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That Old Familiar Dread

Summer is slowly turning towards autumn and I've started feeling the dread that has come with the cooling night air over the past few years. This was the time of year that Greg's health took a turn for the worse - for the final time - in 2020. Autumn, which was our favorite season and held some of our best memories as a couple, now brings back painful memories that turn my stomach. The grief I carry, and the memories that come with it, seem to intensify at this time of year.

The autumn after Greg died was dreadful - full of triggers that made me feel like I was crossing a battlefield full of hidden emotional landmines. I was walking through all the "firsts" while clinging to Jesus with the tiny bit of strength I had left, and hoping that I would somehow have the courage to wake up and face the next brutal, grief filled day.

The next fall didn't hurt as badly, but not because I missed Greg less as some might expect. In some ways I missed him more. His long absence drove me deeper into the reality that he simply would not be coming back. It's a devastating realty to face and one that takes far longer to accept than I ever could've imagined. I missed Greg terribly but I'd walked through autumn without him the year before and this time I knew where the landmines hid. No longer trying to simply survive, I was trying to find hope while sorting through the rubble of a life I used to have. I couldn't see where God was taking me and felt like I was leading myself and my son into an unknown future that I was totally unprepared for. I stumbled my way through as if in the dark. There were new and unexpected grief bombs hidden along the path, but it was the scary unknown of the future that sent me reeling. Where were we headed? Could I handle what was to come? Would Jesus continue to hold me tight? Could I really trust that I was safe in His arms?

Once again, another year has passed and September will be here before we know it. In just 4 months I will pass the 3 year mark of Greg's death and he will have been gone for 1/3 of our son's life. It is astonishing to me how much has changed and how much hasn't. Greg is as much a part of our lives as he was last year and the year before, but his presence is quieter and less obvious to observers. There isn't a day that we don't talk about him and rarely is there an hour that he doesn't come to mind. The person I am, the perspective I have, and the choices I make are all very much shaped by the 13 years I spent as his wife.

Yet time is passing and life is changing. The passage of time is one of the hardest things in grief. Each day takes you further from the life you had with your beloved. Each day forces you into a new life that must be built without them. It took a long time for me to begin taking steps away from the life that Greg and I had built together and begin to trust that God has a future for me - one that only includes Greg in influence and memory.

Each tiny step forward has been full of grief and required me to dig deeper than I ever have before. They've forced me to rely on Jesus to give me courage and strength as I face the unknown without Greg's hand to hold. Each step has given me the courage to take another.. and another.. and another. Slowly, without having any idea where God is leading me, I've begun to believe in my heart what I know to be true in my head: God has a purpose for my life on this side of Greg's death. Greg completed the work that God called Him to do, but I have not. In many ways, I may have just begun.

This fall, I'm following God into uncharted territory. God has opened the door for me to begin some new things that have me simultaneously excited, scared and overwhelmed. I'm not sure where it's all leading, but I do know that He's the one who is leading me.

I wish Greg was here for it - encouraging me, listening to my endless second guessing (with increasing frustration because that's how it would've gone down), and reminding me of the truths that I need to hear. And yet, I think I'm beginning to believe that this new season of life, and whatever God has before me, is a season that I was meant to live without Greg. That's hard to type and will be even harder to post, but I think it's true.

So here's to taking more steps forward, with shaky knees, into another autumn that is sure to be full of grief landmines. Jesus has carried me thus far. He's not going to fail me now.

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