Two weeks ago I posted some of my journaling from just three months after my daughter died. Today I’m posting some words I wrote a week or into the second year of living without her. I want you to know that many grieving parents say the second year is harder in some ways than the first year. Although your grief is devasting that first year, many of us also experienced a numbness, an inability to feel much emotion other than grief. Perhaps because mourning a child is an all-consuming task (it is work, by the way).
In the second year, once we get past that dreaded first anniversary, often some of the numbness wears off and the constant dull ache kicks in. This isn’t pleasant to read, I know. But, sweet grieving parent, if you are hurting and scared and wondering if you are normal, I want to assure you that you are. I’ve been there. I’m still here.
So, in that second year, you will likely find yourself having a moment, maybe hours, perhaps even a day here or there when you are able to act like your “old” self. You might immerse yourself in an activity you enjoy. You may laugh uncontrollably. And then feel guilty because you expressed a happy emotion. You will definitely still find yourself ambushed by grief at awkward, inconvenient times. Oh, this grieving thing ain’t for sissies!
To give you an idea of how I was doing, what was going through my mind, how I felt at the start of that second year, here’s another entry from my journal on April 20th, 2018:
I am an admitted control freak. My ducks are in a row. And they are sorted by size, color, weight, age, and gender. I have a master list of my to do lists. I have my to dos scheduled on my calendar and reminders on my calendar to check my to dos on my calendar. All the hangers in my closet are the same. My clothes are sorted by type and then by color within type. In rainbow order. Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Violet Black White. (Actually no orange, hardly any yellow.) Most of my clothes are solid colors or patterns that are logically repeated, like plaids. I have a lid for every plastic container and they are all sorted by size.
What? Okay, yeah: I’m a pain to live with. Even to myself.
And yet, this control freak helicopter mama could not keep her control freak, ducks-in-a-row, in-charge-of-her-own-life adult daughter from dying. But, it’s more than that. I get it that I don’t control the universe. But, I thought I could control my own little tiny corner of the block. That as long as I acknowledged that God was in charge of the big stuff He would leave my little fiefdom alone. Surprise!
Look, I don’t believe God “killed” Rachel. I’m not sure exactly what I believe in terms of His hand in her dying when she did. Or in my mother getting cancer at 57. Or planes being flown into the Twin Towers. But, I know that so far, a year and 9 days after her death, I am both convinced that I am in control of nothing, and more than ever clinging to any thread that I can pull to keep my life in a small neat bundle.
If it’s not obvious, I was still scared. Still questioning God. Still pretty much a mess.
But now, after 5 years, I’ve gotten better. I’ve learned how to “let go and let God.” Not as much as I should; my default when there’s a problem is to try to take control. I will always be a worrier and a fixer by nature. But, I have seen what happens when I give my worries to God and don’t take them back. He doesn’t always solve them in ways I understand, but HE GIVES ME PEACE. He soothes my soul. He reminds me that there is eternal, magnificient life beyond this one and that there are some pretty good things right here.
I’ve gotten better. You will, too.
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