The Christmas season (which starts with Thanksgiving in my opinion) is probably my favorite time of the year. There are bright colors, happy songs, and presents. And my love language is Gifts, so any holiday season that includes giving and receiving of gifts is top notch.
But this is also a time of year that is hard for a lot of people. Maybe it’s someone who has passed away this year. Maybe it’s a job that was lost or financial struggles. Maybe it was a relationship that was broken.
I’ve been reflecting on how this Thanksgiving has been for me and I wanted to share with you a little window into what I’ve learned about grief this year.
I learned that grief manifests in different ways. In the moment, I didn’t even identify it as grief, but it was. Everything was heightened. There were moments I felt depressed and anxious. I felt guilty when I wanted to be alone when I felt overwhelmed or when I wasn’t very social. I got to see a lot of my family that I don’t get to see very much, but a lot of the time, I didn’t know what to say or how to start a conversation. I’m so thankful for my family who has been praying and is so understanding. Despite myself, we had such great visits with everyone.
My feelings were raw and exposed. There were moments of anger. In fact, Michael and I had a very lively disagreement (ok, a fight) towards the end of the week that we worked through with grace and a whole lot of listening to each other (of course, this was days after the fight happened, but it was a process). We definitely grew as people and closer to each other. It was uncomfortable and hard, but I’m very blessed to have a man who is willing to work through the hard and uncomfortable.
I also learned that grief triggers in different ways. I learned that young infants crying are a serious trigger for me during these heightened days of grief. Somewhere along the line, Michael learned that too. One day this month, we were somewhere and a baby started crying. Michael was across the room, but he stopped what he was doing and looked at me (we were doing different things at the time). I nodded to him, and we left shortly after. Someday, I hope that this won’t be as triggering as I really do love babies, but for now, it is. So we are just aware of our limitations.
Last year, we were just grieving the first anniversary of my first daughter’s stillbirth, and the days leading up to it were harder than the actual day, itself. This year, the anniversaries were harder. Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving was my second daughter’s due date. When I woke up that morning, that was the first thought that entered my head. I felt it. I cried in the shower that morning. That Saturday was the second stillbirth day of my first daughter. I cried that day, too, which surprised me. I wasn’t as ready for that as I thought I would be.
I learned that it’s okay to have conflicting feelings at the same time, which I talked about in the video I posted the Friday after Thanksgiving.
I had moments of happiness as we built memories together just as much as I was sad that my daughters weren’t there physically with me in those memories.
The biggest lesson I took away from this experience is that I’m not alone. I have amazing people willing to walk through the hard stuff with me and extend grace and space when I need it. Even when I fear the wind and the waves, God is still right there with me. I can be in my grief and still say I am blessed.