Years, not Months

Our family has been enjoying our little Nora so much lately. She is probably the happiest, most laid back baby I have ever encountered. It’s almost like she KNOWS how amazing it is that she’s alive and she enjoys being with us so much.

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My mom said the other day, “She just doesn’t seem REAL.” Nora is the embodiment of joy and light. I am constantly amazed that even with such a violent, dangerous entry into the world she is so peaceful. Our lives are so different now that Nora is here in our family.

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It is mind boggling to actually be experiencing JOY again when only two years ago I felt like I literally couldn’t make it through another hour because of the pain I was in.

It has been almost three years since my daughter Lucy died. Only in the past few months have I really noticed how much healing has taken place. This past Halloween was the first holiday I was actually able to celebrate (although most of it was spent in the ER with Nora.) I looked forward to picking out costumes with the boys and finding something adorable for Nora to wear. I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family and to have Nora sit with us around the table felt like such a miracle. I was even excited about Christmas this year. Of course, I cried for Lucy on Christmas and had that heavy, fearful feeling of loss in my chest, but I was also able to enjoy Nora’s first Christmas. In years past I would dread Christmas for weeks before it arrived because it seemed impossible to celebrate without Lucy here. So many huge healing steps have happened lately. I am able to notice and enjoy things like the changing seasons, Liam’s school activities and Asher’s preschool theme days. I am actually starting to care about small, “meaningless” things like my hair and the weather and our family budget. I can invest in relationships again and actually absorb what other people are saying. I am able to go to Target without having an emotional breakdown and I can attend family functions again. I have really sad, dark days sometimes, but they are coming less than they used to. Birthdays are still very hard for me and singing the Happy Birthday song around a cake full of candles is almost unbearable, even when it’s my own children’s birthdays, but I’m optimistic that that will change in the future.

When I think back to the weeks and months after Lucy died I realize that this healing that is just now taking place was expected of me then by many people. We had just moved into a new house the week before Lucy died and many people (with good intentions, I know) chose to acknowledge the new house but not my new daughter who died. I was asked many times how we were enjoying our new house. I was so deep in the grief fog that sometimes I thought, “What new house?” I wasn’t even aware of my surroundings and I was in no shape to actually care about or enjoy the house I was living in. Most people thought I would be healing after several months. They expected me to be able to come to family functions (where triggers lurked behind every corner) and to celebrate holidays and actually engage in small talk. I know that the people who expected these things of me just hadn’t experienced a loss like this, and they didn’t understand how it felt. I didn’t even know how it felt until it happened and even then I was so impatient with my grieving. I was exasperated after several months when the healing didn’t come and the grief weighed me down even MORE than before. But now that the healing is starting to take place I know that it takes YEARS, not months, for the inner healing to start showing on the outside. The pain is only just now lessening. I’m amazed that I have learned how to pull my mind away from the grief and see past it and live in the present. This is a new skill, only learned after years of practice. After Lucy died my grief was like a wall that slammed down in front of me; like a solid, unpeneterable brick wall with giant graffiti letters scrawled across, “LUCY IS DEAD.” Everything else in the world was on the other side of the brick wall. I couldn’t see past the grief, no matter how hard I tried. How many people have the ability to will themselves to be able to see through a brick wall? Slowly over time that brick wall has thinned and morphed into something lighter and more transparent. It’s still there, right in front of my face and I know it won’t be removed until I get to heaven, but I can now see through it, like a net. Often a trigger will cause the net to come back into full focus and the sadness is debilitating, but I am learning how to bring the rest of the world back into focus.

There is no set timeline for grief but it is much more accurate to count in years than months when it comes to healing. If you know someone who has recently suffered a devastating loss, remember that the way you think the grieving person should be feeling after three months is the way they will probably feel after three years. Please be patient and let them grieve at their own pace. I felt such incredible pressure to “get over it” quickly. Well, the “it” is my daughter and I won’t ever get over her. I pressured myself as much as other people pressured me to heal before I was ready (as if I had a choice in the matter.) Now I wonder, what was the rush? Why the push to be “better” when I had no control over my healing pace? If I could do it again I would just sit in the grief and let myself feel whatever I was feeling without guilt or a need to please others. I would set up better boundaries and allow myself to say no to the birthday parties, the holidays, the trips to Target and the family vacations without feeling bad about it. I wish I knew back then what I knew now, that the healing will come on it’s own timeline and it will take much longer than I expected…but that it WILL come.

Psalm 30:5  Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

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12 thoughts on “Years, not Months

  1. I am so happy that you are beginning to feel the healing. And I thank you for the many ways you have encouraged me in my grief. Thank you for being honest, and open, and transparent.

  2. When I felt the conviction to become open about being sexually tortured as a child and the resulting trauma the process has been similar. What I finally realized is that most people want to rush me through healing for one of two reasons…1) they hate seeing me hurt and want me to feel better for myself or 2) they want me to feel better because *they* are uncomfortable with my grief, pain, story, etc.

    • I always appreciate your boldness and openness when talking about your childhood abuse. I’m sure you have brought so much comfort to others who have been through similar tragedies. And I think you are right about the reasons why people try to rush the healing. Even now I find myself wanting to hurry people along in their grief at times because I hate to see them in pain 😦

  3. I can not tell you how much I love your posts. You perfectly articulate what grieving and healing is/feels like. I can totally relate to the “wall” metaphor. With my counselor, we used a “music” metaphor. Having lost four babies, grief was like music, a very loud soundtrack to my life. Slowly, that loud soundtrack became background music, some days playing louder than others but always present.
    Healing for me, started when my miracle baby, Samuel, arrived last summer. All my pregnancy, I was so consumed and focused on his survival that I didn’t even think about labor until my induction day. A minute before his arrival, my ob stepped back and asked me to pull my baby to my chest. He told me he wanted me to be the first one to touch, and hold this baby Ive wanted and prayed for for so long and so I did. And I lay there, with him on my chest and my husband by my side. We sobbed and held him and told him he waited for him for so long. Like Nora, my Samuel is an extremely happy baby. He flashes his gummy smile to everything and everyone. His smile has been so healing. After so much pain, his smile brings so much joy to my heart.

    • I love the music metaphor! That is perfect. It was deafening at first but has become more manageable as time has passed. And it DOES play louder some days…those days are so hard. I am so happy that you have your miracle baby Samuel! There is something really special and healing about a rainbow baby. I know so much of my healing has happened because Nora is here. I bet you enjoy every part of motherhood with Samuel. I always feel like that is a gift from Lucy…being able to appreciate things about motherhood that I never did before I lost her. I’m so happy for you ❤

  4. Masterfully stated, sweet friend. I am so thankful that even while behind that brick wall, you were such a comfort to me in my grief. You are amazing and are doing a great job moving through this difficult journey

  5. What an absolutely beautiful little gal! Her smile is so sweet. 🙂

    I really loved the brick wall/net analogy. You are right; it can take years for grief to give way to a new sense of normal. It was a second loss of sorts when it seemed the whole world withdrew from us just a few short weeks after our daughter died. Almost every person backed off and stayed away from the bottomless grief that had only just started to really sink in for us.

    Healing…it takes time, time, and more time. And it doesn’t happen the same way for everyone either. I often wonder where our grief journey will take us when the little guy in my belly is born and is REAL and we’re parenting a living child.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you so much. And I agree…it was tragic when we realized that Lucy’s death would bring many more losses with it, including many relationships. I’m so happy that your rainbow baby is on his way. I think he will bring so much joy and healing back into your life. Praying for a safe, uneventful delivery!

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