One of the first things she told me excitedly was, "Guess what!! I'm going to be an aunt!!!" My first question was, "Do you want a niece or a nephew?" She told me, "I'm cool with whatever...but a niece would be really cool."
I am truly excited for my friend. I remember being in her shoes, finding out about a siblings wonderful news. It's an exciting feeling and one that should be celebrated!
In my excitement for my friends, a thought keeps coming to my mind, "This week I should have become an aunt." I think, "I should be calling her in a few days to say, 'I AM an aunt!'"
My nieces due date has arrived. This upcoming Saturday was the day doctors estimated her arrival into our lives. Little did they know that they were a few months off, and the time of smiles and excitement would instead be a time of sorrow and tears.
This week I am reminded that grieving is a process and not just a phase. During the last month or so I've been mostly doing pretty well. Like I've mentioned many times before, each day is different. Each moment is different. But in comparison to the first few months, I've felt pretty strong and emotionally well. I've been replacing my anger with happiness, my tears with laughter, and my sadness with joy. I've been thankful for the change in emotional scenery thinking, "I am finally getting back to my usual self!"
Then this week came. Before I even found out my friends news I started to struggle. (And let me just add: It's not that she's becoming an aunt that makes me struggle. I am truly joyful about the addition to their amazing family and am SO glad she called to tell me!! What hit me was just the phrase, "I'm going to be an aunt"...) I started to struggle more around Saturday, literally the week before she was due. I struggle when I see my sister get an add for Babies 'R Us, I struggle when I see my sister's heart breaking, when hearing someone crying down the hall, when recently hearing the song they play in the hospital ER every time a baby has been born...I struggle.
I've been fighting my sadness and tears once again. During my grieving process I previously struggled with flashbacks of everything...The text messages of my mom wanting me to call her, the call of the news, the long flight home, holding her for the first and last time, looking into the ground where her casket would forever lay...Memories I wish I could erase have been embedded in the front of my brain. Not only have I been fighting my sadness and tears again, but my flashbacks as well.
Grieving isn't something you can just be done with, like a phase. Grieving is a process. Just like in any process some steps are easier than others. One part of a process can be hard, then easy, then to hard again. Just like my grieving.
This week is a reminder of how weak I still am. It reminds me that while I don't feel shattered like I did in the beginning, I am still so very broken and still healing.
If you know me well enough you know that I am usually not an emotional person. I usually do well suppressing the "negative" emotions that I feel. While I know that's not the healthiest way to handle emotions of that type, it's how I often cope. This week I've been in control of my emotions pretty well from the outside perspective. I've been "myself" as I put up a wall and mask of being completely calm, smiling, and happy. Most who have interacted with me or that will interact with me probably can't tell my current internal battle. On the inside, sorrow and sadness are tugging at my heart. Tears have almost started falling from my eyes many times for no reason at all, except for just the reason of feeling sad.
When you read my blogs describing my grief, please don't feel like you have to walk on egg shells when you talk to me or while you're around me. If you're a friend of mine becoming, and aunt, tell, me! I will celebrate with you. I want to celebrate with you!! While I've never gotten to experience the usual part of being an aunt, I fully remember the part of finding out the news, the excitement, and the shopping in expectation. It's a wonderful joyous time.
This whole grief thing in the aspect of death is new for me. While I've dealt with personal grief due to serious sicknesses in the family, I haven't really dealt much with death in a way that is so close to me personally. You may wonder, "How can I help? What can I do? What shouldn't I do?" As I have been grieving death and sicknesses from this year, here are just a few thoughts that have come to my mind from my experiences and perspective:
- Pray. Let a grieving person know that you are praying. (Just don't forget to actually pray.)
- Facebook comments/messages and e-mails are nice...however, a card, or even a phone call is even better.
- Don't be afraid to call...especially if you've been in a simlar situation...and even if haven't been in a simlar situation. It's okay if you don't know the words to say...There isn't a script for tough situations. Sometimes a grieving person wants to talk to someone but doesn't feel comfortable calling another person to share their burdens (even if they've been told to call anytime). And even if they don't open up share their burdens, it feels nice knowing that someone has called to check on them as it is an encouragement.
- When you're talking to a person who's family has been going through a hard time and a storm, don't just ask, "How is ____ (Fill in the blank) doing? And how about ______??" Remember to ask, "How are YOU doing?" If someone is the daughter of a sick father, or the aunt of a a child that now spends her time in Heaven, she is also affected - even if she isn't the parent of the child or the spouse of the sick. While this person may not mind updating you, this person is not just a reporter for their family. She (or he) too have also been going through the storm and more than likely been struggling as well, needing and wanting a pair of willing and listening ears.
Grieving is a process. It's a process where I learn and experience new feelings, thoughts, and emotions. My family has already been told many times, "You're going to be grieving the loss of Ashley for all of your life, especially with milestones and holidays. You will always love and miss her. However, with each year that passes the pain just gets more bearable and you learn to cope."
Often I've prayed, "Lord, break my heart with what breaks Yours." This year I've truly been learning what breaks His heart. It breaks his heart to see His creation hurting, for His people to lose those that they love, and to see us struggling. While going through these experiences hurt, I know that I have changed in some ways. I'm not sure exactly how yet, but I know that God has given me a tender heart in areas where while it was tender, it wasn't nearly as tender as it is now. Going through certain experiences I can now relate to many who are going through similar situations...While I am still hurting, I will be able to reach out to those that I before wouldn't be able to just because of my innocence in regards to the situations. God has given me a bigger vision for new passions I wouldn't have without my experiences.
My vision has expanded, new passions have grown, interests have increased, and my heart has been broken and in turn has made me more tender. Grieving is a process...and with this process I am growing as a person and trying to learn what God can show me through this experience.
I am weak and broken...But I am not letting this pain go to waste.
The Travelin' Chick,