Reality of Grief

For the last 6.5 years I have had one main purpose; making sure my kids were okay.

Making sure they have everything they need, a nice place to live, helping them through all of the hard times that they have had to face, without their Dad.

Trying to keep everything afloat on my own. Struggling through my own grief, mostly in silence, trying to put a positive spin on everything when I just wanted to scream, “this is horrible and so unfair!”

Trying to make ends meet so they didn’t feel or see the difference, financially, of how different and difficult it is to go from two incomes to one.

Throwing the football or trying to practice baseball when it was obvious that the person that should be doing those things just wasn’t there.

Attending school functions and faking a smile when it was painfully obvious that their Dad wasn’t there.

Struggling through homework when I couldn’t even do math for myself in school, knowing that their Dad would have been able to help.

Dropping them off at practice when I saw the Dads walking to the field to stay with their kids.

Talking through times when they lost interest in things or gave up on things that were just too hard because he wasn’t there.

Scrolling through FB to see the Daddy Daughter dance pictures or the sports awards pictures. Seeing the heart warming videos of parents returning home from service to see their kids who missed their parent so much while they were gone, wanting to lose it, knowing my kids won’t ever see their Dad again.

Night after night of sleepless nights, followed by mornings when none of us could even hear the alarm go off.

Injuries, ER visits, sicknesses, birthdays, holidays…. Every single day there is something that he is missing, something they were going through and just wanted their Dad.

Answering questions about people leaving their lives, after they had already lost so much, with some generic answer that made it sound okay.

I could go on and on.

But, at the end of the day, it’s not okay. There is nothing okay about two young kids having to grow up without their Dad.

Nothing.

It’s messy.

It’s unfair.

It’s so incredibly heart wrenching.

I found some old videos last night.

There were videos of the kids from before 6/19/2012. They were so happy. Pure joy, innocent laughter; they were just normal and happy kids.

There were videos from shortly after 6/19/2012. There were smiles and laughter, but it wasn’t the same. I heard two little voices, making me painfully aware of just how young they were when it happened. They were trying so hard to be normal, to just be kids. But behind those smiles and laughs, I could see and hear the pain they tried to hide.

There were videos that were a taken a couple of years later. They were much more serious and somber; those little voices and brave laughs were no longer there.

Then I realized that I don’t have any recent videos. The struggles over the last several years have been so hard and so intense that not only do most people not even know about, but made me wonder if we would ever be okay. There wasn’t much happiness to capture.

We have just been trying to get by.

Just trying to survive.

Then, tonight I was hit with such a raw and real picture of all that I just described. It just hit me all at once. It was like 6.5 years of grieving and pain was being felt, out of nowhere, almost as if for the first time.

I have lived every single bit of this with these two, every single day. I have dealt with my own grief and the struggles that come with being the adult left to take care of these two people. But, although I have walked through the hard times with them, I had to be the strong one. I had to make it okay. Or at least try to, the best I knew how; all the while feeling that I was always falling short. But, I hadn’t truly allowed myself to feel the hurt that a Mom feels when they see their kids hurting. That changed, truly out of nowhere, in a moment.

All of the sudden I am sobbing uncontrollably, trying to explain to them what I was feeling, what I just attempted to describe above. I could hardly talk through the trembling in my voice, blowing my nose, and trying with everything to get the tears to stop.

You know what they did?

They hugged their Mom and just kept telling me that it was okay. They wiped my tears and told me not to cry for them. They said that they were okay.

How did those two little heart broken children grow up so fast?

Now, 16 & 18, they were taking care of their Mom and saying whatever necessary to make it okay.

Here is what I realize…

There is nothing okay about what the three of us have had to endure since 6/19/2012.

We have been through hell and back.

We have struggled through things that no one else will ever truly know or understand.

Life doesn’t look the same for us as it does for others and people can judge what it might look like to them all they want, but at the end of the day…

We are okay.

We have survived what could have broken us.

We will be better, more loving, more compassionate, and stronger people because of it.

We are going to make it.

And lastly:

I have to believe that there are still great things in store for us and that we can still find joy and happiness in this life that has dealt us an extremely hard hand.

And….

Despite all the hurt and all the pain…

This is not where or how our story will end.

Love doesn’t end. Not even death can break the strong bond of true love. We may be missing an integral piece, but we are and always will be family.

Letting Go 2.0

On this day 6 years ago, I had no idea that in one short week, our lives would be forever changed. In an instant.

Some days it feels like yesterday while other days it seems like it’s been an entire lifetime since I’ve seen you.

So much has happened.

You’ve missed so much.

What I’m finally realizing?

I’VE MISSED SO MUCH

The majority of the last 6 years has been spent going through the motions, getting by each day, surviving. We have come so very far, but the fact still remains that I haven’t been able to truly live.

Why haven’t I been able to live?

I haven’t been able to let go.

I wrote a post about this very thing nearly a year ago (click Letting Go to read that post) and I have done what I said I was going to do. I said I was going to try and give the pain over to God with the intention of moving forward.

How is it that I have been working at “letting go” for almost an entire year and my hurt is still so present that I’m wiping tears as I write this?

It’s a process. A long process. It takes intent. It takes work. It’s not easy.

I feel like I’ve done the work, but now what?

I have to make an actual decision, speak it out loud, and really let it go.

I know what this looks like in my mind, but my heart just can’t do it and mean it.

But I have to.

Stay tuned, friends 💕

How do you let go of someone who was so much a part of you? How do you let go when your heart still loves them with every beat? How?

Joni Grief to Life

Feeling Guilty For Grieving

Did you know that the majority of people who have lost a loved one are made to feel guilty about their grief?

Did you know that someone grieving often isolates themselves, disconnects from people, because they feel misunderstood?

Unfortunately, a loved one left behind will often suffer in silence because they have been told:

It’s time to move on.

Aren’t you over this yet?

You need to stop dwelling on this.

It’s been long enough, it’s time to let go.

Aren’t you ready to get on with your life yet?

Or, some of my favorites:

He’s in a better place.

Time heals all wounds.

God needed another angel.

Everything happens for a reason.

Although, some of these things are said with the best of intentions, let me make this clear, they just aren’t helpful! At all!

We didn’t lose something that can be replaced. We lost a person. For a lot of us, this person was an every day part of our lives for many years. This isn’t something you just “get over.”

You are missed

You were special

You were beautiful

You were important

You are not forgotten

Your life had meaning

You were so very loved

You are more than a memory

~Joni ♥️ Grief to Life

Grief is a very personal thing and it is unique to each Individual person. There is a long and painful process you have to go through in order to learn to live without a person that meant so much to them. The path they have to walk isn’t going to look the same as it will for someone else. We have to work at finding our way in a new life that was not chosen or planned.

So, wherever they are on their journey…

Don’t judge. Don’t tell them what to do. Don’t tell them how they should feel. Because let me assure you, those things will hinder their grief process, it certainly won’t help it.

Be there. Be patient. Encourage them to talk about how they feel. Love them right where they are. Repeat.

For those of you who have lost an important part of your life, your loved one…

Take all the time you need. Don’t feel guilty for feeling however you feel at any point on your journey. Those that don’t understand, unfortunately, will someday. This is your life. Nobody is walking this road for you. Do it your way! And lastly; acknowledging, feeling, and expressing your emotions is an important and extremely critical part of the grief journey. Without that, you remain bound and unable to grow and work towards emotional and spiritual health. Yet, it’s one of the most difficult things to do, for many reasons.

For me, I have found that writing is my best outlet. It’s my therapy and where God most often speaks to my heart. I encourage you to seek out the way that best let’s you feel and express your emotions. It’s crucial. xoxo Joni ❤️

 

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Deciding Pain Away

So many well intentioned people will give you advice based on the thought that you can simply make a choice to not grieve. As someone who has been walking a painful road for almost 6 years, let me tell you, we really do wish it was that easy.

Can you choose happiness? Yes, I believe you can. That being said though; I can wake up in the morning and choose to be happy, but that does not make the pain go away. The cause of the pain, the root of the emotions, is still there.

You must walk through it.

Now, how long does it take? That’s just it; it is different for everyone. Loss and the journey to healing is so very personal. We all deal in our own way. Some don’t deal at all and therefore, their path is going look very different from someone who is feeling their way through.

So please, for the love of God, don’t try to rush someone through their pain. Love them. Show compassion. Be there. They will find their way to healing.

Lastly, healing doesn’t mean the void is gone. It means that they have finally learned to live. They have finally come to a place of acceptance of the pain and can move forward, hopefully, using it as the fuel that drives them to live a life full of purpose.

“Pain, you just have to ride it out, hope it goes away on its own, Hope that the wound that caused it heals. There are no solutions, no easy answers, you just have to breathe deep and wait for it to subside. Most of the time pain can be managed but sometimes, the pain gets you where you least expect it. Hits way below the belt and doesn’t let up. Pain, you just have to fight through, Because the truth is you can’t out run it. And life always makes more.” Meredith Grey

Broken Glass(es)

I did something today, something very simple, that actually holds great significance. I ordered new glasses. Big deal right? Yes. Yes it is.

I had my yearly eye appointment to get my contacts. I wore my glasses there because I was actually totally out of my contacts. While I was there they had me read the chart with my glasses on first. That didn’t go so well! The doctor said, how old are theses glasses? I hesitated but replied, “9 or 10 years old.” He didn’t ask why but said, “wow that is surprising, especially since your prescription has gotten so much worse.” I quickly changed the subject, we finished the exam and then I went back into the main room to talk to the ladies about ordering my contacts. One of them pointed toward a section of glasses and told me that insurance would pay for two pair of glasses in that area. I didn’t say much but humored her leading and looked through the glasses, finding something wrong with each of them. I finally gave in and let her choose the ones she said would be perfect for me. I then sat down across from her as she was processing my order. At this point I am wearing contacts that the doctor gave me. I look over and see my glasses sitting there. The lenses are so scratched up I don’t know how I saw out of them at all. One side of the glasses would close in but the other side would not because of my famous superglue repair jobs.

Get to the point already Joni! 😂😉

The reason I hadn’t replaced those glasses is because I was wearing them the day that my husband and I were in that horrible accident that claimed his life. The craziest thing is that they were one of only a few things that made it out of that vehicle with me.

I remember going off the road and hitting the ditch, closing my eyes and bracing for impact, and then…the scene before me as I opened my eyes. This isn’t the post to spend too much time describing that scene but I will say, because it’s relevant, I saw destruction. I saw a seemingly endless amount of broken glass, among other things. I look to my left and sure enough, there beside me I see those glasses, surrounded by destruction but just sitting there.

So, I hadn’t realized it but I have held on to them for that reason. I couldn’t let go of them. Until now. What may seem small to most was huge for me.

I don’t let go of Jonathan because I let go of those broken glasses that I found amidst that broken glass. I hold him in my heart, forever. As I continue to pick up the broken pieces of my heart and allow God to piece them back together, he is with me. I’m moving forward, without leaving him behind.

And guess what?!! My vision is improved….

The Pain is Worth the Cost

The pain of losing a spouse and watching your kids grieve the loss of their parent, brings a sorrow that I can’t quite put into words. It’s unlike any feeling I could’ve ever even imagined.

It is said that “it” gets better in time. Just give it time. Time heals all wounds. As well meaning as the one saying these things might be, it’s just not true.

“It” doesn’t get better and it most certainly doesn’t go away. But, you do learn to live with it. It becomes a part of you. Just as the person you grieve leaves an unexplainable void in your heart and life, the impact they had while living leaves an imprint in who you are. As you carry the pain that their loss leaves, you also carry them with you.

Deep grief is the price you pay for deep love. It is always worth the cost.

The Pieces Don’t Fit Anymore

When you don’t fit where you used to, you grieve that like any other loss. But, if you don’t fit anymore, you don’t. Move forward. We aren’t supposed to have to fight for a place in people’s lives.

I was talking to one of my long time friends today and we were talking about regret or being able to go back and take certain things back. I told her that every little bit of our lives along the way, bad and good, make up where and who we are today.

When you feel like you don’t fit where you used to, it can take you to a really low place. It hurts! The thing to remember is; it’s not your fault, don’t stay there. Move forward knowing that God will place you where you fit, perfectly.

A Split Second

For those of you that have lost someone… Do you ever have moments where it hits you, out of nowhere, like a ton of bricks?? I do and it’s a terrible feeling. There are actually lots of mornings that begin that way for me.

The worst is what just happened to me. I was sitting in my car, waiting on my son to get his hair cut. I’m busy working on something on my home but I still notice people coming and going around me. I see someone out the corner of my eye and I happen to look up. My heart stopped. Or at least it felt like it. The man was walking toward my car, his head tilted down with a hat on. I had. Second where I thought it was Jonathan. I really thought it was him. Obviously had I not been caught off guard, I would have had the presence of mind to quickly know it wasn’t him! He looked up and that reality struck me. Ugh. He’s gone.

That might not make a lot of sense but, for a split second, things looked different.

Is There Really a Choice?

I’ll be honest, there have been several times where I truly wanted to throat punch someone who said to me that happiness is a choice. I often thought to myself, “how in the world is it as easy as saying that I choose to be happy when I feel so bad?” I have even told myself several times, “just make a decision to be happy!”

Ugh, if only it were that easy!

It didn’t matter how many times I told myself that I was going to be happy, the weight of the reality I was facing and the feelings I felt weighed more in comparison to that choice.

I finally realized though, it really is as simple as making a choice. I can wake up each day and entertain all of the feelings I am faced with, all of the thoughts floating around in my head or, I could just tell myself that none of those things matter and it was going to be a good day. Now, I might have to tell myself that very same thing 20 times in that same day but, the attitude I was choosing was much better than the alternative!

Long story short, here is what I tell myself now: “Joni, you either trust God or you don’t.” So yeah, it’s not easy but I am making a conscious decision every day to put my trust in the one who actually has a say in what happens!

One day at a time. Sometimes, one hour or even, one minute at a time.