Last weekend, Shutterfly offered 50% off hardcover photo-books and, since that is the only way we ever have physical copies of our pictures, I spent most of Saturday and Sunday creating a “yearbook” of 2015. (I’m obviously a little behind. Let’s not even talk about the fact that I have nothing printed from 2010-2013…)
Going through all of those photos brought back a lot of memories. Mostly good memories, because that’s what we take pictures of, right? Smiling faces. Vacations. Happy moments. Family. And it’s good and right that we remember those times.
But as I carefully picked through the pictures, I was very aware of how many moments were not pictured. How much heartache was not captured.
2015 was the year that we moved from Denver to Minneapolis.
2015 was a year of change. Of grief. Of mourning.
The beginning of 2015 was full of hope and excitement, but the pain set in fast for me as I began to realize how much I would miss my friends and our church. But it wasn’t until after we moved that I saw how painful it would be for my family.
Everyone wears their grief differently. I cry. I’ve learned to let myself cry, because if I don’t cry I know I implode and then explode. So I’m pretty predictable, but I am still learning how my kids grieve.
Jack was more aware of the change than Ben was. That’s the difference between 6 years old and 3 years old. Jack cried as we pulled away on his last day of school in CO. He talked about missing his friends. He expresses things outward. I am grateful, because I know exactly what he is thinking. He has spoken about his friends, how he can’t remember what they look like. How he can’t remember their names. It’s so painful to see him hurting.
But then there is the quiet 3 year old. What can a 3 year old even understand of such change? At first all seemed well. We moved in with my parents and I think it was just like another vacation for him. But then we bought our house, moved out of my parent’s basement, and he started a new school. I think that’s when it hit. He was angry a lot. He regressed with potty training a lot. Think every month. He screamed. He threw tantrums. I honestly didn’t know why for so long. But of course 18 months later I know, it was the change of it all.
Our marriage had rough patches, too. I will let Tim speak for himself of what it was like for him, but we both lost our support systems. We both lost our communities. And at times I felt as if our marriage took a hit that I didn’t know if it could recover from. Oh, we weren’t going to separate or anything like that – but sometimes relationships limp along. Not quite crippled, but not healthy. Just getting by.
On December 31st, 2015, I kissed that year of change goodbye. I was weary of it.
This past year we settled in. “Jack’s” school. “Ben’s” bus. “Our” neighborhood. These things are not just what we do or where we happen to live anymore. They now belong to us. They suit us and we are at home in them now. 2016 was a very different year than 2015.
But 2015 had to happen for 2016 to be.
(I sigh even reading these words. So cliche, Leah.)
Yes, but also true.
Because of the tantrums of our 3 year old and seeking out help for him to cope, we now have a variety of teachers and aides on our side to help him learn how to function through life with special needs we have discovered he has. I don’t think we would have known this important part of our son if it weren’t for the change. But now we all have help and he is going to thrive.
Because of the grief I went through, crying when necessary, pulling away socially to care for myself, slowly allowing myself to adjust to our new surrounding, I have been able to invest in the community where we live. I am a Table Leader for MOPS this year. I have been able to get to know the neighbors on our alley. I have made friends through Women’s Walk with Christ and am actually learning how to reach out to people when I need people – because they have welcomed me here, too!
And even though our marriage limped along for awhile, Tim and I have each continued to seek health and wholeness. To seek healing, both as individuals and as a couple. Marriage is not easy – right? – but I’m so grateful for it and so grateful for Tim. I can’t imagine going through all of these changes without him.
I think Jack was the most resilient of all of us in the end. He still misses his friends, but he made new ones quickly. I’m learning to share my needs the way my son does. Out loud. With all emotion. Vulnerable. Messy. Honest. It’s tough to witness, but in not holding anything back he has been able to fully engage in life. I respect that kid a lot.
I know many people were happy to be rid of 2016. With reason. Such excellent reasons. I guess I write this, because I’ve been there. I understand. It is so wonderful that our days have markers when we can start over. Kiss a day, a week, a season, a year goodbye without looking back.
I didn’t think I could look back. But I’m glad I did, because here is what I see: We survived. I don’t know your circumstances, but I believe you can too. We keep going in life not because we have to, but because we are not alone. We may choose the independent route, but even then God is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He alone is faithful.
If hope seems distant. If pain seems to be the only constant. Please know, I have been there. You are not alone. Never ever alone. And one day, I pray that you can see that you can survive hard things, too.
Until then, I pray for you,
May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. -Psalm 20:1