September isn’t a great month for me. It used to be…I’ve always loved how the weather starts to change. I’ve loved the back to school sales and buying new notebooks/journals that are filled with blank pages just waiting to be filled up. I’ve loved how the trees start changing colors and how home starts feeling homier in the evenings as the sun starts setting earlier.
I still love those things, but September is now filled with reminders of dreams dashed, lives changed, and hearts broken. September is the time when I remember my first-born son’s short life. And since 2001, it’s the time I remember how my own life was so affected and changed on 9/11. And now, it’s also the time I remember how much I miss my sister who left us too soon last year.
(I guess I should add a disclaimer that this next part of my blog might be a little sad, so grab a tissue and walk through it with me so I don’t have to be alone.)
In 1996, my first son, Andrew, was born and died. In two short weeks my life was forever changed. I became a mom on August 30th, and then on September 14 I became….what? There is no word for a mother whose child has died. Even now, after nineteen years, there is that hole. That piece that is missing that won’t ever really be filled up. It doesn’t hurt like it used to. But it will never go away…
Then there was 9/11. An event that hit so close to home. I mean close…the plane that hit the Pentagon, where we knew so many people, flew over our house as we sat on our deck having breakfast that beautiful morning. That event changed my husband’s career in ways I can’t even go into. My soul still cries for all of the lives that were lost that day.
And now, September also has another sad event where the wound is not yet a scar. Last September 23rd, my sister, Deborah, who was probably my very best friend, died after fighting cancer for two and a half years. This hole in my heart still hurts. A lot. I still miss her every day. I still find myself thinking, “I have to be sure to tell Deborah about this…” Except I can’t. And I still can’t delete her from the contacts on my phone–it just doesn’t seem right. This grief is the freshest so it still bleeds sometimes. Actually it bleeds quite a bit.
I guess I’m sharing this because we all have grief in our lives. Broken relationships, lost opportunities, moving, divorce, losing friends, parents and friends dying, and even our kids moving away, can all bring a measure of grief in our lives.
Life is hard and it kinda sucks sometimes. But what matters is not that we have grief, but what we choose to do with it. Usually, I can recognize my grief, acknowledge it, and keep moving forward. But sometimes in September, and especially this year, the grief is hanging around me like a misty fog that won’t lift. It is filtering out my joy and hiding the sunshine. My body seems to be wearing the grief and it doesn’t want to come off.
So I am walking around a little sadder and I’m less inclined reach out to my friends. But I am fighting the battle with prayer and perseverance. I’m treating myself with kindness, patience and compassion with the goal of moving to the other side of this valley that’s in the shadow of death.
Until I do, I will keep exercising, but with gentleness like doing yoga and taking walks in the woods. I will keep eating well because that brings health. I am making a pot of soup with my leftover chicken bones and veggie bits I have stashed in the freezer for just such a time as this.
And most of all I am surrounding myself with the people who love me, because they understand where I am. And they love me too much to let me stay here.
Your turn: share in the comments below how you get through a time of grieving.
If you want to hear my story about learning where God is in your grief, you can read my memoir, Notes from the Margins: Healing Conversations with God. Learn more here.