I really can’t believe that I let it happen, but the truth of the matter is that I did.
I can remember sitting on this old white couch we used to have and bursting into tears. Samuel had passed away only a week or so earlier and I was totally overcome with emotion. Not from being overcome with grief, but because I was overcome with gratitude.
I was so thankful that I, a girl who had been living life at a million miles an hour, had slowed down and was living in the moment. I had finally managed to tune out the outside world, and honestly…my need to please it, and managed to focus on taking care of myself and my family. I could feel this new way of living all the down into my bones, and I said out loud that I didn’t want to go back to the way life was before. I promised myself I wouldn’t, or that because of everything we had walked through I couldn’t, but somehow I did.
For the first few years, I was careful to make better choices, even if they were the harder ones to make, and I always included myself in the equation. Making time for the things that I loved, things that nurtured my soul. It was almost like an out of body experience the way I could see the difference it was making in the kind of wife and mother I was. Over time though, I slowly put less priority on it, allowing more guilt to seep in when I tried to dedicate time for myself. I had started letting the people pleasing part of me come back, too. Fretting over decisions and comparing myself to others to check how I was measuring up. I began to think that I didn’t deserve to make time for myself anymore, or to live life at a pace other than the standard I saw around me.
My head started telling me that the official grieving period was over so I needed to put my big girl pants on and get back to the previously scheduled programming, even though my heart knew that didn’t make any sense. My heart was just no match for my over-thinking brain. If it had been, then I would have realized much sooner that even through grief is what opened my eyes to taking care of myself, and living life at a pace that was right for me and my family, it was not a required component.
It took a good year of struggling before I hit rock bottom and my heart was able to take control again. That’s when I was finally able to figure all this out. I was finally able to trace back much of the shift to the year Henry started Kindergarten. Before Samuel, I had been excited about the prospect of my kids starting school because it would give me a new opportunity to meet new mommy friends. After losing Samuel though, the fact that I would have to interact with other moms scared the heck out of me. Now a days I tend to feel like a social pariah around other mommies, thanks in part to those that run away in fear when they learn that one of my kids lives with Jesus. No matter how sweet, or normal, or strong I am, somebody ends up running away scared of ever interacting with me again. It’s a funny thing, living through something that you know you couldn’t have survived on your own. Something where God becomes completely tangible to you, while the rest of the world is still just moving along in standard procedure mode. It’s absolutely freeing, but also very isolating.
Preschool had been a safe place for me because it was at our church, which meant I was around families that knew our story. A new school meant sharing it all over again, or choosing to hold it close while trying to figure out how to walk that line. Not to mention, being in situations where I would continually see families together, particularly ones with three or more children. It became a constant reminder that all of my children aren’t here. Because of all that, I dove head first into working. Building my little custom design business as fast as I could muster so I could avoid all that I was afraid of. I took on too much, went back to comparing myself to others again, tried to please again, completely forgot to take care of myself, and I did a pretty poor job taking care of my family to boot. I spent the better part of a year struggling against what God was trying to remind me of, and instead worked to prove my worthiness to Him through my busy-ness.
Looking back, I know I should be grateful for what this part of my journey has taught me, but mostly I’m just frustrated with myself. Because I knew better. Because it took away from my relationship with God. Because it caused me to loose time with my children. But I’ll get there. I know that. What I am grateful for from this part of my journey is grace. It was a tough way to learn that lesson, but I am so glad that I finally did. I’m also grateful for the knowledge that with anything new, including life situations, it will begin to wear down and become more comfortable. Today, I feel more comfortable with mommy interactions and how I want to handle them. I’m also thankful for the reminder that I deserve to make time for myself, and that when I do- neither grief or guilt will be invited to attend. And I plan on giving myself plenty of grace through all of it.