I call it the gauntlet—November, December, January, February—months packed with landmines of birthdays and holidays, culminating in the anniversary of That Day. As I stand at the threshold of the gauntlet, I’m working through my strategy for jumping hurdles, scaling walls, climbing ropes, and wriggling through the mud of this obstacle course until we get to the other side.
It’s our second year facing the gauntlet. Last year, we made plans to simply not be home on the holidays. It worked out beautifully. We had a wonderful, memory-making train ride and visit to the Grand Canyon last Thanksgiving, and for Christmas, we were in San Diego. Our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her, though tinged with the sadness of her absence, were actually surprisingly refreshing because of the unique things we did.
But this year? We’ve already spent our travel budget, so we can’t do the big things we did last year, but I think we’ll be okay with staying home. We have to get used to it sometime. Might as well face it. Undoubtedly, we’ll have some moments of sadness and shed some tears, but I think our grief has stabilized enough that we can get through it. We’re looking at November birthdays and Thanksgiving with friends around us. How thankful we are for our friends! The November portion of the gauntlet run is looking tolerable. We can do it!
December, I’m a little concerned about. If you know me, you know I love the Christmas season! The decorations, the tree, the lights, the music, the traditions! This was Jeanette’s favorite season too, and our traditions revolve around all the things we loved. So, December will be bittersweet. Tears may come. But, I refuse to let grief steal the joy and wonder of things we’ve always loved so much! I shake my fist in the face of grief, and cry out, “You will not steal my Christmas!”
Come January and February we’ll face the two hardest days of all, her birthday, and then, three weeks later, the day of her heaven-going, or That Day, as I refer to it. Parents shouldn’t have to mark their child’s birthday and the anniversary of That Day on a calendar. It’s just not right! It shouldn’t be! And, yet it is.
I have discovered that this-thing-that-shouldn’t-be IS for a lot of people. I was never aware before of how many parents face a That Day anniversary every year. How do we do it? How do we get through it? For us, it’s our trust in God and the strength He gives, and it’s our great friends who stand by us and cry with us and remind us to have hope. For me, it’s also an inner defiance against the darkness of grief. Just as I shake my fist and deny grief to steal my Christmas, I won’t let it steal my hope in every day. I won’t let grief steal my belief that God is good, and life is good, and there are still people and a purpose to live for.
As I stand before the gauntlet of 2015, I accept that tears may come. Tears are simply love that leaks out of our eyes. As much as I defy grief to steal my joy, I embrace the bittersweetness of grief. That bittersweet taste is a reminder of the depth of love too precious to be forgotten, love that's worth the price of grief.
As you can see, there are two sides to grief. It can be a pit of darkness that sucks all the goodness from life. Or, grief can be a stairway to a strength we never knew we had. The choice of which path to take determines how we make it through the gauntlet.
Sara Faith Nelson
Sharing the journey, because, I find there are so many others making the trek through life without a loved one