A few weeks ago someone called me to tell me some information. Information that wasn’t exactly soothing to the ears and to be honest, not exactly what I thought I’d hear.
I reacted strongly. I was angry, mad and hurt. I was also tired of the nonsense and drama I see so often since Lyd passed. Life’s meaning is so different to me now. I made a strong decision about what I had heard and then went to my children’s Christmas concert. That was that and I was over it.
The next day the same person called me back to discuss what we had talked about the day before. They said something like “your emotions are really front and center – they are very apparent.”
I knew what they meant. My emotions are heightened with the upcoming holiday and our loss of Lydia. I validated what they said as true but also made sure to point out it was ok . I responded, “yes, I know and THAT is ok. I’m aware of it and it IS ok.”
Fast forward to last night.
I’m trying to get together the teacher gifts for my kids to take to school. I’m putting our Christmas cards into the gifts and wondering if I should place the ones we are sending out…the ones that mention our memory of Lyd. I was having this internal conversation with myself about if this was proper, did it represent our children, would they think I need to “move on.” I decided Lydia and her absence is part of who we are…they were getting the card.
As I continued getting gifts together I walked down our stairs and for the first time in a long time took a long glare at our family picture. Our last one we took together as a full family of 5. Grant so young, Devin’s still looking like a little boy. Me without my bum knee. Tom with a full beard, having regretted not shaving.
And then it reminded me. My kids are growing…they are aging and Lydia will forever be 7. That picture, now a giant canvas that will hopefully be hung on the wall soon will be for that particular moment in time. But our boys…they will grow, mature – they already are.
A panic set in.
My mind went to wondering how I could have our family together again in a picture? Could we superimpose her in one of our future pictures? Could I have my photographer photoshop the boys in the one I was looking at (because hell, I’d like to stay young)? That is our last family picture and my boys are growing so quickly….what can I do?
I continued to think about it and how we could make it work. Our pictures are August of every year so I realized I have time to brainstorm. But…then I got to thinking?
Isn’t that a bit crazy? Isn’t that sort of strange? Will others wonder – can’t she let go? Imposing a dead child into a current family picture? Really?
As I’m digging through gift bags and tissue paper and wrapping gifts I’m having this imaginary court case with my imaginary jury of people I perceive as judging our grieving timetable. I hear it all the time from other grievers – there are those judgey judge people who will think AND SAY “boy, you need to move on. You need to start living your life without her, get over it.”
Then I as I mulled this over I thought “we ARE moving forward (not on, but forward). We are laughing, going out, smiling, and loving our other two children. We aren’t huddled in a ball in the corner crying endlessly and screaming out “LYDIA!”
But then I thought “would that be wrong? would it be wrong to not be able to get up in the morning, would it be wrong to cry often? Is it wrong to wear your emotions on your sleeve?”
So…I told my imaginary (very real) naysayers this:
“HELL no – no I can’t let go, I love her, miss her like crazy – she IS my child – they just don’t understand. Most I know have NEVER had a loss this big – they don’t get it.
I lost a child. I lost part of me. I lost one of the biggest and best gifts in life. I lost my teacher. The one who showed me so many wonderful things in such a short time. The one who humbled me, moved me, put the empathy where it was gone. I lost a piece of my heart because when I saw her for the first time I made room for her there. Right, deep down in the corner of my heart.”
After I finished my argument with my imaginary (and probably real) judges of grieving I jumped on Facebook. I looked at friend’s new profile picture of her full family – including her daughter that had passed. I assumed it was old – one before she died but then read the comments. The photo was recent. The mom had used photoshop to superimpose her daughter into the photo.
I smiled. Had this whole exact scenario just been one that I, myself, was thinking about? I guess God and Lydia were sending a sign. It confirmed what I thought.
I am not crazy. That is not strange. This is normal. THIS IS GRIEF OF A CHILD.
This morning my husband saw the picture I mentioned above and his first thoughts were this – “gosh…isn’t this something you do on your own but you don’t show others? I’d probably just do this and keep this private.”
I was shocked. From the man who lost his daughter? His pride and his joy. His smile at the end of the day? The girl who tore down the hard shell piece by piece into a soft, loving, caring father of a disabled girl?
He, like me, was unsure how others would think. I’m sure. And it’s sad our first reaction is to second guess how others would react.
But I had him scroll down the image to look at the comments and I asked him to read my response to the mom and I explained to him all that you’ve read and passionately said my thoughts as if back on my imaginary trial and now trying to convince the judge:
“We just miss our children and just want them back…back in our lives and back in our pictures. Is that so wrong? Why is that so bad? There is NO timetable on our grief and no one should think there is. We ARE moving forward, we aren’t crying and screaming (although we could and should), we are living our lives but it doesn’t take away the fact that we are sad, our smiles are different, our holidays have changed and life is just different without her in it and in our hearts. All of this shouldn’t matter SHE IS OUR DAUGHTER…then and now.”
I looked in his eyes that seemed to be watering and he quietly responded “you’re right.”
So take away the timetables.
Throw away the thoughts you had about death and how people should or shouldn’t act.
Because when it comes to losing someone you loved more than yourself or anything else in this world…well there is no book, rules or anything else that will guide you on how to move forward without them. You just do…in your own way. Your own time.
In loving memory of Lydia Schaeffer – the image is of the memorial tree with all the ornaments she had received while living and even some after she passed. Forever in our hearts sweet pea.