A note to readers:
Not everything I write is directly about child loss. But, everything I write is influenced by my experience as a bereaved parent. I’ve said before that my life has been fundamentally changed by my daughter’s death, just as my life was fundamentally changed when I became a parent to my two girls.
One thing I have learned is that the changing of the calendar can be very hard for a grieving mother or father. In fact, it can be traumatizing. If you lost your child in the past year, you may feel like you are leaving your child behind. You may find yourself reliving many memories, both good and bad, and feeling frightened that the passage of time may erase them. The emotions you feel are normal. But, if you are scared or worried that you are not coping with your feelings in a healthy way, there is no shame in asking for help. God has given gifts and talents to people who can provide counseling and support.
The holidays can be hard on all of us, even those who aren’t experiencing heartache. Please don’t think you have to walk this path of grief alone.
Taking Out the Trash
Reading a friend’s New Year’s resolutions prompted me to really think about and write down my own. As she pointed out, writing them down makes them more concrete, less abstract, and keeps them top of mind. And sharing them with others makes you more accountable. What if someone asks me in two months (or weeks) how I’m doing with mine? I’d like to be able to say I at least still remember them and, even better, that I’m actively working on them.
I also decided to make just one. I mean, I still have all the things I want to do like eat healthier, get more exercise, and lose weight. But, at this point they aren’t resolutions anymore; they are periodic “self-nags.” I wanted to make a resolution that makes me more self-aware.
So, my resolution is to take out the trash every day.
Um, what? Yep, take out the trash. Every day. Not the physical trash. My husband and I have a little joke that we don’t take out the kitchen trash until it’s reached 120%. We can always cram a little more in it.
No, I’m talking about my mental, psychological, and spiritual trash. Empty my mind and my heart of the things that are trashing them up every day. Here are some examples:
If I’m angry or upset with someone about something they did, I need to either talk to them about it or let it go. If I’m angry because someone cut me off in traffic, they may not even realize they did it, or they do and are sorry, but we don’t even know each other. I’m fuming uselessly. Let it go.
If someone I know has said or done something that hurt my feelings, am I willing to confront them with it? If yes, then I need to do so. Get it off my chest. Give them a chance to explain or apologize. And if I’m not willing to talk to them, I’m only hurting myself emotionally by staying angry. So, throw it out.
If I’ve wronged someone, apologize and make amends. Guilt is a heavy trash burden. Clean it up before it grows bigger.
Similarly, if I’ve sinned, confess it to God, ask for forgiveness, and strive to change whatever is in my life that caused me to sin. But don’t wallow in the trash bin of guilt.
If I’m anxious about something, worrying and stewing about it can cause sleepless nights, upset stomach, bad temper, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. I need to take the right steps to address what’s at the root of my anxiety. Pray, plan, seek help, take action, find solace. Whatever addresses the issue in a healthy, positive way gets rid of the trash, and leaves the treasure.
Father, forgive my tendency to clutter my mind with worries and frustrations. Help me to have the courage to address them or the strength to let them go. Remind me that if I give my worries to You to care for and give my sins to You to forgive, Your hands are capable, Your forgiveness is forever, and my slate is wiped clean. In Your Son’s name, who died so we can live, AMEN.