When Your Adult Children Grieve

Today my daughter runs.

She runs to honor her husband, Keith, who passed away nine months ago.  She runs because he loved running.  She runs to represent the struggle of her grief journey.  She runs because her two young vibrant children do not afford her much  time to grieve.  She is running with the community that was Keith’s professional community; which was also their family’s community. And she is running with friends.  They come from all over the map.  They trained for this day for months and now they are running together. With her, for her, for Keith, for the children. Today.  300+ miles away in Washington DC. she runs.  It is the Navy Air Force Half Marathon.

And I am not there.

And I am struggling with that.

A lot.

I woke up early. I am signed up for athlete tracker.  I stare at my email account.  No updates.  My imagination runs wild.  Where is she? How is her body feeling? Is she buoyed by race time excitement? Is she shedding tears? Most likely yes and yes. Although I was able to support her by watching the kids while she trained, it just doesn’t feel like enough.

After my husband passed away, another daughter wanted to hike Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. One of the ways of grieving her loss was to bury some of her Dad’s ashes at the top. This was a hike they wanted to do together, but he was physically unable to. Determined to support her, and battling total fear I completed the task with her.

This mama bear wants to do anything and everything to protect her cubs.  How desperately I want to take away their pain from the deep losses they’ve experienced in their young lives.  After my husband’s death, I made a choice to grieve well; whatever that means.  I was determined not to run from the grief and all things associated with my husband,  but to allow the waves of sadness to come. To trust in the process of grief, having experienced it before. But it is so different when you see your adult children suffer.  Often times as Mom’s, we feel like we are doing a good job when we “make things better” for our children regardless of age. It cuts deep to know that I cannot do anything to fix this for my daughters. I cannot mend their broken hearts. I do not know how to ease their pain. But I do know Who can. He can provide constant help, love, and healing to my girls just as continues to do for me.

Mourning into Joy

As a parent of grieving adult children, there is no right way to do this. It is important for me to continue the work of adjusting to life as a single woman. And there is a balance to caring for myself and being available to care for my daughters and grandchildren.  I have not figured it out. Not even close.  But that’s OK.

And so I encourage Rebecca to run like Keith. And Molly to hike like Mike. I can love them through their struggles.  I can stand back and allow God and others to comfort them. And I can know that being present is enough.

 It is enough.

baby and camel

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Prov 31:25

The Second Year – An Anniversary

 

I believe in the way God knits two people together when they stand before him on their wedding day. Something sacred happens in that moment, something that will, with grace and intention and faith and hard work, build upon itself and grow in power and beauty and durability with each passing year.  Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet.

 

October 1984

October 1984

Today is our 30 year anniversary.  I am stunned at the thought of it. I remember the anniversary when we realized we had spent more of our lives together than apart. We talked about all the joys we experienced and the challenges we endured. I am not quite sure how to recognize this day anymore.  I feel weird referring to “our” anniversary when one of us is not here. It is one of those aspects of grief that makes no sense and has no answers. It is one of those awkward days when I want to shout and yell that for the past week, I have been remembering the days leading up to our wedding and that a part of me is missing.

As time passes, I realize that every day of remembrance whether it is an anniversary, birthday, or other special occasion, brings a deeper sense of loss, a sharper sense of the permanence of this new life I now have. I still wake up some days and shake my head in wonder. I still get easily distracted and don’t sleep very well. On the upside, I have a much larger capacity for life, but somedays I just need to clear the schedule and give myself time to breathe. I am incredibly thankful for all those family and friends who continue to walk with me through this crazy journey. It is a marathon.

I guess I don’t have to get too hung up on what I call this day. I just know it carries with it wonderful memories of a man who stood with me before God and witnesses and promised that “with grace and intention and faith and hard work” we would build a relationship of power and beauty and durability with each passing year. God honored that promise and I continue to thank Him for the gift that He gave to both of us. Happy Anniversary my friend.

Bermuda 2009

Bermuda 2009

 You Carry Me by Moriah Peters.

The Second Year – The Value of Hard Places

Angel's Landing

Angel’s Landing, Zion NP

“The pressure of hard paces makes us value life. Every time our life is given back to us from such a trial, it is like a new beginning, and we learn better how much it is worth, and make more of it for God and man. The pressure helps us to understand the trials of others, and lifts us to help and sympathize with them.” A.B. Simpson

The Second Year – Miracle of the Moments

Red and I took a walk during the last snowfall. It was that kind of snow that coated the trees and sparkled on the lawn. I am always amazed at how quiet it is when it snows.  Since Mike has gone, I have these moments once in a while – they are fleeting – but they are deep seated and joyful. Filling me with gratitude for the love and life we shared for 30 years. I miss him deeply and the heart ache hits hard. And yet how blessed I am to have had such a loving companion for so long. These are the little miracles of the moments in life that I am so thankful for.

The Second Year – Finding JOY on the Journey

I have been dreading this “holiday season”. Before Thanksgiving, I honestly felt like I just wanted it all to blow over. To go away. To leave me alone. I was overwhelmed even with the anticipation of the busyness and cultural urgency of the season. I didn’t want to listen to Christmas music, I stayed out of stores, and even the thought of decorating the house was overwhelming. But in spite of my seeming “scroogy-ness”  there was one word that entered my mind and took up residence there.

It didn’t scream for attention. It gently nudged me at times. Quietly. I decided I better start giving it some of my attention. One night I was working on a project and decided to “watch” the Charlie Brown Christmas special to give me some “white noise” (the house gets very quiet) . And there it was. That word again.

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people…”  Luke 2:10

Good news. Great joy. That is quite a promise. I realized how accustomed I have become to receiving bad news. I think on some level, I even expect it now. Linus got my attention.

“for to you…”

Get ready for it – here is the news – and it is good….

“….is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a Savior is “someone who saves something or someone from danger, harm, failure.” And Lord is defined as “one having power and authority over others”. This is the good news that would bring great joy to all the people. Even to the woman who is swimming in grief. The one who is sometimes afraid of moving forward, making new memories, discovering a new life. Don’t be afraid….there is good news for you…. there is One who has the power and authority to save you from danger, harm, and failure. There is hope for you. You are not alone.

This is reason for great joy.

I put my project aside and I was inspired to make it a goal of mine to find JOY in the next 20 days. This season, for me, is to be one of anticipation – an advent –  as I anticipate receiving, yet again, the good news that brings great JOY to all the people on Christmas day.

Here’s to the first day of finding JOY on this journey.