I notice a lot of times it’s really hard for me to explain how I’m feeling, which is maybe why I’m writing and journaling more than I normally do. The best way I can explain how I’ve been feeling lately is “waves,” and “breaths taken away.” What I mean by “waves” is the waves of emotion that come and go. My counselor described it best as, the second stage of grief (after shock) is when your emotions are in the driver’s seat, and they have control of you. Your emotions decide when something will hit you and you have no power to stop it. The third stage is when your emotions are still there but you get in the driver’s seat and start regaining control. You start telling your emotions when they can come and go. I’m definitely in the second stage. My emotions are in control and they come in waves. Sometimes I can be hugging someone that is crying on my behalf and my eyes are dry, the next second someone can ask me how I’m doing and I start crying. It just depends and it’s so unpredictable. There’s a song “You Make Me Brave,” and in it there are the lyrics, “wave after wave, crashes over me, crashes over me.” And that’s what it feels like, waves crashing over me.
Then there are the breaths being taken. This is when I’m going about my normal day and all of a sudden it hits me, a thought, a visual, a song, a smell, a memory….whatever it is, it hits me almost like the wind getting knocked out of me and I can’t catch my breath. For that brief second, I can’t talk or get anything out. I inhale and stop. I’m either going to break down and cry or dismiss the thought and keep moving on with what I was doing. 99% of the time I dismiss the thought so that I can continue to move on, because 99% of the time my breath gets taken away in public and I avoid the public breakdowns at all costs. I didn’t realize that “grace” was such a common name when we named her. Now I meet so many little blonde girls by the name of Grace, I lose my breath every time. This happened the other day, I was at the Notre Dame park with Avery pushing her on a swing. A cute girl Avery’s age was on the swing next to us and her mom and I were making small talk. The little blonder 2-year old was named Grace, which I thought was really neat. Her mom was pregnant and I was running out of small talk questions so I asked her how far along she was and when she was due. She was five months pregnant and due at the end of September, same as I would have been with Karis. I about nearly chocked on my own breath. A daughter Avery’s age named Grace, expecting one the same time I was supposed to expect Karis, and these were people I just had met. It’s those times where my breath is taken away, but then I push the thought away to keep going and exhale without skipping a beat in the eyes of whoever I’m talking with. They know no difference while I am swallowing down pain. Then the weird part. I’ve dismissed the thought as quickly as it came and I don’t know where the thought goes. It travels off somewhere, never to be processed or digested well. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal except it happens so many times a day that I’m constantly swallowing down little tid bits of hurt that I probably should be processing more. It seems like everything always happens while I’m at a park with Avery. I need to start a new summer activity.
The other day I was making small talk with a sweet woman, probably my age, and learning about her kids and family. They had just moved to the area. The woman paused, looked down at Avery and asked the dreaded question, “so is she your only one?” I stopped. My breath left me for .2 seconds. I didn’t know how to respond. No, she’s not my only one, my other one is in heaven, not here swinging on swings with us. But do I really do into all the details to someone I’m never going to speak to again? I rather not.
“Yes, she is our only one.”
I felt like I was betraying Karis as I said it. Should I of explained? Was it worth a break down?
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” Vicki Harrison
At the beginning learning how to swim is hard. You get water up your nose, you gag on water, swallow water, flail your arms and kick your feet and don’t go anywhere. You see how deep the water is and you fear your might drown trying to get to where your headed. Maybe it’s safer to just hold onto the edge and not try to swim to the other side? Then there’s no chance of drowning. But then you will never go anywhere. So you continue to push yourself to learn to swim. You take baby steps. You do not fear the deep water, you press forward knowing you won’t have perfect form, but you will reach the other side. If you get water up your nose a few times here and there, you don’t panic, it’s part of the learning process.
We will learn how to swim in grief; by the grace of our God who is the ultimate swim coach.
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy….he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:16-19