I’ve written half a dozen or more unpublished blogs on this new wave of grief that has enveloped me. It’s almost shameful that the world seems to have a “one-year” expiration date on grief, yet mine seemed to attack most debilitatingly in this second year without Mira. The first 6-12 months after she died were really spent in a state of shock. In response to the trauma, my brain figured out the right words to say and the things to do in order to make survive. My brain chose (correctly) to cling to structure and routine (I did a whole lot of sweeping the floor), and most importantly, my faith, to provide a much-needed life ring in a sea of despair. Now that time has taken away the shock of her loss, I am finding I am expected to (or at least I think I am expected to) move on, especially when Finley and Makinzy bring me so much joy.
I realize that this expectation, be it self-inflicted or imposed by a society that still doesn’t talk much about grief, is wrong. Worse, as a result of my thinking that I need to be farther along in my own healing process, I have been leaning too much on my own strength to get through this new stage of loss, rather than doing what I had to do to survive those first few months – leaning on my faith and His strength.
One of the most profound ways the second year wave of grief has taken its toll on me is that now I am also grieving the loss of the person I was before her death. I am forever changed by her. It’s changed my relationships. I have watched as people whom I still love and call friend have struggled to deal with Mira’s death – how to process it and how to talk to me about it or about her – and it’s changed those relationships greatly, while others have shown up for me in ways I’ll never be able to repay. Work is different, too. Teaching has always been a hard job. The difficult things kids do, say, and the entire experience of teaching will sometimes suck so much out of you. Mothering, counseling, and educating them is exhausting work that requires you to be on your toes, prepared and ready, as I am sure anyone who has been in the classroom would attest. I’m finding I’m less and less able to do this to the standard I held for myself before Mira died. I lack enough “me” to give them, and most days, it feels even a little unfair to them. There are PLENTY of teachers who are giving way less of themselves to their students – I see a small handful of them daily. But to me, that’s not the kind of teacher I set out to be. The work of putting myself back together daily has taken a toil on me. My first priority for my energy is my family. I used to have the extra capacity to throw myself into my job passionately, yet more and more, I am focused just on getting through the day. I’m also changed in that my health is so much more fragile. I used to never get sick, yet because of the stress and anxiety I experience, I’m so much more susceptible to getting sick. I miss the me who pushed and powered through with so much passion.
The second year is also weird in that you can no longer say “she died last year,” and so there’s this strange feeling that time has moved too fast, and you can’t get caught up. Grief has no expiration date. I’m not over it because it’s been more than a year. I don’t think you ever get over it, you just constantly evolve as a result of it. It’s easy to know this, yet when you experience it, it can catch you off guard. I still find that I can be totally fine one moment, and then something reminds me of Mira, and the pain of losing her is as raw as the day she died.
During some quiet time this morning while listening to Lauren Daigle, I was the “getting in the Word” (such a cliche Christian thing to say – I kind of hate that… but I was actually) and I kept flipping between 1 Peter 2:9 and Romans 5, just drinking in those words like it was a glass of lemonade on a summer day. I realized how thirsty I was. As I was reminded of His love for me, my anxiety waned. I felt my breathing slow. I felt a little less sad. It occurred to me (or perhaps God spoke to me) and I understood that this new season of grief has made me run in circles, looking for the strength I thought I was supposed to have. It was like He said, “My words have this power, not you, dear.” In reality, I’ve been running in the wrong direction. I need to run to Him, just as I did in the early days of my loss. It has been cruel of me to expect so much of myself.
In A Grief Observed (a book I’ve read at least twice, maybe three times now, and am sorely due to read again), CS Lewis writes, “For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment?’ The same leg is cut off time after time.”
This is so much how I feel lately. This season of grief is a spiral. The only way out of that spiral, I believe, is through Him. CS Lewis also said, “I know the two great commandments, and I’d better get on with them.” I think he was alluding to the fact that grief makes you so lost within yourself as you try to make meaning of this new reality, this new version of who you are, that you can get too much you in you, and not enough of Him in you.
I need so much less me in me and so much more Him in me.