A Master Class in Grief & Growth

I had a conversation with my children’s psychiatrist yesterday where I expressed that I want my boys to learn resilience and flexibility.

Life with Jack has already taught all of us a great deal about compassion, faith, and hope. We are slower to judge. We are better equipped to see the good in people, despite the cumbersome trappings of bad behavior. We are kinder. More patient. Softer. Humbler. Less worldly.

All of these traits are tremendous gifts.

Now that Jack’s care is delegated and he isn’t in our home, I have the time and the energy to see what my other children really need right now, at this moment, currently. It turns out that they need exactly what I myself need at this point in time: the ability to be flexible, to rise from the ashes and keep moving, to reinvent their lives when things haven’t gone according to plan.

Because, hahaha, they haven’t.

I’m focusing on having a growth mindset—on being open to learning new and possibly uncomfortable things, because I’m not naturally good at them.

Allow me to list the Things I Am Currently Learning:

  • To live in the moment. I haven’t been dwelling on past events, nor (strangely) on what’s to come. I am sort of suspended in the right now and it’s a pretty great way to live. Except that I need to write a syllabus soon and finish the back-to-school shopping so…..yeah.
  • To accept God’s will for Jack and for me. I never envisioned my life playing out this way. I have not yet totally come to terms with Jack being so disabled that I literally could no longer care for him at home. It feels very wrong to me to have my thirteen-year-old living in a group home far away, even though I know it’s right. God showed me it was right in a step-by-step tutorial of sorts, so there’s that. I know that someday everything will be right and I’ll understand why, but now I’ve got the mists of darkness thing happening around me. It’s one of those times when I see the options as a) faith or b) confusion/bitterness/being lost. I choose faith, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy path.
  • To face my grief. It hurts, but it’s supposed to. Avoidance doesn’t work. The healing path is right through all of the pain and the coming to terms with reality.
  • That all things are spiritual. This is such a deeply unpopular idea in our culture that to even raise it is like asking to be firebombed on the interwebs. *Note to people on the interwebs: Please don’t firebomb me for my laser focus on spirituality. Thank you.* But truly, I’m finding that despite our social climate which subconsciously (also overtly) says with vigor, “spirituality is ridiculous and can only maybe be considered cool/okay when it’s tied to the health food industry and non-Christian beliefs with a healthy dose of yoga thrown in,” I am here to stand on a wall and announce to everyone, everywhere that ALL THINGS ARE, INDEED SPIRITUAL. Human eyes just can’t truly see the depth of perspective affording every single aspect of the mortal world the shadows and light and contours which reveal so much more than non-spiritual views of life can reveal. We honestly can’t see our potential¬†unless we consider our lives through a spiritual (i.e. truthful) lens. Life without spirituality is a little doodle in the margins of a grocery shopping list, where life with God and divine connection is a massive, polished sculpture. This is what life with Jack, and then life without Jack, has taught me. Closing ourselves off from spirituality, and specifically Jesus Christ, essentially places us in a box with no windows, light, fresh air, or even internet. It’s isolation from understanding, from Godly connection, and from the miraculous ability to rise above the hail storm of human life on earth. I know what this feels like because, for many years when Jack was small, I didn’t see the spiritual connection in every aspect of my family’s life. I closed myself off from Jesus because I thought he wanted me to do it all myself—that it wasn’t his job to bail out inadequacy and stupidity. In the intervening years when I learned that Jesus already IS helping me, and that he’s waiting to shower me with greater power and peace when I turn to him, my life stopped feeling like a prison and began to evolve into a place of real freedom, with a stunning view of things to come. (Also, clarification: I really like yoga and I have no ill will toward healthy eaters or people who eschew Christianity, so stand down. Bless you and carry on).
  • To be gentle with myself, and to self-advocate.¬†I am, by nature, a rescuer and a people-pleaser. It’s not always the best way to live your life. Experiencing this loss of Jack from our home and our care has shown me that I can’t always be everything to everyone. When you are drowning, you have to focus inwardly before you can reach out to help anyone else. This has been a moment of maturity and a decent wake-up call for me. And it doesn’t mean I’m now really into being selfish. It means I am learning to take better care of myself so that I am equipped to help other people. It’s the essence of provident living, guys. I’m glad this lesson has materialized in my life.

Now that I’m looking back on this list, I can only say, “Wow, that escalated quickly.” This is what happens when you give yourself a writing prompt with no hidden agenda of what you secretly want to say, and then sit down and just WRITE.

Thank you, writing teachers, who taught me this.

And thank you for reading.

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