Because my world was rocked so early into the new year, it
kind of segmented 2019 in my mind. This year is the year of being a widow, less
a couple weeks. It would have been so easy to retreat, to stay home and avoid
situations where I had to interact with people, or may encounter something that
might make me emotional. I quickly realized that that was not a healthy approach
and would not help in my healing in any way. Secluding myself would only allow me
to dwell and get more sad, but putting myself out there forced me to dig deep
and find strength I never knew I had. And almost every time, it wasn’t as bad
as I thought. My mind would make me think I couldn’t handle it or that it would
be too hard.
So, I set a goal for myself early this year to run in as many states as possible. Well, it was kind of unintentional at first. The initial few months were difficult to find my footing and any sort of routine. I am very active and normally work out daily, but I was completely doubled over in shock and pain for the first few weeks.
As the weather broke a little and I felt more solid, I hit the ground running (get it?!). Running in Florida in early March gave me the idea to keep myself going. To continue to get out there and live life. I am extremely active and adventurous, and I didn’t want the death of my husband to make me retreat. And I began to realize that not only was exercising good for my body, but it was incredibly helpful at keeping me feeling good mentally. It was my therapy.
I so clearly remember doing our taxes in February and just feeling so sad and HEAVY. I got home and told me sister I needed to run, so I did. And when I got back, that heaviness I felt was significantly lighter. The sadness was still there, but I realized that endorphins are an honest and true thing. And that is medicine in itself.
I still want to enjoy and experience life, so I continued to say yes. I continued to work out and run when I could, experiencing new towns and states I was unfamiliar with. So as of today, my 2019 state run count looks like this:
So on the surface, this looks like a running challenge. But it really became more than that. To continue to experience life. To connect with nature and cultures different than what I am used to. To run with people I love (or barely know!) and get sweaty and uncomfortable. To visit new cities and meet new people. To look fear and the unknown in the face and to prove that I am strong. I am not afraid of what the future holds.
My life won’t stop because Marcus died. I did not die with
him. There is still so much to experience, and so much good to be found.
So… how many states can I add before the year is out? And who wants to run with me?!
As I was putting my youngest to bed tonight, she complained about how dark her room was, as she does every night. And every night I tell her how even though she may not like it, the dark environment is good for her. It is beneficial to help her brain relax and have a good night’s sleep. More scientifically, it helps the brain to produce melatonin which assists with the sleep cycle, among many other physical and emotional benefits. Light activates the brain. We are drawn to light naturally, as much as it is natural to pull away from the dark.
Meanwhile I am coaching myself while reassuring my child.
The darkness is good for us. It is good for me.
For a child, dark is just dark. You can’t see the benefit to it because you just don’t like it. You want a nightlight or closet light on to be able to see your surroundings. Because the unknown is scary, right? Fear. Fear of what we can’t see. And it is so easy for our brains, much like our children’s, to fabricate the scariest of visions when we aren’t sure what is around us. What is ahead of us. The present and future aren’t visible, and that in itself is petrifying.
What we envision is happening in the dark is usually far less scary than our reality. And a lot of times, we don’t even have anything to fear. Our imagination is taking flight, and we are allowing it.
If we didn’t have the dark, we wouldn’t appreciate the light. And limiting the dark isn’t really what is best for us. Trying to move away from the dark won’t let us learn or grow through it. We need to be present in the dark, experience the pain and discomfort, and grow from it. Choose to find a purpose in it. Press into it.
We don’t choose the dark, but we can control what happens with it.
The dark has a purpose, even if we don’t like it or want to experience it, the dark exists for a reason. We can resist it, or we can embrace it and appreciate it for what it does for us. Hold on to the dark and look forward to the light.
I am not a victim of my circumstances. Some crazy things have happened this year (a lot of which I haven’t shared). It is not about the circumstances, but how I respond to it. Would I rather have Marcus here? Of course. But I can’t change that. What I CAN control is what do I do from here? I will not sit here and feel sorry for myself. I know what I want for me, and for my kids, and I can make steps to get there. One step forward, one step at a time. Sometime it is barely a limp or shuffle, but it is movement. I can’t be stuck here, sitting in the sadness. Change what you can, and accept what you can’t.
I had a really interesting moment a couple weeks ago. I can talk about Marcus without crying or getting a lump in my throat at this point. I mean, of course I have my moments and bad days, but generally I am doing really well. I was driving on the way to tennis with my family and I thought of Marcus, as I do 3,895 times every day. Except, this thought felt different. I was trying to explain to a friend, without much success, but you might understand if you’ve been there. Even though I can think of Marcus and reflect on memories and be ok, it is usually with a touch of sad. Not overwhelming, just the aura. This time, it was fact. Marcus fact, not Marcus sad.
It was weird.
I know I am in a good place, that I have grieved well, but it was odd to have a different feeling. Like it was more solid, more of a fact than emotion.
I am not a therapist and I have been to counseling (please everybody go to counseling!) but it was good to be in tune to my thoughts and emotions and have another layer of healing. I didn’t realize I needed more, but here I am. I have made it through the fire. Then more fire (and then some more!) was thrown at me. And guess what? I am still standing. And I am stronger. And I miss Marcus, but I am moving forward. With him. For him. And nothing can stop me now.
The Bible tells us to care for the widow. Honestly, widows were not a people I ever really put a lot of thought into. I knew the Bible told us to care for the widow, but since it wasn’t applicable to me I never studied. Widows are old with gray hair and had been married for like 70 years, right?
Well now that I am here, having this as my reality, it means a lot more. Being a widow at 30 is definitely different that being a widow at a much older age, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult. My days are filled to the brim and I have more roles and responsibilities than I can list.
It has been amazing to see the amount of love and support for me and my family. In a time that could be discouraging or disheartening, I am reminded daily of the things I DO have. Small gestures and ones that are more grandiose, all equally as meaningful.
I shared on my Instagram a few months ago about the incredible story of our family pictures from the fall with Nicole at Nicole Baas Photography. She captured us again this summer, this time with our new family dynamic. It was painful and sad, but also healing. To dig in and fully understand and appreciate the season we are in. And having the pictures documented so perfectly and capturing each kid’s personality was so wonderful!
I wanted to say thank you, somehow, to all those people who have been so vital to our success. Finally I settled on printing a postcard with our new family picture on the front and a picture of Marcus on the back. Writing out the names of the hundreds of amazing people who have been there for us gave me even more perspective. A practice in gratitude. This isn’t the life I chose, but it is still good. And we are doing great! And our life doesn’t stop here.
“Father of the fatherless and protector of the widows is God in his holy habitation,” Psalms 68:5
Thank you for being there for us!
* If you didn’t get a postcard and should have, I am so sorry. I did my best to keep track.
(Yes, some pictures are sideways. No, I can’t figure out how to fix it. I have tried all week and lost interest. Just tilt your head sideways and voila!…)
Grieving with three young kids is tough. I have all these emotions and thoughts, but I don’t have the time or opportunity to process them. My kids are still so young at 5, 4, and 2, so demanding is an understatement. In some ways it has been a blessing because it has forced me to grieve slowly and in pieces. I simply have no option to hide away in my bedroom, draw the shades, blast me some sad music and cry the day away. I want to sometimes, but it isn’t an option. I have to be there for my kids. School dropoff and pickup, swim class, cleaning, counseling, bills, making meals and packing lunches. My life can’t stop.
The day after Marcus passed, a wonderful woman told me that Marcus would show himself everywhere. At first I brushed it off because that seems weird, right? I was so wrong. God was EVERYWHERE. One day I will share an actual list because it was so incredible, and it gave me a reason to smile when the pain was so intense and physical.
So let me tell you a story, and it has a lot of context so bear with me. A few days after Marcus passed, a friend asked if I wanted to go see For King and Country. A client had given her tickets months ago, not realizing the significance of the band for us. So for those who don’t know, that band has been a household staple for our family. My kids can sing every word to Joy, and we even played it at Marcus’ funeral. So YES, of course I want to go! But the concert was in Florida, and we live in New Hampshire. Womp womp. My sister whips out her phone, checks her airline miles, and guess who had enough miles to fly her and I to Florida for FREE?! (Well, not free, she had to pay a $22 transaction fee… also Marcus’ number, but that is part of the whole God-showing-us story!).
Fast forward six weeks after Marcus passed and my sister, her husband, and I (and Scarlett, a last minute addition!) were on an airplane for a basically free trip to the sunshine. We were headed towards the much anticipated “Jesus week,” as I would call it. We were able to stay with Marcus’ best friend and his family and spend a few days just relaxing and enjoying the sun and a break from the schedules. I knew I needed it, but I didn’t know how much! I spent hours reading, praying, pouring over our Job Bible study, and just reflecting. It was so healing. And I am so glad it worked out for Scarlett to come to because girlfriend needed a vacation too! God figured it all out so we had no excuses NOT to go.
The band was playing at Strawberry Festival in Lakeland, which coincidentally was one of Marcus and my first dates back in college. And, we had done this same trip exactly three years ago, which was so random but probably not! I am learning that nothing is really a coincidence. It was absolutely incredible. We were up front and center and I spent most of the concert sobbing while worshiping. It was just so surreal to hear these songs that had become so important to our family come to life, and their performance was amazing!
My sister and I had bought tickets for the Lauren Daigle concert in Boston forever ago, and it all worked out so we landed back in Boston Saturday afternoon, enjoyed walking and eating with some friends in the city, and experience another night of worship. God is just so good.
I am just so thankful. Life is still really hard. When I get overwhelmed and stuck in the sad, God has been so faithful to give me little hugs like this. Well, this wasn’t a little hug…this was one giant embrace! My life is so different than before. I have so many new perspectives, priorities, and worries than I ever did. But God is there and He has been, and I am confident He will continue to be. I am so glad that I was basically forced to make room and to get away. I was compelled to actually breathe, let it all sink in, have a few more teary sob fests with friends, and remember the amazing man my husband was.
This is not the end of my story, it is part of it. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds.
Also, I should note, there were quite a few parts of this trip that were way more emotional than I realized they would be. I was looking forward to the vacation, and didn’t realize how hard it would be to be in an airport without him. We always traveled together. We traveled so much these past couple years! Also we landed in Tampa, which is where we first met and began our life together. I am giving myself grace and permission to feel these emotions. They come out of nowhere, completely unexpected. But it is ok. None of this was expected. I am grieving and will always be in some way. So I hereby give you permission to acknowledge whatever it is you are going through and respect it. Life is hard, it throws you some curveballs, and we need to adapt and understand what we are feeling. Give each other grace and room to have emotions. Emotions are not a weakness.
Here are a few moments from our trip I want to remember…
There are more people than I could even list that made this trip possible and I want to thank. My mom and dad for watching the kids. Kelsey and Adam for the flights. Eric and Daynet for the lodging. My aunt Kristen for help with parking and watching Scarlett. And so many more people who made the trip even possible! So thank you. Thank you for giving me time and space away so I could breathe and take it all in and truly process it all. I am so thankful for the many amazing people in my life!