Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Happier New Year

Happy New Year.

Last year those words rang as false to me as the words of a TV evangelist promising physical and spiritual wealth if only we mail in a check.

This year, I realize there is the possibility of happiness again.

The thought hit me while curled at the end of the love seat with a dog on my lap as I contemplated a Facebook news feed full of holiday greetings. I was suddenly mindful of the tender swath across my abdomen and thought that a year ago I would never have imagined being exactly who and where I was today.

A year ago the reality of Ethan's death was still something that stood by the bed to greet me each morning. Every day I had to embrace the new reality of my life, opening my heart for what still felt like it should be a death blow for me as well. Laughter, and even a smile, felt like a betrayal of my son. How could I share holiday greetings when my world was so torn apart? How could I go on living, making new memories, finding a different future than the one I'd always believed in?

Last year, Happy New Year felt like a lie I could not abide. Kinder new year was the most I hoped to find.

Yet against the odds, it seems happy found me anyway. Not with the tossing out of the calendar, but in the days and weeks that followed.

I discovered I was not an island, the only person who had ever felt my kind of loss, but instead just a mountain peak. As the tide of my grief subsided, I found I was part of a chain of mountains connected to others who felt the same pain. There were friends with whom I never expected to share this bond, and virtual strangers I met in cyberspace.

Our shared pain transcended circumstance and distance. We connected through blogs and text messages and late night Facebook messaging and phone calls. Sometimes the grief returned like a high tide and sometimes like a tsunami, but I learned to reach across the waves to the other mountains and hold on.

I learned that when others offered to talk it wasn't the platitudes that are often offered to the grieving. They called and sent cards and messages and I accepted that they were sincere and when I found myself teetering on an emotional ledge, I learned to pick up the phone.

I discovered there are other kinds of grief and loss that give me common ground with people who haven't lost a child, and I learned to accept hugs and comfort and friendship where I found it.

I struggled with good habits and bad, and found the long peaceful walks I'd enjoyed for so long were one thing I could not endure. But a needy dog with more issues than friends meant I couldn't quit, even when I had no desire to go. I lost two of my support networks -- my Zumba studio and my church -- but I kept dancing and worshipping and found that while I missed old routines, new ones weren't always bad.

I found that airing my grief helped me work through it and that taking time to focus on good things helped me recognize there were still reasons to smile. I found songs to make me cry and others that made me smile and sometimes one song that would do both. I opened myself to seeing Ethan everywhere, and after a while it gave me pleasure instead of pain.

I took care of myself, sometimes the hardest thing to do when life demanded so much. I struggled to balance my desire to withdraw from life with my need to keep living, and gradually the living and moving won out.

Now the waves of grief are more likely to lap around my feet than crash over my head, but the sound of the ocean never fades. I know the shore of loss is where I'll pass the remainder of my days, but I no longer feel I'll be drowned there.

Instead I feel hopeful that happy will continue to find me as long as I'm willing to see it. A new year full of change and possibility has begun. I never would have imagined myself here, yet here I am, embracing the life God has given me to lead, becoming another mountain to those still lost in the flood of grief.

1 comment:

  1. Happy, happy, New Year, Friend from afar... I am so glad those waves are no longer crashing atop your head, and honored to be able to share your journey. :)

    Sorry this short visit south didn't afford us opportunity to meet up in person, but I look forward to that day, which is sure to come! :)