Grief is a curious partner. It can be a horrible adversary or a gentle friend. It can destroy your day or be the only thing that gets you through the next minute. It can be a constant companion or can show up when you least expect it. We each deal with it in our own private way. Some of us are very open about our sadness while others tuck it away so that no one knows just how much our hearts are hurting.
I have shared a chapter of our story with you when I shared William’s birth and death with you one year ago today. It was a hard to put our sorrow out in the public’s eye. We had grieved so quietly for 10 months up to that point. To suddenly have all the details of his loss center stage was very difficult for us. Still, we trusted in the wisdom of a dear friend who encouraged me to share his story and we found a comfort that we had missed out on in our quiet grieving.
In December we will be at the two year anniversary of losing our son. I often look at the time that has passed and wonder how in the world it could be almost two years since I last held my son. Where does the time go? Why does it collectively seem so impossible that it’s been two years since we endured hell and yet some days the time moves so slowly that I wonder how I can stand another minute?
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of William and of my other children lost to me. There are many days now that are much easier to get through and some where there are tears just behind my lashes waiting to be spilled. There’s no rhyme or reason to what makes a day good or a day bad. That’s another aspect about grief that I probably won’t ever understand. I have found ways to get through the hard days, most of the time anyway. I pray, I cry, I look at pictures of my son, I visit his grave, I try to distract myself, and I try to find joy in my everyday life. Still, it can be hard and it can be all encompassing to deal with the grief.
This summer I encountered a time when I just didn’t know what to do as grief enveloped me at a strange time. It was about 10pm and I was driving home from a friend’s house. I had just laughed and had such a wonderful time with my very best friends, but as I left the gathering I felt an overwhelming emptiness consume me. I blinked back tears as I started my car to drive home. I turned off my radio and started to pray, “Lord, please, how do I get through this pain? Why now? Why like this?” My car was quiet. I didn’t hear an answer. As I drove home though I knew I would pass the church. I thought about William there alone in the dark. I knew what I wanted to do.
That warm summer night, clouds blocked the light from the moon but it didn’t matter. Even in the dark I knew the way to my son’s grave. I had never been to the cemetery at night and I wondered what others might think of me if they knew where I was at that moment. I decided that it didn’t matter to me. My grief, my suffering, was the only thing that I needed to worry about at that time.
I quietly made my way to William’s grave. Lightening filled the sky and lit up his name. The tears that I tried to hold back in the car would not be contained. They spilled down my cheeks and I began to sob. I sat down beside him and placed my hand on the cold granite. I ran my fingers along the letters that spelled out his named, gently caressing each letter… William Nathaniel. I then did something that I never could have done during the day; I lean over and pressed my face to the stone. It was cool against my hot cheeks. I kissed his name and wept.
It was quiet sitting there alone. The thunder rumbled softly in the distance and occasionally the lightening would light the sky so I could see clearly. The wind picked up and gently ruffled my skirt around my legs. I sat with my knees pulled to my chest, hugging them close to me. I buried my face in the soft fabric of my skirt and cried. How could I endure another day of this pain? How can it come without warning… so swift and so complete? Why did I have to go through this? I had thought that Jake’s birth would close these doors for me and yet here they stood wide open allowing the hurt to trample my already broken heart. I thought my heart would be healed and I would be able to move forward but here I was, sitting quietly in the dark at William’s grave, unable to move forward. Why?
I wouldn’t have my questions answered that night but in the two months since sitting beside my son during those dark hours I have come to realize that when we love so dearly, so deeply, it only makes sense that there will be times in our lives when the grief that is inside of us will overflow and cause us to stop and not be able to see past that sorrow. It will be all-encompassing just as our love is. It will envelope us like a dark shadow, gripping our souls, and causing us to lose our breath. If we didn’t love we wouldn’t feel the pain that accompanies the loss. Those times where the pain is too much to bear is just an affirmation of our ability to love. That pain is a gift, a reminder that our hearts are capable of loving, of giving, and of receiving.
I knew as I left the cemetery that my son was only there physically. I know his soul is in heaven with our Lord. Still, it is such a blessing to know that I can go to be with him when I feel that overwhelming sadness beginning to take over. It’s a poor substitute but the only one I have until one day I am allowed to hold him again.
Grief is strange. For some of us it will take a lifetime to heal from the pain and yet others are able to carry on easily. It is a reminder of what has been lost, of what could have been, and of what we had hoped and wished for in our lives. Everyone’s journey with grief is different. Some will walk it alone, others surrounded by people who love and support them. Thankfully we know that our Lord is right there with us, even when it’s hard to feel Him there, suffering too. He has felt the pain of losing someone He loved. He knows the pain of asking the question, “Why me, God? Please let this cup pass from me!” He also knows physical suffering and death. He knows where we are and He is willing to travel with us on our journey through our suffering, loss, and pain.
Our lives will never be the same. We have suffered through many, many losses and with each our hearts have been torn apart. We thought we would never be able to get through William’s loss. We were wrong. God has shown us that through Him all things are possible. It’s not to say that our journey is easy, it has been the hardest thing we’ve ever encountered. We know it is a road we will travel our whole lives. However, God has kept us safe in His hands, allowing us to cry when we need to cry, scream when we need to scream, and smile when we need to smile. I am so thankful for a Father who loves me so much that He has been with me every step of the way.