Tomorrow marks the 2.5 year point. 30 months since Greg died.
I'm sitting less than 10 feet from where he took his last breath and it still seems surreal.
I don't feel like I have profound things to say, but I want to record what life and grief feel like today, because I know that I will likely forget this season of grief as I move on to others. I also know that I will have moments where I feel stuck in my grief and I will need to look back and see how far I've really come.
I've learned some things in these past 30 months. The biggest is that grief is so different on the inside than it looks on the outside. Our societal expectations of grief are completely wrong and the way we handle it (read: ignoring it) leaves us so unprepared for grief's reality.
In the first months after Greg died, I felt like I had been grieving for YEARS. It was like every muscle, ligament and neuron in my body was grieving. It took over all of me and each day felt like a lifetime to get through. It felt much like the early days of parenting a newborn - time changed, everything was disorienting and it took tremendous amounts energy and emotion to get through just 24 hours. Back then I looked ahead to a few months out and thought surely then I'll start to heal and feel like myself again. When that didn't happen, I looked further out and then further and further... but that magical time never came. It took well over a year for me to realize that this grief thing wasn't going away. In fact, it had only just begun.
I started sharing about grief because I needed to go pubic with it for my own sake. I felt so much pressure from myself and from our cultural norms to be okay at 1 year, and then even more so at 1.5. Since my son and I seemed fairly okay from the outside people assumed we were okay. Maybe they thought coping means thriving. Maybe they thought laughter means the end of grief. Whatever it was, it was wrong - we were anything but okay. Yet he was in school, I was working, and there was food on the table. Somehow it looked like we were over grief and over Greg. Going public with my grief has helped me a lot. It's enabled me to be honest and to be less afraid that people will see me feeling happy and think I'm all good. It's given me the freedom to carry my grief with me - not just way down deep inside.
That was a year ago and we are more okay today than we were then. There's been deep processing and "grief work" - a term I've come to appreciate because real grieving takes intentionality. Grief and healing don't happen automatically, and they can't happen through avoidance. But in our society it is so easy to numb pain of grief and lots of people do. There are a ton of ways to do so: travel, adventure, over-eating, under-eating, relationships, shopping, social media, busyness, work, sports, alcohol, drugs... that's just the tip of the iceberg. And there have certainly been times - many, many times - that I have chosen to numb. But I've also chosen to do the work of facing grief and all its awfulness head-on and to help my son do the same.
You would think that by now I'd be done grieving. I'm not. I doubt I'll ever be. Our life keeps changing, we keep changing, and grief comes along with us every step of the way. There are things I have processed many times, and others (such as the day he died) that I've barely been able to force myself to think about. There is much left to work through. There are many more ways that his death will have to be faced. At some point I will likely move out of the home we lived in together. At some point I will have to face his belongings again and decide what to do with the rest of them. These are both huge looming "grief mines" that I know are coming. Yet there's more grief to be faced in the normal day to day too. Every day I have to raise our growing son alone, charting territory with him that would be best charted with his dad. Gosh do I miss his dad.
2.5 years out, grief is a part of every single day. Most days, it doesn't knock me out. Most days it is like a quiet hum in the background: places or things that remind me of him; wanting to tell him about something that happened but he's not here; having to do something on my own that he would've done himself. Other days the missing, the loneliness, and the permanence of his absence overwhelm me.
I wish I could count how often I think of him each day. It would probably shock people that he is rarely far from my mind.
Around the 2 year point I had to face the reality that he was just not coming back. I know it's strange to say, but grieving people get it. Still today it seems more likely that Greg will show up one afternoon and sit in his chair, playing his favorite game on his android tablet and drinking his favorite drink out of his favorite jar than it does that he will never show up again. I know it in my mind - he is gone. It's been a long time since he was here. But it also feels like he was here yesterday and might just be back tomorrow. Grief, in that way and so many others, is weird.
The passage of time has taught me that I need to move forward with my life. I have to make decisions that fit me and my son - not that fit the family of three that we used to be. Since we built our lives together, this has been hard to face. I'm still not sure where I'm going but I'm tiny little steps into the unknown and choosing to keep living.
Greg fought hard to live and in a different way I am doing so too. He had to fight a failing heart - I have to fight one that is broken. But just as he left it all out on the field and loved us well to the end, I want to do the same. I want to see him again someday with the Lord and tell him that I kept going - for Jesus, for our son, and for myself. That I spent the extra years that God gave me well.
But before I tell him any of that, I just want one of his big, warm hugs.