See the Booklist page I’ve added to the menu with a list of books I recommend to others. (click here)
A reminder of the stages of grief according to Wangerin’s, Mourning into Dancing:
- Act 1: Shock
- Act 2: Fight
- Act 3: Sadness and despair
- Act 4: Acceptance
In the telling of my story of grief I’ve reached November, 2002, about seven months after Jennifer’s death. Last week’s post explained Act 4, and yet the story returns to Act 3. Truly coming to Acceptance was a long time coming. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays had yet to come, and I knew they held landmines for me.
Imagine walking through a field and knowing that buried beneath the surface were an unknown number of explosive devices. That’s how I felt on many days. When a memory would explode in my face, sadness and despair surfaced. I’ve written in an earlier post about the big explosion near her birthday (“What’s A Mother to Do?“). Serious depression pushed me flat on my back. My journals pick up the story after November 17 and tell how it felt to be in emotional swings of numbness, depression, sadness, and distraction.
Nov. 23, 2002 (a few days after a doctor visit and a prescription for depression)
Able to teach the rest of the week and went swimming on Friday. I can’t tell if the medicine is working. I’m a little shaky in the morning. Thursday this week the depression hit me again after school. The power went off for an hour, so the distraction helped. Thank you God for days I’m not in the pit.
Dec. 2, 2002
Survived Thanksgiving without despair. (We went to Kansas to be with Larry’s family.) The trip was a distraction, seeing extended family members. When we came home I made sure I did not let my mind go to the memories of last Thanksgiving. Even buying groceries reminded me of her favorite foods. With our brisk cold weather, I’m reminded of making soup to have ready when Josh and Jennifer came for the weekend.
Courtney’s wedding (Jennifer’s roommate) was in December. Larry videotaped it, Josh was a groomsman, and Jennifer was to be maid of honor.
How I missed her. All the guys together, clowning, having fun. Josh escorted me in and took me out as he would have escorted Jennifer. The program had Jennifer listed as maid of honor and a short tribute to her. The hole in my heart aches as this is now the second wedding she was to be in — good friends to both girls.
Yesterday I just couldn’t make it to church. Emotional times drain my energy. I just vegetated on the couch all morning. Very low during the day. Any sentimental Christmas song or story sets me to crying. I cry out to God to relieve this pain and comfort me.
A woman calls from Kansas. She lost her daughter recently in a car accident. I talk awhile but ended it when I began to tire. The things I used to do – give advice, listen to a hurting soul, just overwhelm me. I feel empty with nothing to give.
Christmas break, 2002
The last week of school kept my mind off Christmas, but Friday on the way home I was so sad. Anticipation of Christmas at our house just isn’t there.
Last December (2001) my brothers and I planned a Christmas family reunion to Gulf Shores with as many children, spouses, and grandchildren as possible. We rented a large house right on the beach; as Christmas neared, I was so glad to have a plan for getting out of town. Jennifer loved the beach, as I do; we made trips there as a family, and she went several times with friends or on retreats.
Dec. 23, 2002
The weather changed almost every hour. We had tornado watches, strong wind and huge waves during the night. The sky would darken and an oil derrick out in the gulf would disappear. Then the sky would clear with a brilliant sun. We took many walks on the beach looking for shells.
Wednesday, Dec. 25
Today the sea is so calm that even with my open window I can’t hear the waves on the beach. Some of our group will leave tomorrow and the rest will leave on Saturday. We have the traditional turkey and ham for our Christmas dinner.
Friday, Dec. 27
Shopping with sister-in-laws and meeting the guys for dinner at a fish food place. In the midst of family I suddenly feel tears welling up. Something just grabbed me and asked, “How can the vibrant daughter be gone?”
Home again, get a stomach virus, stay in bed for two days. I soon realize that the trip to the beach just pushed away those sad, sad moments for most of the time I was there.
Any memories of Christmas remind me of a tradition for many years when Jennifer and I put up a big artificial tree. The last few years we went as a family to pick out a fresh tree, but Jennifer and I still did the decorating. This year I could not get out one ornament — each ornament is a memory. I could not face them. I wonder how it has been for Josh. One year ago Christmas night he gave Jennifer her engagement ring.
Jan. 1, 2003
Wept all day, even when we ate out at a restaurant. Larry’s greatest gift to me now is that he never complains when this sadness comes. He just lets me “be” and that seems to be what I need. I had no energy all day, watched decorating shows.
Jan. 2, 2003
Energy level back up to normal. Did lots of work on grading papers, cleaned house some, cooked ran errands, talked to a couple of friends.
Where does this energy come from? Thank you God for days like this.
Jan. 3, 2003
Began reading My Utmost for His Highest this month. Yesterday and today’s entries ask the questions that I’ve been asking: “What are going to do God?” Chambers says He will never tell me; He reveals who He is to me. God speaks to me; not by visions and dreams, but by words.
Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)
The Word became flesh and lived among us. We have seen His glory from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The trip to the beach is a treasured memory because it felt like days of healing. My pictures (amazingly) show how beautiful the beach was in the winter. I’ve used these pictures many times since in my classroom. I even set up a beach corner for independent reading with students lying on beach towels.
Counting these joys during some dark days in my life:
- a few days at the beach with family who knew how to give me their silent support
- days of energy scattered among the days of lethargy
- my journals that gave me a place to cry out to God
- words recorded in these journals to help me pull out memories of feelings ten years ago