Like any good horror movie where the star runs through the scene alternately looking forward for an escape and back to see monitor how close the threat is, I can see how I experienced this last year. Looking over my shoulder, seeing hurts and memories that threatened to consume me, I looked forward to upcoming holidays and birthdays and knew the danger lay ahead as well. Stuck in an endless loop of running and hiding, constantly feeling like I was one wrong step away from losing all of me. Like a bright light, a gust of fresh air, suddenly I find myself on the other side, out from under the cloud of doom and into a calendar that is fresh and waiting for new memories and safe. Sure the same holidays and birthdays and special events await, yet somehow just surviving the first grief-filled year has brought some clarity and a healthy dash of hope.
The truth of grieving my son has shown what even I cannot deny, I do have a desire to survive. Too many times I wondered why someone else got cancer, was in a horrible accident, when I had no desire to take the next breath. Not actively suicidal, no worries friends, but also not actively living. I heard of someone who died of a broken heart and wondered to God why my life was continuing. When the pain felt unbearable, I got another text from a friend saying they felt the strong call to pray for me right then. I cannot say I always welcomed those but I recognized them for what they were, a lifeline, a rope thrown to a drowning woman. When I asked God to let me stop this survival run, I found in the mail another card, a sweet message from a friend near or far who acted on the impulse to remind me there is a greater world outside of my mourning and I was welcome to rejoin when I could. Couldn’t they sense my resentment at their kindness, why wouldn’t they leave me alone in my misery? Cards and calls and dinners arrived inspire of my surliness, breaching the walls I was erecting. I was offered bits of hope and just enough air to endure the next minute, to exist another day.
As the new year arrived, I realized I no longer wanted to run from pain and look back to all that chased me. So bizarre that merely flipping the calendar could bring a fresh start, an awaking to the blessing of a new day and yet, it seems it is so. Certainly all the resolutions and goal setting that begins on this day each year would hint that I am not alone in embracing another chance to get it right, be healthier, find joy again. The grief group I attended surely assisted in gaining this different perspective, 6 weekly meetings that provided a safe space to be angry and broken as well as the offer to see even a tiny bit beyond my limited view. Imagine running in the darkness, desperate to avoid the dangers of sorrow all around and then the lights come back on, casting out the shadows of “what-ifs” and “if onlys”, illuminating the truth that I was running for no reason, the threats were all in my head. I was given the larger view, that my Arrow is in a better place, words that angered me in the darkness but reassured in the light.
I survived a year of firsts, a year spent mostly sitting silently in my grief, sometimes showing my tears but most often putting on a fake brave face. I thought I was getting through each empty day mired in memories without making progress, what really would progress look like? Trudging through every morning, long nights that brought no relief, and yet I find I have moved forward, into an unknown life without the joy of my son, also without the worry and despair that comes from loving an addict. I was freed from the demons that haunted us for 11 years, it just took some time to stop the habit of fretting and wringing our hands and checking the local police blotter every day. We survived against most of my efforts and even as I questioned the wisdom of a God who refuse to offer me the out I desired, I was slowly given the knowledge that I still had more to live for, more to experience, more life ahead.
I didn’t get the blessing of dying from a broken heart, instead I am offered the chance to live with one. The energy, the adrenaline rush that comes after the crisis has passed now fills my soul, even as I resist the fresh air and look suspiciously at the empty calendar and the hope that flutters within. We are embarking on the second year, one surely filled with more tears and sadness and dark days and yet… we are moving forward into a light that exposes happy memories as well. Plum, Chef and I celebrated New Year’s Eve with root beer floats just as we always did with my Stella and Arrow. We played games and built Lego sets and were asleep by 8:30, safe in the belief that we didn’t have to watch the clock to know another day was coming. As the first day of the new year dawned, we lit sparklers and celebrated both the darkness and the light, both surviving and living as we breathed in deeply the possibilities of this new 24 hours. We have entered year 2, a year of seconds that seems to be inviting us into different firsts.
Happy New Year friends, thank you all for continuing to read a blog filled with longing and sorrow, thank you for the texts and dinners and cards and your couches. Thank you for walking through the darkness with me, bringing your light and showing me I had nothing to fear. You are the angels of God who knew I would follow you back to Him. This isn’t a horror movie, this is a life, full of minutes and moments and months, full of joys and sorrows. I have survived thus far, I might as well see what is ahead, I might as well grasp the joys that also lurk just around the corner. Be blessed friends.