Last year I wrote a blog about grief and joy, how you can experience both simultaneously. This month, many focus on beginning holiday traditions and sharing what they are most grateful for are. Here's what I didn't realize a year ago. That right now we would be in the midst of full-blown grief.
These past few months we have had a lot of changes and challenges. I can't and won't sugarcoat that. Without going into much detail, for the sake of privacy for our family, it feels as if we're just now really grieving. I know this might sound crazy and I don't really know if what we're going through would be considered normal following the loss of a child. Let me explain and summarize the backstory again.
Immediately after Mazie went to Heaven, we were in a state of shock and feeling completely numb. Yes, we were depressed and trauma paralyzed me. It was difficult to go anywhere after I realized the sound of sirens or seeing an ambulance would give me an anxiety attack. I didn't want to see anyone we knew in fear I would have a breakdown in public. I couldn't sleep for the longest time unless I took something strong enough to bypass the horrific flashbacks of the accident or time at the hospital.
We all didn't have a clue how to move forward (not on). It was (and still is) a productive day if we get out of bed and face the reality of another day of "should be's" without Mazie. The boys, and now Gabby, are our driving forces to keep us going and inspire us to heal in healthy ways. God and Mazie give us supernatural strength to use our pain for purpose, sharing His light and love with others who are in this dark space with us, and to do the work of Mazie's Mission through educating on water safety. Even that, at times, has to be put on hold so we can be intentional with our grief and healing. It can be challenging to do that when you're directly facing trauma and guilt by sharing prevention facts and tips.
By starting this blog, I made a promise to be authentic throughout this journey. Again, this serves as an outlet of documentation - a place to share our love for Mazie, a way to connect with others who are grieving or maybe even to offer a little hope, love and light. With that said, I will be vulnerably honest about this tough season.
We just cried our way through October, a month that reminds us of life with Mazie as we recall every priceless moment we were gifted up until our "last normal day" on the 19th. And then of course the most depressing days surrounding the anniversary of the last time we held and saw our sweet girl. I truly hope it won't always be this way but the month sucks thr life out of us. Then come the holidays, which take so much effort now to try to enioy.
After being in shock up up until I was deep into PTSD therapy, I then had to focus on healing from the trauma. In the meantime, I almost took my life and knew the Lord was the ONLY reason I made it through that year. We then were able to do marriage counseling and try to give our boys what they needed - parents who didn't give up, who could be strong ONLY FROM THE STRENGTH OF GOD, and live out examples of what it looked like to heal, to talk about Mazie, to be open about our emotions and above all, who continued to pour out unconditional love to each other. Then came our miracle, Gabby.
During all of those seasons of necessary healing also came many steep hurdles. We were comfortable in a rent house and were forced to move out. We have yet to be settled peacefully since. After Gabby came and my scare post-delivery, we spent that year navigating life with a newborn again and doing our best to soak in the moments of joy. We will forever be grateful to God for the miracle of new life and saving mine but this doesn't mean we don't still grieve and feel the deep loss of Mazie girl.
Other than go to church and Adam go to work, we rarely have leave unless it is to to visit family. I have realized that grief has stolen my energy and motivation to do much. If the activity isn't centered around the kids (we really do make an intentional, conscious choice to do whatever we can to make them happy and live a normal life, luckily they crave simple times with us at home), I have lost all desire to socialize or go many places. Being at home so much can be a blessing. In my heart, I know this is my greatest ministry and this is where I would be with Mazie. I'm also reminded 24/7 of watching her little sister now surpass her age and milestones such as walking, talking, learning colors, animal sounds and songs, that can be so very bittersweet. Gabby definitely has kept us all busy and in a good way but we have also had to put grief on hold for the most part the last year and a half.
That's the hard part about grieving. You can try to put on a smile, keep pursuing healing, functioning through the day and can be distracted enough that it seems as if the sadness, missing and longing aren't affecting it all. Then there's a trigger. And suddenly you are hit with a tidal wave that takes you under. You either turn to something or someone to try to at least bring you back to the surface. Here's what I've realized. That ONLY GOD can be the one to truly rescue you.
I have been living in a depressing fog lately. I have been overwhelmed with sorrow on top of trials within our family and the world. I have tried to go through similar steps of what worked the first year but ONLY GOD has been my saving grace with restored lens of hope as He points me back to Him and Heaven. We miss all the family and friends that surrounded us in the beginning. That time was such a blur and the truth is we still need support. The boys struggle too. Less than 2 weeks ago, one of them made it clear that he is having trouble processing the traumatic parts of what happened.
So right now we pray about simply taking the next step the Lord directs on this difficult path of grief, leading to eternal hope and healing, ultimitely to our Mazie girl in Heaven.
For whoever has read my ramblings up unto this point, I ask for your prayers for peace going into the holidays. I know we're not the only ones struggling with a loss and the gaping hole that is felt during traditions that will never be the same or complete. I will leave you with these considerations suggested by our friends with The RescYOU Group to know how to best respond to bereaved families during the holidays.
By The RescYOU Group:
As Thanksgiving approaches, grieving families struggle to feel happy or express gratitude due to overwhelming pain. The holiday season can be intense and lonely when you are grieving, making it hard to find gratitude. Grief and gratitude are separate experiences that cannot replace each other. Your ability to appreciate and feel gratitude is not affected by your level of grief. For example, you can mourn the loss of a child while still feeling grateful for your living family. It's important to be patient with yourself as you navigate these emotions.
If you are spending the holidays with someone who has lost a child, consider these tips:
1. Help them create a retreat plan, allowing them to take breaks if needed.
2. Listen more and speak less.
3. Acknowledge their loss and show compassion.
4. Find ways to include the lost loved one in holiday activities.
5. Share stories and look at old photos, but respect boundaries.
6. Ask what helps and be open to their needs.
7. Avoid actions that may seem helpful but are actually hurtful. Please don’t make grieving people feel guilty for not being able to engage in normal traditions.
8. Be patient
If celebrating Thanksgiving feels too painful, remember that there will be other holidays. Be kind and patient with yourself. Create the peace you need. Remove the priority of placing other’s peace before your own.