Grief changes over time. It lessens. The edges soften. There’s the occasional punch of sorrow that feels like shards of glass nestled around my heart, making it hard to breathe. Those moments come less frequently now. The ache of loss and the trauma we’ve experienced are real. They are always present. Tears spring forth unexpectedly at times. It’s okay when they do. I’ve learned to embrace the moment and feel the loss. I’m not running from the pain or tucking it away to deal with later. But I’m not overwhelmed by sorrow that threatens to take me under as I walk this path of grieving either.
It’s only been six months since our daughter took her life in an irrational moment of desperation. It feels like it’s been longer, a more distant memory—and at the same time it often feels like it just happened.
Memories of that night replay in my mind
I can still see the blue and red flashing lights in the dark, bouncing off the buildings around me from the police vehicles. My hand covering my face as I sob when the kind police officer tells me she’s gone and he’s very sorry for my loss.
The horror of calling my husband while he was away on a business trip, waking him from a deep sleep with this most awful news of our lives. Crying with our eldest daughter and son-in-law in the parking lot where my baby girl’s body lies just yards away. Answering questions from the officers and the medical examiner.
The dear friends that met me at my house after midnight and stayed with me all night until James could get on a plane and get home. Making call after call in the morning, delivering this tragic news over and over again. Hearing the heart-wrenching cries of those who loved her too.
The flood of volunteers that came to our house to make the homeschool convention happen the following week. The community of people that rallied around us. The prayers and kindness and care that sustained us.
Loss and grief are part of our story
Tragedy struck June 29, 2017. This is part of the fabric of our family’s story now. But life continues. We are still here. Living, loving, working, serving. We spend time as a family. We enjoy our precocious grandson. We deal with the mundane, the usual things of life. Some still carry a sting. Grocery shopping has been hardest for me, but it’s getting better.
New challenges and difficulties arise. Things we feel equipped to handle and those we don’t. We face them and we press on. Blessings and things that bring joy come, too. We value them and we pay attention to how much good there is—even now.
We pause more and really look at one another. There is more gentleness, more grace. We notice the sweetness more. We see God’s goodness and His faithfulness.
We will always miss her. There will always be a giant hole left by Alex’s absence. We will remember her and share memories with one another, laughing over the funny things, wishing she were here to make more memories with. Always aware that she should be here with us. But we are grateful, so very grateful, that she was part of our family and also that she isn’t in pain anymore.
We are not without hope
The enemy did not get the victory. Depression and death did not win. Our beautiful, vivacious, kind-hearted, remarkable daughter is free, and whole, and healed, and restored. She is safe in the arms of Jesus—and so are we.
I wish I could choose a different reality for those of us left behind, but we don’t get a vote. This horrific experience cannot be undone. I wish I could erase this pain for all of us.
What I can do is honor her life by living—and living well. Not consumed by sorrow and grief. Joyful. At peace. Allowing God to heal my heart and my mind, tenderly comforting me. My identity is not grief. My identity is in Him and He is my peace.
These are the thoughts I have with Christmas just days away. She should be here, but she isn’t.
So what do we do? We celebrate and we remember.
“Weeping may endure a night, but joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5
Alex and Hartford
I love these pictures from last Christmas of Alex with Hartford when he was just 15 months old. He will grow up without his Auntie Alex, which is a tragedy all in itself. But we will tell him about her. He will know her through us.