Learning to live fully in the present while honoring, remembering, and keeping the love and pain of loss close to your heart is no small feat. It’s full of uncharted territory, anxiety, tears, and guilt- along with new types of happiness you didn’t realize could even exist. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, someone comes along to gently hold your hand through it.
I’ve said many times that happiness is a choice. For most people, happiness is uncomplicated and straightforward. However, for me it’s something I have to make a conscious effort to strive for and it is laden with guilt. Nonetheless, despite the complexity, I chose happiness not only for my son’s best interest, but also for myself. And I chose it because I know Tyler would want joy in our life.
“…if you’re lucky, someone comes along to gently hold your hand through it.”
I began my New Year’s resolution on Christmas Eve by attending Lovefeast (a time honored Moravian tradition) with my in-laws at church. The same church our son was baptized in, the same church I said goodbye to my husband in, the same church I have only been to once since Tyler’s funeral, and the same church that gives me severe anxiety just thinking about. What is my New Year’s resolution you ask? That resolution is to open my heart to and re experience the difficult pieces that grief and loss place in your path with a new perspective.
As I have so feverishly learned over the last 13 months, life takes us on journeys we never anticipated and can drag you to the deepest and darkest corners of your heart and mind. To that, it also brings unforeseen joy into your world when you least expect it and when you aren’t even looking for it. True to fashion for the time period we live in, this unannounced surprise started in the form of an innocent snapchat from a long time college friend and in ways I can’t even explain (or fully understand for the matter) it has blossomed into something else. We each have had our own struggles and setbacks in life- mine in the form of losing Tyler and his in the form of a failed marriage that he tried to save. There is a caring and gentle understanding of the damage our hearts carry and the reservations they hold. Something of which I thought no one could possibly comprehend. Not only does Nalley accept my train wreck of a life, he graciously embraces it with a tender heart and sincere compassion- and even takes my crazy in stride!
“…life takes us on journeys we never anticipated and can drag you to the deepest and darkest corners of your heart and mind.”
I read an amazing article that has helped me navigate some of these feelings, written by an incredibly strong widow. One paragraph that stood out to me was this-
“Grieving makes you stop and take stock of who you’ve been, who you are, and who you want to be. I slowed down, I listened to my own voice, and I found my own way. It’s quiet after death in the wee hours of the night when you can’t sleep and your heartaches from not being able to speak the words you desperately wish you that you could. The shadows dance and your mind will begin to stretch as your spirit grows”.
I have done more soul searching this past year than most have done in a life time. Furthermore, this has expanded to my current situation as well. It isn’t just myself I have to take into consideration. There is Sawyer, Tyler’s entire family (which will always be my family and a huge part of my life), and also Nalley’s daughter and son. As my spirit grows, that expansion overflows into the relationships with these people.
As I rehearsed the conversation I needed to have with my in-laws over and over in my head, I had a multitude of feelings that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. I was fearful they would be upset with me and think I didn’t love Tyler any longer, I was terrified of them banishing me from their life- and even worse, as a part of their family, and petrified of how this would affect them and their place of healing with losing their son and brother. All the while, feeling guilty, happy, and anxious. Talk about a disaster in the making…I had brewed this perfect storm up in my head without allowing the possibility that they just might actually be happy for me to take precedence. What happened you ask? Well, exactly what I was not willing to accept as a feasibility- they want me to be happy. It is difficult for them in the sense that this makes everything seem so “final” and it’s the last straw of realizing Tyler is truly gone- and to be honest, I’ve had that same realization.
As difficult as it is for me to remind myself I deserve happiness, I do acknowledge it deep down in my soul and I know that Tyler would want the same thing for Sawyer and I. Nothing or no one can or will ever replace my love for Tyler and my memories with him, but our hearts are gifted in the amount of love they can hold, as well as give. Though it may not be something we are capable of understanding with our mind, our heart picks up those pieces and allows us to feel them.
There are many obstacles that stand in the way of what this new relationship may be or could be, but given where life has taken me, those hurdles seem minuscule in comparison. Perhaps it is the fact that we have known one another for ten years and there is a layer of trust and comfort. Maybe it is because we have both fought fiercely to become the people we are today. Or possibly, it is because life has a way of working itself out no matter how resistant you are to it. Either way, I will honor my New Year’s resolution in many aspects of my life this year and learn how to balance these facets that make up my being with love, grace, and even a little laughter.