Monday, December 19, 2011

Moving On, Or Trying To Anyway

The holidays always bring a lot of stress and activity.  This year, it seems our household has really been hit with a lot of unscheduled events that have added to the holiday stress levels.

First, there was my husband's health scare.  Thankfully, my husband is progressing well from the procedure that saved his life.  He is still very tired.  He tries to walk each day, and he is doing well in changing his eating habits.  Nevertheless, we have been set back emotionally as we deal with this new health reality.

Then,  last week, my daughter closed on her house in Northern Colorado.   I was away from home for three days last week helping her move.  We got it done, but believe me, it was a huge task.  She had a girl friend and Jason help her one weekend, then it was up to just Amy, her two children, and me to get the rest done.  Since Amy had to work two of the three days, I did much of it alone with a little help from the guy we hired to haul off things we didn't have time to donate or take to the dump.

  I am so grateful that she is in a new town home not far from where she lived before.  Her new place is very homey.  She says it "just feels like home."  That it does.  She has a spectacular view of Long's Peak from her living room window.  The kids have a sledding hill right outside their back door.  They are within walking distance of the recreation center where they spend a lot of time.  Schools are also close by.   While it was sad to leave her home where she had lived for more than ten years, there were many unhappy memories there.  It is good to move on.  I think she will be very happy in her new place and the kids love their new home.  

The move was hard on me because I kept bumping into so many of Julie's things.  Julie and Amy shared clothes, and shoes so much that at times, I wasn't always sure who owned which article of clothing one or the other might be wearing.  That being said, Julie had many beautiful clothes, and her shoes were always just plain cool. 

During the move,  I did fine when I saw the dress Julie wore to her class reunion.  I didn't lose it when I saw the jacket that she had on one time when she came home from work and looked so stylish and hip.  I even handled running into the pair of heels that she wore to the night she, Amy, Hannah, Mason and I went to Denver to see the Nutcracker a few years ago.  I remembered watching her walk her confident, fast walk in those high, high heels that had straps that wrapped around her ankles.  The night was freezing cold.  But that didn't seem to faze Julie.  I remembered watching her feet as she drove us down and out of the parking the garage after the ballet was over.  I remember how I admired her style and confidence.  Yes, when I ran into those heels, I just put them in car and moved them over to Amy's.  I didn't breakdown.

Then, late one evening, I ran into a shirt she had worn to a get-together with her high school friends a few years ago.  She looked so cute in it.  It was neatly folded among some of Amy's shirts.  I pulled it out and held it to my nose hoping I could still smell Julie on it.  Hoping that smell that came from her hair product that everyone could always smell whenever they got close to her would still be clinging to the shirt.  I don't think Julie's distinct fragrance was clinging to that article of clothing, but I wanted to believe it was just faintly present.
Julie & Leana at high school girl friend gathering

Amy walked in about then and saw me crying.  "No tears tonight, Mama.  No tears.  We can't have any tears."  By then we were both crying.  We held each other for a while, and then we got back to work.  

In my heart, when the move was done, I told Julie that I had done what she asked me to do.  She asked me to make sure that Amy was safe and away from a situation that was harmful for her.  It has been a long, hard two years, but now Amy has a new beginning.  My heart is broken that Julie isn't there to share it with her.  

Tonight I cried for Julie again.  My husband just let me cry, and then he held me.  I thanked him for letting me cry and not thinking he had to fix it.  "No one can," he said.  He is right.  No one can. 

I am now moving more fully into the holiday spirit.  I recognize how difficult the holidays can be for those who grieve.  I give myself permission to hurt, to cry, to feel anger, to feel regret, to feel longing.  Grief is messy.  Grief brings up much anger at times.  It also brings up a hurt that seems will never heal.  

Julie didn't like Christmas.  She never did.  She hated the pressure.  She hated how lonely she felt during the holidays.  So, I guess it is somewhat ironic that I have put up a tree for her.  I purchased a small evergreen tree at the grocery store.  I wanted a live tree because it represents life everlasting.  The tree was called an 'elf' tree.  I thought that was somewhat appropriate since we used to call Julie our little pixie.  

None of us remember Julie ever putting up a tree, but she had a round Christmas hat box that I had given her for Christmas a few years back filled with a few ornaments she had collected over the years.  Some were from her childhood.  She really had very few ornaments, but she had carefully packed away the ones she had.  I hung what she had on the tree.  There is a mix of childhood angels and Santa ornaments combined with a few beautiful crystal ornaments that she had either purchased or received as gifts.  I lit the tree on December 11 at 7:00 p.m.  I also lit a candle for her at the same time.  Compassionate Friends, a grief support group for those who have lost children, always has a candle lighting ceremony worldwide on the second Sunday of December at 7:00 p.m. in memory of those children who have been lost to death.

Some may say that by now, I should be much more down the road of grief than I am.  Some may think that I need to just get on with life and stop all this business with grief.  Once a friend compassionately said she could not imagine what I was going through.   Rather coldly, I replied, "I hope you never have to find out."  The look of horror that she gave me said it all.  I should never have been so honest with my reply.  

I was recently greatly comforted with this quote from GriefShare: 

Society often concerns itself with keeping up appearances, maintaining the status quo, and covering up problems, as if pretense will somehow make things right! 

"We want everything to be glossed over," Rev. John Coulombe observes. "We want everything to be gilded with gold. We think it should be tidy and nice."

But life is not "tidy and nice" and pretending it is will hinder your healing process and make it even longer. 

Right now, everything is not real "tidy and nice" in my life, but I know that I am continuing to heal and to grow.  I am also grateful that we are able to move beyond the tragedies of life.  My journey in life, and in grief has not been rocky, and at times very rough.  I am able to move on because of my faith, my family, and my friends.

I recently reflected on Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart."

As we enter into these final days before Christmas, as my husband continues to heal from his heart procedure, as I continue to deal with my own heart issues of arrhythmia and tachycardia, and as a family, as we deal with the loss of our beloved Julie, a loss that broke our hearts, I am comforted to know that on Christmas we will celebrate the birth of the One who came to bind up our broken hearts, the One who came to bring us peace, and the One who brings both comfort and joy.   

May all of you have a very Merry Christmas.