive, it feels like I’ve been underwater, slowly inching closer to having my whole head out from under the water recently. In the beginning, I felt like I was buried in muddy water, barely able to breathe, and never getting a deep breath. Then the water seemed to begin to clear a bit after the 1st anniversary, though I still felt the heavy weight of it on my chest all the time. As the second anniversary neared, I began to feel like my head was actually beginning to surface and I could occasionally breathe deeply, though I still had times of feeling like I sunk down in to the depths of the water, where no one could see me or reach me to help me out.
As I begin to feel like I’m living above the surface of the water more often than below it, the pain is more real. The reality of how my life looks, stretching out in front of me for who knows how many more years, is sometimes unbearable. I had five children because I wanted to live a long, full and happy life with my husband and five children and any grandchildren that I hoped would come along. Maybe even great-grandchildren. Now I have four children. For the rest of my life. Four. Not five. This is heartbreaking.
I know some would say that I’ve been blessed beyond measure and my heart should not be broken like this. After all, I didn’t, like Job, lose all of my children in one fell swoop. Someone has even said to me that I should be more grateful for the ones I still have. I was, and still am extremely grateful for all that God has blessed my life with. How could I, someone who knows personally how suddenly and tragically life can change, not be grateful for all that I still have? I can’t let any of my family hang up the phone or leave my house without more than a few hugs and expressions of my love. Ever. I will never (I hope) casually hug one of my children good-bye again. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. I am so grateful to God for all that I have.
But this gratitude does not nullify the pain. It doesn’t even minimize it. And the natural anesthesia God has created in us for us to be able to bear up under pain such as the sudden loss of a loved one is beginning to wear off completely. The last remnants of it remain, thankfully. But like the tingling sensation in your mouth after having dental work done, the numbness is wearing off and the pain is front and center, especially this time of year – the holidays. It won’t be ignored. I tried to hang the ornaments on our Christmas tree a few days ago, and the first one I picked up from the storage box was the cross I bought that first Christmas after our son was killed, the words Always In Our Hearts on it along with his name, birthdate and date of death. I wrapped it back up, put it back in the box and walked away. The tree sat empty for a few days.
Today, though, I gave it another try. I hung his ornament first. Right in the front, in the middle. I surrounded it, like I have the past 2 years, with his and my other children’s Baby’s 1st Christmas ornaments, forming a circle of love and protection around his “1st Christmas after death” ornament. It’s beautiful and gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking at the same time. Who ever thinks they will have a death-day for their child? I foresaw many, many birthday celebrations for many, many years ahead. Not a death-day.
The pain is real. The injury to my soul is healing, but the pain remains. I remember a word picture I used to describe this wound to someone many months ago. It is like a giant gaping wound in my chest. A wound with raw, jagged edges. This is no clean wound that will heal with a barely noticeable scar. As this wound heals, there are ugly red deformed-looking blobs of skin in places they didn’t used to be; there is a deep hole where smooth flesh used to be; the skin is healing over the hole, but the hole remains.
It has been especially difficult for me since the week of Thanksgiving, with a few good days interspersed throughout the crying days. My hubby told me last night that this Christmas seems like the hardest so far for him, in some ways. I understand that. In some ways, it is easier. But in other ways it is just so much harder. The loss is real. I can’t ignore it. I can’t imagine he is overseas anymore. The giant gaping hole is not only evident in my soul, it is evident in our family, in our home and this time of year, on and under our Christmas tree.
Our “new normal”, our reality for the rest of our lives here on earth, is that where there were seven plus a few, now there are six plus a few.
It hurts. And I am weary of the pain.
But I thank God for His Word. I cling to it like an anchor for my soul.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their sorrows.” Ps 147:3