Hiding my light under a basket

Hi there! I was not planning on writing today but something happened that is threatening to send me into a spin. Jesus tells a parable about not lighting a lamp to cover it or put it under the bed but put it on a table so it can shine it’s light everywhere. Although not exactly what he meant, I feel like telling my story out loud is like putting that lamp out where it’s light will touch everyone around me. If I don’t talk about the grief or the anxiety when it hits me, it is akin to putting that light under a basket where I will know it is there but it won’t be seen and won’t be able to help anyone see the way.

My cousin sent me a Facebook invite to the annual Thanksgiving family Football game. It brought back memories of all the years previous with my Beloved and how much he looked forward to this tradition. I remembered when he threw a snow ball into the megaphone my Aunt was using to cheer her team (not his team!) during the first game he had participated in and how I was mortified and certain that no one would ever want me to bring him anywhere after that. Of course, everyone loved him and maybe even more because he stood up for his team even when he probably didn’t even know the names of the people he was playing with yet! I remembered how every year when we got the invitation he would say he wasn’t playing this year, he was too sore after last year’s game, blah blah blah. And then we would go and he would play. I remember that he never told me if his team won or lost, just about all the fun things that happened or how different people did stuff on the field. I remembered that last year he was barely walking and the idea of bringing him to this state park with its dirt road and grassy fields was too much to even plan. Even when Al was just getting to know us, he was a part of the family when it came to playing football. After crying on the couch, I responded to her invite with an enthusiastic “Can’t wait!” (Fake it till you make it, right?!) And I can’t wait for real. Even though every part of me wants to spend this holiday alone in my pjs, I don’t think that is what I am meant to do. My sister in law always tells me “Life is for the living, go live!

My Pastor talked about forgiveness in the last sermon and how it is truly for the person who is holding the grudge. I realized while he spoke that I am holding a grudge against Al for leaving me here to go through all this alone. I know it isn’t realistic to be mad at someone for something they couldn’t control, and I am sure if he could have Al would be here. Still, I need to be angry at someone so why not be mad at someone who can’t fight back or defend themselves, right? I wrote Al’s name on a piece of paper and put it at the foot of the cross. Symbolic but also part of my memory now. Whenever I start to feel that anger bubbling up I recall writing his name down and giving it to God to take away the feelings of hurt. Maybe it is simplistic, but that truly helps me to stop and thank God for the experience.

I am trying my hardest to be a light in the darkness for those who will go through this experience. It isn’t always easy (actually, it is almost always NOT easy!) but God gave me the power of a voice while Al was sick and I don’t think it was a tool he wanted me to use then and discard after!

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Nehamiah 8:10

The weighted blanket of grief

This post is off the subject of my attitude for gratitude, but I need to get it out. I feel like I have changed in my grief process; and it is enough of a change that I actually can FEEL IT.

My grief has been like a weighted blanket or shawl I have worn around my body. Some days, especially in the beginning, I would wrap myself up and go to bed. I could hear his voice whispering in my ear that it was all going to be okay. And when life got hard or too many people were around me I could put the blanket over my head and just breath in the smell of my Beloved that surrounded me in my cocoon of grief, using the blanket to wipe away the tears that fell with every thought of him. It was strangely comforting to always feel that weight on my shoulders, while it was reminding me that he was gone.

The weight was so heavy sometimes that I could only manage to do what I had to do in a day and nothing more. That was frustrating at times because I was stronger in my mind than I was in my physical body. I would go to the gym, a place where I felt welcome and empowered, and I would not be able to do even the easiest of exercises. I would cry when I walked in because of all the reminders; and I would cry when I left because I was so weak that I failed miserably in my workouts. What I didn’t realize was that the blanket was making it hard to do the things I did before Al died. Even though I had not been away from the gym for a really long time, and even though I had been walking and exercising at home while he was sick, lifting my body while the blanket weighed it down was a struggle all in itself. Instead of feeling empowered, I felt defeated.

Then something unexpected happened. I woke up one morning and the blanket had slipped off a little during the night. It was still on me, but only part of my body was covered in this weighted grief. I moved my arms and they felt lighter and stronger than they had in a while. I went to the gym and although I couldn’t finish a full workout I finished more than I had before. I still didn’t feel empowered, but hopeful that maybe I would one day be as strong as I was once again.

Days and weeks past with that blanket wrapped around my waist, making it easier to move and harder to hide. The comfort of my grief cocoon was gone, I could no longer smell Al when I wrapped it around me because it was too far from my face, but I heard his voice this time telling me that I was stronger than I knew and that it would be okay. I was able to walk farther than I had before, all the way to the beach near my house before I had to stop. It was getting easier.

Yesterday when I awoke I had thrown the blanket off completely. I got up and got dressed, grabbed the blanket and left for my morning work. Except, I didn’t wrap the blanket around my waist like I had in the past. I put it next to me on the seat and went on my way. When I got home, I put the blanket on the back of the couch and took a walk to the beach. And back. Yup, I was strong enough to go there AND back. Today I was able to do almost a full workout at the gym, while the blanket was in a cubby with my phone and keys. Still ever present, but not weighing me down and making my life feel hopeless and hard.

That blanket will always be there. When I move it will move with me, when I go on vacation it will be in my carry-on. But it has lost its weight and heaviness. I still wrap myself up in the grief cocoon when life is hard, and even though I no longer smell his smell I know Al is with me. And his voice in my ear? It is saying, “I told you!”