It’s been awhile since we’ve visited, you and I.
My absence was intentional; I wanted to be fully present through another May, another Mother’s Day, another Bereaved Mother’s Day as well as figuring out how to feel with everything going on in the world. My absence went into June and then subsequently into July, August, and most of September because I needed to work through the grief over the loss of our largest fundraiser for The Beautiful Scar Project that also happens to be the first public event we held in honor of Caleb’s memory. A lot to unpack there, friends.
It feels overwhelming sometimes. All the noise, the opinions, the rage, the fear, the uncertainty.
It can all feel a little too much some days so I took some time to sit with my feelings of discomfort, fear, and even search for joy among the chaos.
I checked in on my precious scars and felt around for any frayed edges I may have not paid attention to in a while. I found a few things I needed to work on; so I did.
I also took some time to sit with Scott (Hubs) and figure out what we want our new normal to look like when we emerge from this season of forced slow down. We get a choice, to some degree, about what parts of our old normal we want to bring into this new normal and what we would like to see left behind.
It reminds me of grappling with my new normal after Caleb died, minus the extreme trauma. After losing four babies we had to survey the wreckage of our lives and sift through it to find what was salvageable from our old lives and what would have to be left behind to embrace who we are now.
It’s a little like that these days. In Colorado, where I live, we are opening back up but with major boundaries in place. It feels similar to when we were learning our new normal after the babes went to heaven. We established boundaries for us to feel safe again; to feel like we had some semblance of control, even if that was an illusion. Some of those boundaries exist even to this day but most have become more flexible or even disappeared over the years as my grief journey has progressed.
Dave Hollis had a great quote a few months ago when he said “in the rush to go back to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.” SO freaking good.
Scott and I have been wrestling to define what we have come to view as essential during this forced slow down and how to bring that into our new normal. Our biggest realization from this time is that we still heavily and mindlessly rely on the survival mechanisms we cultivated after the trauma of losing our babies. Even after 9 years, we hadn’t let go of some of the things we have used to cope with the inescapable loss of our beloveds and we didn’t even recognize it until we were forced to slow down and examine our discomfort. We simply didn’t realize that those coping skills were still a part of our everyday lives; we completely missed their presence and how they manifest for each of us. Our “ah ha!” moment was that these survival skills were no longer serving us as we have carefully worked through the mending and cultivation of our beautiful scars.
The next question we had to ask ourselves was how do we trade the (not always healthy) coping mechanisms for better, healthier options now that we have shifted from survival mode to thriving mode? We decided that before the world fully reopened we needed to spend some honest and reflective time together to determine what our values are now – what parts of quarantine we want to bring with us into our new normal, what parts of our old normal do we want to still be involved in our new normal and what do we want to fall away entirely? Who are we now, we asked ourselves; what are our values and how do we want to build an intentional life moving forward?
Being self aware enough to check in on your scars, your habits and your coping mechanisms doesn’t always come naturally. In fact, we thought we had a handle on most of these things, when in reality they had never left because we hadn’t had the conversations around their continued existence. If you’re in raw grief, this work is not for you. You are simply surviving each day, feeling everything like an exposed nerve, and that’s the time when you begin to learn what survival skills you need to feel safe. It’s trial and error as you grapple with each day’s cascade of emotions. You, Dear One, are in the thick of it and survival is the name of your game.
When you move further along in your journey, checking in on those survival skills you put into place to ensure they’re still serving you in each season you encounter is wise. I tell you this as a woman who didn’t do this; we just turned a blind eye to them and woke up in quarantine during a pandemic one day to realize they were still around, all these years later.
The intentionality of spending time with your scars and determining what serves you in your current season is daunting yet refreshing. For us, we started with the questions I mentioned earlier: Who are we now? Who are we 11 years out from becoming grieving parents, 8 years out from the start of secondary infertility, 4 ½ years out from becoming certified foster parents, almost 4 years out from our first living child’s adoption, 3 years out from becoming grandparents and just over 2 years out from having our rainbow babe? Who is the sum of all of those parts?
We realized that the answers to those questions and creating an intentional life would require study, an inward examination of all the things that had brought us here and cultivated the couple and individuals that we are in this moment. We came up with values for our family along the way and concluded that we want to live life on our terms, not necessarily the way society dictates it should be done, and as the people God wired us to be. We set about doing the work of unlearning our survival skills that no longer serve us. The work is hard and requires focus and the willingness of each partner to point out when the other is falling back on an old survival skill that they no longer want integrated into their new normal.
This world right now feels chaotic and unfamiliar. But it also feels like a reset. It feels like taking the time to sit with discomfort, to honor the hard season by intentionally examining it, and to slow down and have actual thoughts and actual deep breaths instead of running at the break neck pace life has conditioned us to do feels refreshing. As I’ve done with my grief, I’m intentionally seeking out the gifts this season is bringing even thought there are so many hard things coming along with it as well. Emotions run the gamut these days and if you feel the same, you’re not alone. I’m in in with you, grappling with this ever evolving new normal as well. I see you, Grief Warriors. You are deeply loved and honored by #teamtbsp.