Today marks the last day of the fourth month since Steve went home. I have been processing by writing nearly every day, though I’ve only updated the blog a handful of times. I’ve been reluctant to share this part of the journey publicly, not just because it’s pretty raw, but also because I haven’t really trusted my feelings from day to day. Well, no. That’s not right. My feelings are my feelings; they don’t need to prove anything to be valid. Even if those feelings don’t last all day, they are legitimate emotions when I feel them. What I haven’t been able to trust are the conclusions I tend to draw from them because my brain has been so crowded with questions – the noisiest, bossiest questions I have ever faced.
Some are general living questions, like: What do I do with the house? How do I use my money wisely? How much should I travel and speak? Or manage my time in general? Who do I call with questions about my sprinkler system?
And then there are intimate, edgy questions, like: When do I move Steve’s collection of golf hats out of the closet? How do I parent kids who are living through grief while I am also living through grief? Who will take care of me when I get the flu? Should I keep wearing my wedding ring indefinitely or not?
The first month was like living inside a ball of yarn, trying to punch my way out. The harder I punched, the more the tangle tightened. Around day 27, I finally reverted to the old technique for escaping a Chinese finger trap: Relax. Go limp. Stop fighting. Rest. Countless times, I have stopped a runaway train of thought by saying out loud, You don’t have to know right now, Bo. Just relax.
I’ve learned a lot in this season of waiting and resting and I’ve mostly been letting life happen. If I feel like getting stuff done, I get stuff done. If I feel like binge watching Parks & Rec, I do it. When cooking sounds fun, I fill my kitchen with my favorite food and people. When it doesn’t, I grab a kid or a friend and go out for dinner. In my very short time as a widow (a word that I’m not sure will ever sound right), I’ve been to more movies than in the previous ten years combined. Instead of three miles a day religiously, I run…whenever I feel like it. It’s like I’ve turned into the anti-Bo, but it’s been really good. I will always look back on these 120 days as an oasis in the back country of the Shadowlands. I’ve been kind to myself and I’ve learned that the questions don’t go away at the oasis, but they can wait. This is not a season I would be anxious to repeat, but I will be grateful for it forever.
Having said that, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt the unmistakeable movement of a turning tide. It’s not that the season of grief is over, or ever will be (it helped a lot when I stopped expecting it to end.) It’s that I feel my heart moving from recovery mode to reconstruction mode. I remember the first morning I woke up with a strange excitement bubbling beneath the surface. Is there such thing as “solemn excitement”? If so, that’s what I felt. I began writing down some new ideas and reminding myself of some old dreams. Then a few trusted friends posed carefully-worded suggestions that I knew were meant to nudge me toward the daring idea that maybe my future had not been buried with Steve. Ironically, from the day of my husband’s diagnosis, he began telling me that no matter where the road took him, he believed my best days were still ahead. It used to annoy me so, so much. I would sob and shake and tell him, “I can’t hear you say this right now. I can’t think ahead that far without feeling like my whole life is ending.” He would smile sadly and pat my head and say, “But someday you’ll be glad I said it.” And he was right. I’m already glad he said it. Maybe someday I’ll also believe he was right. I’m not there yet, but maybe someday.
So, today, on the threshold of month five, I am here to say that I am changing. I am growing. I have wrestled down answers to the immediate, essential questions (keeping the house! found the sprinkler guy!) and am hearing whispers for those that will shape my future (hint: it involves tuition and tests and scares me a lot!) I am rebuilding on this broken ground and grief is still very present here, but it’s partnered up with hope and they’re dancing – sometimes well, sometimes super awkwardly – together.
Over the next few months, I’ll talk a little more about the answers to some of my questions and the plans that are forming as Part 2 of Plan A unfolds, but for now I want to close out month four with this promise from Jeremiah, which hangs over my desk and has become the only thing I really need to know:
I will give those who are weary all they need and refresh everyone who is filled with sorrow. Jeremiah 31:25
With hope for all we need,