February is the month my parents and my husband’s parents got married.
February is the Love Month. My daughter and I went shopping today, to buy little Valentine Day things for loved ones. Later this week, My husband and I will go shopping together for Valentine Day gifts for our kiddos. It’s our tradition.
In our family, we only have to do things ‘once’ for it to somehow become a tradition. We have heard, “Dad, the last time we were here, we did (fill in the blank with a fun activity or place to eat), can we do it again? Come on—it’s a tradition!! Come on, Mom, it’s a tradition!!” And suddenly—just like that, we have a new family tradition.
Having many family traditions has helped us grieve for Sean. Sometimes, we needed to put some traditions aside. Even now, we may be in another town, where we haven’t been for a long time—and have had a tradition there that we did when Sean was alive—and those seem to be the most painful.
Traditions that we are more familiar with—we can go on with– the memories are bearable—but when the memories awoken are so fresh—somehow—they are also more real—as if Sean was still in the room, and the pain, the pain—so, so sharp.
One of the books I found most helpful to the grieving process is called, Tear Soup. My sister gave it to me after our Dad died. This book basically gives one permission to grieve—to carve time out of our busy lives, and remember, and cry, and grieve.
When my best friend died 21 years ago, this coming March, I was a young mom with young children and a baby, and I did not make time to grieve. In fact, when I put parts of her last letter in the blogs–In Her Own Words, and In Her Own Words, Part II,— I spent time, grieving and grieving and grieving. I went to her gravesite once with a friend after she died and never revisited it, in part because I don’t know how to get there, but in greater part because it was so painful going the first time, I did not want to experience that pain again.
To be quite honest, I avoid pain. Which means in my past, I have avoided people who have reminded me of great pain, or places that remind me of great pain. I don’t think I am alone in doing this. When I recounted the story of the friend who stopped being my friend after Sean died in the blog Masks—I think that she may have done this in part, because being around me reminded her of her own loss of my son, and she was trying to avoid pain.
However, when one loses a child, one can no longer avoid pain. Pain is apart of my daily wardrobe. I have learned to hang out with pain. I have learned to give myself permission to grieve, and so finally 21 years later—my grief for my friend is so, so fresh, so alive—because what I could not face all those years ago, I can face now.
So, what’s encouraging about this letter. Well, maybe you are like me, maybe you avoid pain, and the people and places that trigger that pain. Maybe, you don’t even realize that you are doing that.
I am here to let you know, that if you love, you will eventually lose a person you love, and you will grieve. If you avoid the grief, it will wait for you, it may even back up on you, but eventually—you will grieve. I pray that you will find what I have found in the grief—freedom to remember—freedom from the fear of the pain—freedom to enjoy that person and the gifts they brought to your life once again. Freedom to give your heart to them, knowing they are still and always will be a safe keeper of your heart.
Maybe February will be a love month, for all the loves of our lives—the ones who have gone on into eternity and the ones that remain with us today. May we celebrate all the loved ones, with whom we have been blessed. And may we be encouraged–even if it is being encouraged to grieve, because grief is a gift of love.