Do not trust me.
Well, don't take that too literally. But in many ways, yeah, don't. Don't trust any of us going through the valley of suck. This can be a scary place when everything you thought you knew gets turned upside down.
It changes you.
It can change everything about you.
The processing of grief is different for everyone as I have come to learn. For me, grief has become a counselor. I'll admit, grief is scary and ugly at first. It comes at you and doesn't ask for permission when it shows up. Over time, you get used to it. When you're going through memories and closets and eveyone else has left you, grief is right beside you and will remind you of why you loved and why you still love. I've tried to learn to listen and grief has taught me a few things:
1. Slow down.
You cannot hurry grief especially the death of a spouse. It IS different. Heather and I didn't live waiting on the day when our kids would fly the nest BUT we also had plans for that next stage. Those plans are gone now. I can't rush what is next.
2. Cry when the tears come.
It is so easy to fight this but I once read there is a toxicity in our tears. Holding them back keeps toxicity in our bodies. Healthy grief, admitting loss, and crying when the tears come, gets that stuff out.
3. One thing at a time.
Similar to slowing down, you gotta take one thing at a time. Don't bite off too much at once. Focus on small tasks - cleaning out 1 drawer. Taking one box or bag to a thrift store.
Heather ran our home and she was amazing at keeping us all going. It has taken my mind a while to get hold of all she did. Some things fell through the cracks. She ran the kitchen too. I had a hard time claiming that space. But I took up cooking with cast iron (something she didn't do) and that has allowed me to give thanks for what she did and become confident in what I can do.
5. Be Ready to Say Goodbye to "You."
Grieving the loss of my best friend, wife, and partner has been more than just grieving her. I'm grieving the loss of me too. That may sound a bit extreme but I don't have someone to fall back on now like I did. I've tried to live like I had her there and I don't and I've been hurt in different ways in different scenarios by different people. So now my skin has gotten tougher. My wits have gotten sharper. I am still here but I'm not still here. I'm not the same person.
I am thankful for a faith in Christianity that is full of the reality of resurrection and new life. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien understood the power of this in their stories. We need to adopt it more I think, and come to remember we are resurrection people - it is OUR narrative. We ought to be dying and becoming new every day. The butterfly is a powerful symbol for the Church for this very reason. It is why Heather chose to have her ashes buried with a butterfly bush.
Another great symbol for the church was the phoenix. It seems lost to us in our day because we simply see it as part of mythological stories and now the Harry Potter series. Yet the Church saw this idea of dying and rising again of the phoenix to be another great image for new life. We live to the full, burst into flame, and then, from the ashes, new life begins.
So when I say "don't trust me," please put it in context. Don't trust that I am the same person I was 1 month ago or 6 months ago. Don't trust that I'm the same person as I was a year ago and you know what? I'll extend the same courtesy to you - I will hope and pray you too have changed. My changes may be more dramatic but then our journies are different.
Know this too: I like the person I'm becoming. As a matter of fact, I like me a lot. I was reminded this past week looking at my kids and working with them, how much of Heather is in them. But then I was reminded that when we live in close proximity to another person, you rub off on each other. I am more like Heather now too. I'm thankful her legacy continues.
Image Used With Permission: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/old-bench-1494270