Holiday Hangover

“Happy New Year!” How many woke up on January 1stwith a touch of “rockin’ pneumonia” from ringing in the New Year? When you’ve been through (or are still dealing with) a tough time, the holidays bring a different kind of “hangover.”

“They” expect us to be happy during the holidays. Thanksgiving is a time focused on gratitude. Christmas is an expectant time to celebrate the gift of the birth of Christ. New Year’s ushers in fresh starts and excitement for what the new year will unfold.

“They” underestimate the amount of energy required to get from November to January. Mustering the drive needed to make that holiday haul can zap us – mentally, physically, and emotionally. And when we do arrive at January still intact, we are kinda left wondering, “what next?”

When one year has been tough, hitting the reset button on a fresh year can be a welcome relief. New year, new job. New year, new gym. New year, new house. New year, new you!You name it. Whatever held you back in the prior year can be wiped clean allowing you to move forward.

Other times – even when a year has been unrelenting – we don’t want to let go. Sometimes, we’d rather time stand still. Sometimes, we’d rather rewind the days to a time when things made more sense. The holidays have already left us hungover and now “they” are saying that we need to “move forward.”

Time becomes warped when you are in fresh grief. [“Fresh” is a relative term as grief really has no shelf-life on this earth.] When I hear “Last Christmas” or “Last summer,” my mind immediately meanders to 2016. My heart harkens to the last time that my little family made sense. My soul is stuck in an era when Brooke was physically with us. 

Last New Year’s (when we ushered in 2018) may have been the worse New Year ever. My prior experience with loss did very little to prepare me for the realization that we would make no new memories in 2018 that begin with “Remember when Brooke [fill-in the blank].” 

Of course, I already knew this. Yet, one of the blessings and curses of how the mind warps with grief is that you don’t know everything at once. It’s as if the mind spoon feeds new realities to you as it thinks you are ready. Other times, it’s as if the mind breaks like a bloated levee no longer able to hold back. That’s what happened on January 1, 2018. My mind held back as long as it could from telling my heart and soul that there’d be no new memories. Then, it was almost as if the holiday fireworks were bomb blasts exploding away a dam of emotion. The realization hit hard.

So, you’d think that having come to appreciate this new reality that it would be easier “moving forward.” You would think that sailing into 2019 would be smooth. Not so much. As I scrolled through posts in some of the online support groups, I found (somewhat relieved that I was not alone) that other parents who had lost children were also reeling from the holidays and feeling angst about the new year – even those who had many “new years” under their belts.

There are a couple of takeaways. First, no matter how “well” it might appear that a grieving parent (or sibling or spouse or child or whomever) may be handling a loss – grief does not move in logical, linear progression. Grief looks a lot more like a pile of tangled Christmas lights than neatly hung party lights. 

Second, any event or “celebration” that spotlights the loss will sting – no matter how joyous that occasion may be. We – the bereaved – can celebrate joy, but it is just a little different. That “before and after” date splits us into two halves. As we piece back our new existence, the halves don’t quite line up. One half praises the blessings – because there are still so many blessings. Memories of our lost loved ones are a treasured blessing, and we are ever grateful for new blessings as they come. Our other half curses the injustice of living “without” and wages an all-out war against anything joyful.

Life – as if it were not already – becomes a constant battle to remain faithful to God, to our families, and to ourselves.

The good news is that the battle is already won. If we can only “sweat out” the lies that keep us focused on our hurt and loss, we’d see that even in the midst of unspeakable hurt, we are not alone. Our God stands victorious between us and the enemy. He stands beside us in comfort. He stands behind us in strength. When time passes from this life, God will wipe away every tear.

Dear Heavenly Father, help us not to fear the passing of time here on earth. Send your Spirit to untangle our wounded souls. Hold us in your victorious right hand. With your Son as our model, fill us with faith so that our battered hearts beat only for You. Shake off the forces that seek to drain our faith. Make our spirits drunk with joy for You, and may your unfailing hope displace our hurtful hangovers. May we overflow with delight as we look forward to a day when there will be NO MORE TEARS. Amen.

SDG

Chaotic Musings

As I pen this post, chaos is all around me – literally. Movers are delivering furniture. Tile workers are destroying the kitchen backsplash. A painter is ripping sheets of old wallpaper from the hallway. A woodworker is staining the stairs. The dogs are barking. The noise-cancelling headphones only block out so much.

In the midst of this chaos, it occurs to me – I can handle it. This is no big deal. I’m not even rattled. Why? Because I know the plan. I can envision how the mess will come together in the end. I know that the upheaval is both temporary and necessary. I can buy into the vision because it’s my vision. I created it (with help of course).

Life’s chaos shouldn’t be any different. But it is. Why? Simple answer – it’s not our plan. Granted, we are too frequently participants of our own pandemonium, but so often our lives are thrown into disarray by outside forces. The boss is breathing down our necks and our inboxes are piling up. The teacher schedules yet another conference to discuss Little Johnnie (or Jeannie’s) “leadership skills” in the classroom. The dogs chew your new sofa. Phone calls come in rapid succession sharing unbearable news.

In the throes of turmoil, we lose sight of the game plan. We forget that the mess is going to come together in the end. The final outcome is so simple and so satisfying –  no more tears. That’s great and it’s easy to get on board with that plan. I love that plan, but what about today?

Even though God has shared his vision with us, I still struggle in these in-between days. God has shared the beginning, and He’s laid out the end. God even warns that the in-between days will be frenzied and disordered, but I still want more. I want to know. On my worse days, I want to fix it.  I desire to impose my vision when I’ve only been invited to partake of God’s vision. God has not appointed me to a heavenly Board of Directors for purposes of devising a strategy for moving forward.

God’s smart like that. I may (with the right help) be capable of choosing some fresh paint colors and a new countertop, but God knows that running the universe is outside my skill set.

God is the master Artist. In the beginning, He created the universe in the way a painter looks at a blank canvas and begins to apply color. God created out of nothing. The first strokes on canvas can appear haphazard to the bystander. Yet as layer after layer of paint is added, a scene comes into focus.

These middle days are the days of haphazard color and missing layers. God sees the finished work that is still outside our realm of comprehension. The day is coming. The final stroke will be applied to the canvas. We will see the final masterpiece in all of its Glory. We’ll be able to see how the brushstrokes of our own lives fit into the whole and how the finished piece wouldn’t be whole otherwise.Warhol Quote

So, as I soak in the frenzied creativity taking place all around me – I am reminded to step back. I’m reminded that when life feels out of control, He is always in control. I’m reminded to trust God’s ultimate vision. I’m reminded that when our tears our wiped away, we’ll see clearly.

SDG

Adrift in a Sea of Silent Screams

When the girls were little, they would bicker in the backseat as I drove. I’m sure this has never happened in your world. Don’t judge. One day we were making our way from Point A to Point B and I simply reached the end of my rope. No one saw it coming, but as stealth as night a scream filled the car. It was loud, and it was mine.

After a startling moment of silence, backseat sniping melted instantly into laughter. Pretty soon, we were all screaming and laughing as if it were one sound.

That one afternoon of frustration evolved into a game – The Screaming Game (very original title). The rules were just as original – someone says, “Let’s play the Screaming Game,” and everyone starts screaming.

I miss that game. Not the loudness, really, but definitely the loudness. I miss the way fake screams sound from little girls. I miss how the girls thought they were getting away with something that they weren’t supposed to be doing. Read more

Are We There Yet?

If I was behind the wheel on a road trip, it typically meant that I was headed either to a concert (usually One Direction) or a horse show. This also meant that Brooke was in tow. Road trips with Brooke were very much unlike the ones I’ve taken with her older sister. Trips with Megan generally comprise of short talks with music filling the gap. There were no gaps with Brooke. A background of music was overlaid with non-stop chatter.

What if I get nervous and throw up in the ring? Did I tell you about so-and-so? What if it rains and my saddle gets wet? Who’s my favorite this concert – Zayne or Harry? But what about Niall? What if the hotel smells? What if I can’t sell these tickets for better ones? Where are we going to see One D next summer? How much longer? Are we there yet?

These little journeys were peppered with little worries. Life’s journey is bigger and infused with bigger worries. Read more

How to Set a New Year’s Resolution with Intention

Around this time every year, we make resolutions (and frankly, by the time this is posted a good number will already have been abandoned). Often, we opt for improvement in exercise, diet, or health habits. Other times, we take the path of “giving up”– drinking, smoking, coffee, television, social media, fill-in your “drug” of choice.

Not to say that anything is wrong with any of these choices, but can we challenge ourselves to go deeper? More meaningful? Read more