Monday, January 25, 2010

A Respite and a Return to Reality

This past week our family went to Disney World with my mom.  For the past three years, we've gone annually with my family.  Shortly after Samuel died, we decided to go again this year.  At the time I was looking for ways to see blessings come from heartbreak since we wouldn't have headed to Disney with a 5 month old baby who was supposed to be having heart surgery sometime between 4 and 6 months of age.  Though I would obviously rather have our Samuel than a trip to Disney World, I saw that Bryan and I would need to be able to embrace the blessings and joy that came our way -- even those that came our way directly or indirectly because of Samuel's death.  Disney World was one of those things.

Though I missed Samuel at every turn -- like when the woman next to me at Playhouse Disney asked, "Do you have two kids?" and I fumbled through, "No, three" and hoped desperately that she wouldn't ask any more questions after her repeated attempts to locate our third child and her "So how was the transition from 2 to 3?  I've heard it's horrible," -- I'm glad we went.  I'm glad we celebrated Caleb and Joel and got some time with my mom.  I'm glad Bryan and I finally got some time together while Mom watched the boys.  I'm glad we had a change of scenery and warm weather with sunshine.  I'm glad we could laugh and see our boys light up when they met a character and go swimming and "'splore" the parks and have some days without all the normal stresses of every day life.  We needed it.  Badly.

Bryan commented that on numerous occasions he caught himself thinking as he was walking along, "What am I doing here?  This place has lost its joy for me."  And I can relate to that.  I certainly had moments when I felt just plain weird about being at Disney World when the people of Haiti are looking for their next meal and clean water and somewhere to sleep tonight.  But I've learned that grief has to happen bit by bit.  We can't grieve everything all at once.  It's more than we can bear.  We grieve it little by little as it comes, and we need moments and days of respite.  We couldn't function and be in the depths of grief at every moment.  So our days at Disney were part of my respite.  And I'm grateful for them.  I couldn't believe how much a different view affected my well-being and attitude.  Just being away and seeing sunshine (I swear it's been the rainiest 6 months of my life in Atlanta, but maybe I'm the only one who feels that way) was restorative to my soul. 

We got back home on Friday around 5 pm, and Bryan left 45 minutes later for his first weekend of his spring seminary class.  About 20 minutes after he left, I was making the boys' dinner, and I felt the weight of grief come crowding back around me.  It settled on my shoulders and in my heart, my breathing became noticeably heavier and labored, and within moments I was back where I was the week before -- burdened, dark, overwhelmed.  It reminded me that I can't run from this pain.  It will find me again no matter where I go or how hard I try to avoid it.  It will be waiting for me on the other side of respite.  It made me think about Bryan and how he went to Ghana with a program through our college about a month after his dad died.  Bryan was in West Africa for 6 months, but when he came home, all the grief flooded him, and he had a horrible 8 or 9 months facing the grief that had more or less given him space while overseas.  Grief has to be faced.  Though we need little breaks, we do have to come back to the reality of our sorrow at some point and continue to wade through it.  I am convinced it's the only way to healing and living an honest life.

The past few days I have worked to behave more joyfully even if I don't feel joyful, to focus on my children even when I am distracted and down, to respond kindly even when I feel grumpy.  For the most part, I think it's helped.  I am not pretending to be fine or denying how I feel inside, but I am trying to help Caleb and Joel feel more secure and valued and rejoiced in.  I worry about them when I am not doing well, and I know Caleb at least is keenly aware of how I'm doing.  Just today he said to me about 20 seconds into feeling annoyed and trying really hard to hide it, "Mommy, I can tell you're feeling a little frustrated with Joel right now."  Wow, was he right.  It was convicting to me.  A few minutes later he asked me, "Have we done a good job today, Mommy?  Are you happy with us?"  To be honest, his question broke my heart.  I don't ever want him to think that it's his responsibility to make me happy or that my love is dependent on his behavior.  Today both boys have been EXCEPTIONALLY well behaved -- saying, "Ok!" and "Sure!" at every request, joyfully obeying, and even taking initiative to do the things they know I'll ask of them.  (Caleb even got Joel on the potty while I was taking a shower!)  It's really sad to me to think their behavior is motivated by a sense of insecurity or a desire to make everything better for me.  That's not a burden they should ever have to bear.  So, I am working to make life more like Disney for them -- at least to make me a bit more like the mom they saw at Disney.  It pains me deeply to see the ways in which I fail them, and yet I know it's all covered in God's grace.  But I want to be to them the mom I once was.  That, however, I think is another entry for another day.

So I am still working hard to put my trust in Jesus afresh each morning, to let Him be enough, to lean on Him in each moment, and to show His perfect and unfailing love to my boys and to Bryan.  I know my love is faulty and imperfect and sometimes selfish, but His is not.  And ultimately it's His love that lives in me.  That's the love I want to shower my family with, and it's the love I am praying for the grace to show.


  1. Kathyrn,

    Something to ponder...
    God gave you Caleb and Joel to mother knowing that He would also give (and take away) Samuel. How you mothered them before is over. You would not be the same mommy to them if Samuel had lived, why should you strive for that sameness since he died?
    You are putting so much pressure on yourself to do this "right" and do this "well". Relax, my sweet friend. You are a fabulous woman, well loved by your God and your family and your family of friends.
    Keep posting. Helps me know how to pray! Glad you got a brief respite.

  2. I have found that the only way past the grief is to go through the grief. It is hard. It su*ks. I bought many boxes of Kleenex and cried more that I've ever cried.

    All I can say is that it gets better - not completely gone - but better.

    You're in my prayers.