There are specific times of the year when I find myself thinking, “I can’t believe I’m facing another year without Jason.” Each of them has the significance of marking the milestone of another completed year. Jason’s birthday is one of them – he would have been 30 years old this year (though in my mind he will forever be 19). March 3rd is another (it’s coming up on 10 years since Jason died), as is the time period surrounding and including Christmas and New Year’s Day. I can’t believe Jason has been gone 10 years, that I have somehow managed to live my life for 10 years without him. I didn’t think it was possible. I didn’t think I could survive such a loss.
I can only imagine what Jason would have accomplished in the past 10 years had he not died. I can only imagine that he would have fallen in love, married, and had children. I can imagine that he would have… But that’s all I have – whatever I can imagine. I know he would have done things well, to the best of his ability, and that he would have made a difference in this world. It was in his character; it was who he was. He was such a gift to me and made a difference in my world every day. I miss my boy.
My process, as 2011 turns into 2012, has been to look back over the past 10 years since Jason died and ask myself these questions: Have I grieved well? What have I done that is noteworthy? What progress have I made? What could I have done differently? Would Jason be proud of me?
I guess I can’t really say that I have grieved “well” – if there is such a thing. I picture “grieving well” as forward progress over an acceptable amount of time. There have been too many other losses besides Jason’s death (friends, house, home, mom, moving multiple times, etc.) and too many complications to say that I have grieved particularly “well.” I have made forward progress, but it has been a difficult and circuitous route with many obstacles. Just when I felt I was reaching the possibility of a “new normal” or a more solid ground, I found that the earth was moving once again…and again..and pieces I thought were in place were knocked out. These earth-moving events or circumstances put me back to a place where I had to begin again in many areas. They created more wounds and scars. Although I hate labels, I would have to acknowledge that too many changes and events have made my grief somewhat “complicated.” There are many things that I wish had been different or that I had done differently. They are history, though, and something can always be learned from history.
On the other hand, I think that there can be an artificial expectation or standard of “grief journey” or “grieving well” that others (or we, ourselves) think we should live up to or attain – a path of progress from “crushed” to “back to normal” we should walk at a certain pace or within a certain time frame. We are expected to “grieve well” – to take our heartbreak and over time turn it into a success story. We are expected to recover quickly, to be strong, and to triumph over tragedy. I think this may be particularly true in the community of faith – it seems Christians who don’t bounce back quickly enough (suffice it to say I had very little “bounce” in me 🙂 ) are judged to be lacking in faith/trust or to have a problem in their relationship with God.
Have you ever noticed that most books and movies concerning grief are of the “tragedy to triumph” variety? Either that or they are analytical in nature. Those who struggle for a “longer-than-deemed-necessary” period of time with grief (for varying reasons) rarely write a book or talk publicly about it – no one wants to read it. We all like success stories. We want to BE one of the success stories.
I know this about myself – I have high expectations and I am hard on myself. I am learning that grief is whatever it happens to be for each person. It is affected by support or lack of support. It is affected by other losses and many other things along the way. Where I am now is where I am. I am who I am. I have walked through the experiences I have walked through, and they have made me who I am. The question is: What do I do about it now?
As I look forward into 2012 and beyond, I want to take what I have learned and experienced, and do something positive with it. I want Jason to be proud of me. I want to live a meaningful, purposeful life. I want to make a difference and I want to do the best possible job of it. I haven’t quite figured out how best to go about that. I have an idea that has been germinating in my heart for many years – a resource to help bereaved parents – but I don’t know how or when to get it up and running. I feel that it’s nearing time to take a giant step forward. (If you are of the praying variety, I ask that you keep me in your prayers as I contemplate this project.)
Anyway, enough reflections. I wish you all a Happy New Year. May your year be filled with the peace of God, may you feel His comforting presence close. May your journey be accompanied by those who stay by your side as long as needed and apply the salve of love and kindness to your heart and life.
© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney