I just wrote a Christmas note for a dear, dear friend and it left me sitting on the hardwood floor staring off into the distance. I think I need to write for just a minute. To you. “You” will know who you are, all of you out there.
I remember exactly two years ago writing this post. From this side two years seems like yesterday, but in the midst of it two years was an eternity. Grief has that way with us, doesn’t it? When we’re immersed in it we feel as if we will surely never be the same. The remainder of our life will surely be lived with a dark cloud hanging out overhead. I remember crying out to God that if he was trying to teach me something he really should be a bit more creative (and fast!) about it. Dragging all this painful aching out over a course of YEARS seemed like sheer torture.
I will never forget a dear reader writing me to say how grief is like the waves of the ocean. Some days (many days) you will be totally fine, living life as normal as ever and then a wave – a giant, ornery one – will come, take you completely off guard and swipe you off your feet. This is the best picture I’ve ever been given of grief. Yet, somehow in the midst of those days frantically swimming, trying to figure out which way is the surface and looking for the faintest hint of sunlight I have a sweet and acute memory of most everything.
Long mornings alone, writing, dreaming, building a business, soaking up time with my husband in such a way that a stranger would be convinced he was leaving for war the next day, wasting time doing house projects, writing long emails back and forth with strangers who shared my same story, taking long walks crying out to God, listening to music (specific songs take me right back to that place) and the biggest thing I will never forget – noticing people.
When you are grieving you start to consider how many other people around you might be grieving, too. The person going terribly slow at the post office, the pissy girl at the retail store, the kid stocking groceries – you think of them differently, notice them on a deeper level and are kinder, more patient, more understanding. I always wanted this from other people so I found myself quick to offer it to others. I learned that eye contact and a quick smile really is medicine for the aching soul.
In February we had a failed IVF. It was what I needed to happen to be confirmed (once again) that we are both totally healthy, but still not pregnant. It was then that I truly gained a peace. A peace that things were not in my control, that if life never consisted of me becoming a mother I would be okay. Yet, in the midst of that peace I just knew that God was doing something. I could sense it in the air I breathed. I remember talking to my mother-in-law about it, telling her I felt like God was moving and good things were going to happen.
We got the call about the birth mother who wanted to meet us in April. Charley was born in July. Our grief turned to celebration overnight.
Yet, this is what I want to tell you. When you’re grieving – and really grieving – meaning you’re allowing yourself to grieve. Actually, let me just speak on that for a minute …
So often we all have things to grieve – a failed relationship, a mishap in work, a child going through a rough stage, a sick parent, a difficult season in our marriage, infertility, new doors opening which means other doors must close – yet we avoid them, sweep them under the rug and pretend as if everything will be fine. Everything will not be fine. You must allow yourself the room and freedom to grieve. It will not last forever if you do this. It will move through and on, out the window at just the right time. It will however last forever if you sweep it under the rug. Who wants to live in a stuffy house with grief sitting under the rug anyway? I much prefer a house with the windows open and the fresh air blowing throughout.
So, when you’re allowing yourself the freedom to grieve you are in a beautiful stage. A stage of growth, self-reflection and acute awareness. It’s not easy being in that place, but I promise that if you surrender to it, invite it in and allow it to take up house for just a bit you will grow in ways you never could expect.
For me, I know I mother quite differently than I would have “pre-infertility”. There are so many ways I could share, but the most prevalent is in the every day things – the sleep training, the times she cries when I leave the room or nights I’m up every hour, the messes that are made or the days when I make decisions that prove to be selfish, the moments when I realize just how hard it is to be a new mom and the moments when there are huge celebrations to be had (like when she finally learned how to roll over this week!). These are all so important, but it’s the bigger picture that I always have in mind. She will sleep, she will learn how to walk, she will not always want me to hold her all day long when she’s sick. She will grow up and go off to school and then college and these days will be gone. Fast. I know I would have been a mom that would have stressed about the small things. And, not that I never stress now, but it’s different. I’m different.
I owe this to the way God chose to speak to me through grief. Why he chooses grief to grow some of us I don’t know, but I do know that I am not the least bit bitter and am all the more grateful.
Truthfully, honestly … there is so much I miss about that season. I’m not sure I ever thought I’d say that, but it’s true.
So, dear you .. open your heart and yourself and let grief reside for just a bit if need be. Allow yourself the gift of growing in such a way that you cannot in any other way. When grief moves on, out the window to inevitably visit another time, you will be grateful at what it left behind. I really do believe this to be true.
love, love, love,