Grief bubbles. It’s what I call when out of nowhere, something reminds me of what we’ve been through with Elena or a life expectation that died that day in November. You’re trucking along, then bam! the tears well up, the lump in your throat forms and that familiar pain in your heart shoots through you. Those familiar feelings bubble up to the surface. Sometimes they last a few minutes, and sometimes they leave me aching the rest of the day. Grief bubbles. Five and half years later, I still have grief bubbles a couple times a week at the very least. When they happen, I sometimes wonder if they will ever go away or if I will forever be reminded of the trauma of that day and the unexpected life path it set us on.
I’ve had a few more grief bubbles than normal lately. I’ve been spring cleaning and I stumbled upon an entire “grief box” the other day. It was box, that years ago, I dumped everything into. I didn’t know what to do with all the cards, pictures, hospital bracelets, pictures that our friends’ kids drew her, things the Riley Cheer Guild gave us during our stay. All of it in one box, all of it like a thousand knives into my heart at once. Making it even more painful, was that at the bottom of the box were a different set of cards and mementos celebrating the birth and baptism of our perfectly healthy, beautiful baby girl. Oh, if I could only go back in time. I, too, found the book I had made of all our old CaringBridge posts and comments from all of you. It was heartbreaking to relive those days, and even more heartbreaking to read the shock, fear and even naivete, how much our brains just couldn’t process at the time. Hi grief, terrible to see you again.
Other times, it’s seeing a little girl in a tutu off to dance class or a mother and daughter together, giggling and holding hands. Sometimes it is just talking to my own Mom, knowing the relationship she had with her Mom and that I have with her, our closeness, our friendship, realizing that it’ll be different for Elena and me. Planning family vacations, going out to dinner, school, figuring out which wheelchair to take where, therapy schedules, every day life, it’s all a reminder of our circumstances and the challenges that we will always have.
I mean I could rattle off a million things that leave me with that familiar sting. If you’ve ever dealt with grief you know, it never goes away, you just grow accustomed to living with it. And while I have come out of the dark consuming days of it, I’m coming to terms with knowing I’ll have my grief bubbles forever. They’ll likely grow fewer and less often over time, but never cease. I’m alright with that. Even though they’re terrible reminders of pain and hardship, I continue to be refined, gain perspective, understand gratitude and all the other hard earned tidbits of armor I’ve put on over the years. Sometimes, I can even be thankful for the grief bubbles, they remind me of the fire I’ve been through, how resilient I am and the beauty that comes after it all.
It makes me think of a saying that we’ve heard a lot of over the years…”God never gives you more than you can handle.” I’ve put a lot of thought into that saying, as it always felt conflicting to me. How could a loving God “give” me something so awful and heartbreaking, not only for me but for Elena? Well, I’ve come to think that God doesn’t “give” us the challenges. Awful life stuff is a result of our decisions and imperfections. What He does do, is promise to be there with you for every moment of it, steadfast, faithful, giving you the tools to navigate it. I am resilient because of my faith. I am grateful because He allowed me to see the blessings through it all. I have perspective because He allowed my heart to forgive and let go of the bitterness. All of the armor I have earned is a result of what I went through. And though the grief will always reside in a piece of my heart, bubbling up at times, bringing me to my knees, I can endure.
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