Each of us has a Facebook life or Instagram life. It is the life where skies are blue, smiles are big, and frustrations are funny. Yet, Facebook life isn't fake. Skies really are blue, the smiles are genuine, and misfortunes can be funny. But it is only part, or just the highlights, of our lives. I worry that people will assume that grief ends with happy wedding photos. Maybe it does for others, but in my experience joy does not occur in vacuum. I live both realities of my greatest sorrow and greatest joy, sometimes in the very same moment. It can be frustrating to experience both at the same time. If you have seen the movie "Inside Out" you might remember when the little girl begins to have memories with multiple emotions. Sometimes I miss when life was simple and happy was just happy, and sad was just sad. I'm still adjusting to my new understanding of love, life, and loss.
While it can feel fine to experience moments with multiple emotions, I often find myself feeling different from others. For example, when people ask me questions the way that they ask a typical newlywed, it is then that I realize that I'm not quite sure how to share with them how I really feel. It can feel like work to explain it. The way that they ask a question or talk to me lets me know that I'll probably disappoint them if I don't feel the naïve bliss that most young married couples feel. It almost feels like I'm crushing the Disney princess dream! Who wants to crush that?! Well, probably all of us, but none of us want to be the one to rain on the parade.
Sometimes it feels like everyone wants to think that Adam saved me and now everything is perfect. In some ways that might be true. Adam is quite dreamy, and I feel blessed to have him in my life. But, I don't want my life or experience reduced to a fairytale outline. I resist this interpretation of our story because I feel like Adam and I have worked really hard for our relationship. I didn't just fall into love with Adam. I had to work through a lot of grief and emotional baggage to be in a place that I could be a partner in a relationship. Facebook can't show that. Wedding pictures can't show that. Adam had to work to prepare himself to become an immediate father to two kids. He had to readjust his expectations of what marriage would look like for him. And he had to explain to many friends and family, who had expectations for what his marriage should look like, why his marriage would look different from the cultural norm. So while the smiles are real and the sky is the brightest blue, I had to cry a lot of tears and endure a lot of rain to get to this place.
Now that I am at this place in my journey, it becomes less clear how to talk about my grief openly. When I first started to write about my grief after marriage, I felt concerned about how to accurately portray my sorrow without undermining my happiness. I felt that not writing about my grief misrepresents how I still feel about Isaac. I worried that writing about my grief would make others judge me as someone who was not ready for marriage. But then I decided that I had to be authentic and not take responsibility for how others interpret my words. I will continue to write about my experience. In doing so, I honor the complexity of life that so many other grieving persons experience and I honor my own experience.
About a month ago, I sat down and started a blogpost. I'd like to share it with you now. Here is my initial blogpost:
It has been a long time since I have written. I've been burning to write but somehow school, work, parenting, planning a wedding, and holidays have filled up my time. As the wedding approached, I was filled with stress and excitement as any typical bride would be. I am grateful that with each day I grew more confident in my decision to marry Adam. I worried that the wedding might trigger my grief. After all, the only other time I got married was to Isaac. I couldn't be sure about what emotions might rise to the surface as I experienced things that I had previously only shared with Isaac.
The wedding was more beautiful than I could have imagined. I feel grateful that the day felt so special, specifically for Adam and me. I have worried about Adam living in the shadow of my grief for Isaac. Even though I realize that Adam would not be in my life had Isaac not died, I don't want our relationship to feel like Adam is second. I think it can be difficult for anyone other than me to feel what it is like to love both Isaac and Adam. Although many of my family and friends love both of these men, I find that most may have a greater allegiance to one man. It is difficult to comprehend my own love for both.
After the wedding, we returned to Lubbock. It was great to have Adam move in and start our life together. However, I noticed my grief building. At first I thought that the holidays were triggering memories of Isaac. This was no surprise. Holidays typically bring grief with them. As more time passed, I realized that marriage itself was triggering my grief. I had not realized how emotionally overwhelmed I would become with letting someone come so close to me. Although I recognized that marriage increases intimacy with another person, feeling the vulnerability of it was heavier than I could have anticipated. As I experience new levels of intimacy with Adam, more personal and private memories of Isaac come to mind. It is painful to recall these memories because they outline the void that appeared when Isaac died. The more personal the memories were to our relationship as a couple, I remember what living Isaac was like. Anyone who interacts with me regularly knows that I never hesitate to talk about Isaac and share my memories of him. It is easy to talk about him. It is not so easy to feel him. And when I remember these memories, I feel him and I miss him dearly.
Around Christmas time, we took the kids to see the movie Coco. My dear friend told me that it reminded her a lot of Isaac and that I should take the kids. The movie did remind me of Isaac. The little boy looked similar to Isaac as a boy. The great-great-grandfather looked like Isaac. But more than any looks, the way that great-great-grandfather loved really reminded me of Isaac. He sings a sweet song to his daughter:
Though I have to say goodbye
Don't let it make you cry
For even if I'm far away
I hold you in my heart
I sing a secret song to you
Each night we are apart
Though I have to travel far
Each time you hear a sad guitar
Know that I'm with you
The only way that I can be
Until you're in my arms again
Every time I listen to the words of this song, I think that Isaac could have easily written these lyrics himself. I especially love the line, "Know that I'm with you the only way that I can be." I think it can be hard to remember that our loved ones that pass on stay with us as much as they can. Sometimes Isaac feels so far away. I like to listen to this song that reminds me he is never too far. I hope that Rosie and Wyatt will also be able to feel him close in the ways that he can be close. Though I am sure it is not always easy, I'm grateful that Adam is an active part of helping keep Isaac's memory alive. Our grief is not an event. It is an ongoing process. We are so blessed to have Adam mourn and grow with us. Although we think the absence of pain is ideal, I am finding that pain and grief is bonding us in ways we could not have imagined.