What I'm Learning

I don't know how much I will share on my blog but a blog seems like a more appropriate place to share the complexity of emotions that follow the death of a loved one. I have seen several clients who are dealing with grief. Often, they come in quite depressed. I assumed that I would experience something quite similar. I empathized with their struggles and agreed that the people that act like death is no big deal are out of their minds. But here I am today and I feel good. Great, now I'm that annoying person who is still happy even though my world should be falling apart!

Shortly after Isaac's death, my friend sent me a Christian song where the lyrics read, "Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place." Say what?! It seemed so horrific to say that Isaac's death would lead to my world falling into place. But as time goes on, I do realize that my life goes forward and there are many important things for me to do. It's not that I don't have sorrow. The truth is that I have hope. Hope that our God is really as merciful as I've been taught. Hope that Isaac's death was not in vain. Hope that I can find meaning and love in a life following Isaac's death. And I think that hope makes all the difference.

My church leader who happens to be a therapist, explained to me that grief is not depression. I think I expected to be depressed. But grief isn't depression. It can trigger depression but it is not the same. I've experienced a myriad of emotions ranging from loneliness to excitement. The truth is that at some point, maybe before I came to earth and certainly while on earth, I committed to putting both feet in the water. Sometimes that means that the water goes above my head. But I never wanted to sit back and just watch.

A couple years ago I met an inspiring woman. She was so kind and cheerful. The more that I got to know her the more shocked I became as I learned that she had lost a son (at the same age Isaac died), had some health issues, and had an extended family experiencing lots of difficulties. I noticed that there was a depth to her; she knew something I didn't. And after I thought that, I immediately thought, "Don't think that! Now you'll lose a child." I never thought it would be Isaac. I realize that I'm strange in that way, that I would look at others and envy their grief. But I am learning so much. So much about myself and so much about God. So much about the goodness of the people around me. The world only got brighter when Isaac left. I feel like I've learned more about Isaac as well. It's almost as though I can see Isaac more clearly now, who he was as a man. And although he is gone, his love still carries me.

I want to share a few things I've learned and I'm sure the list will continue to grow.

Things I've learned about God:

  • God blesses us with many small miracles and those can be just as miraculous as the big miracles
  • God will help you remember scriptures that will bring peace and understanding to your soul
  • God's plan is bigger and better than your plan
  • God loves me. If God was gracious enough to bless me with Isaac, then it would only make sense that all of God's following actions would bless me
  • God is guiding me and has been preparing me for a long time

Things I've learned about me:

  • the emotional work that I have done is now blessing me
  • my relationship with God is what gives me strength
  • I'm stronger because I have let others help and support me

Things I've learned from Isaac:

  • how to relax
  • people matter (and apparently horses do too)
  • compassion, generosity, and acceptance 
  • simple things are what make us happy
  • what it means to cleave to your spouse
  • how to put family first
  • The Office really can make a bad day better
  • beef really should always be what's for dinner

Things I've learned from marriage:

  • marriage is compromise, like all the time
  • love is a verb
  • love is a choice
  • trust is something that grows over time
  • it's fun living with your best friend
  • life is best shared
  • sometimes we take each other for granted
  • most of the time your spouse is doing his/her very best
  • it's not fair to expect your spouse to meet all your needs
  • listen, listen, listen
  • examine the opportunity cost of your actions. You might be doing the least important things for your spouse.
  • time is all you really have

Things I've learned about death:

  • death feels very strange, like someone vanished
  • death is part of life and it isn't all bad
  • death creates new opportunities and relationships

You know, Isaac and I weren't a perfect fit. In fact, about a week before he died, we met a man on the plane and he asked how we got together because we had told him that I was a therapist and Isaac was a cowboy. To be honest, I thought to myself, "For real, how do we work?" But I think that is the amazing thing about our relationship. We are so different. I once heard someone say marriage is 60% compromise. Well, our marriage was like 80% compromise. But as hard as it was to figure out what we would do when we wanted different things, we were able to do it because we chose to make it work. Sometimes I think that is what will make it hard about Isaac's death. He changed my life in a lot of ways and he changed me. Sometimes I felt bad that I wasn't a cowgirl because I knew Isaac had to give up a lot of the things that he wanted. But as different as we were, neither of us could have ever said, "You'd be better off with someone more like you." The first thought I ever had about Isaac was that he was so interesting to me. His was such a random combination of talents and personality traits. I couldn't help but be drawn to him. He really was a good guy. And I can't be mad that he is gone because I just feel so lucky that I had him at all. And even though he is gone, I still have so much more than I had before I married him. I have two beautiful, sweet children. They really are the best. And, I have the best in-laws you could ever imagine. It's so strange to feel blessed at a time of such great loss but I truly believe that God has filled my heart and that the prayers of so many really do lift me up. And now I need to go throw away all the kleenex I just used, so I'm gonna go do that.