New Year’s Resolutions aren’t really my thing and I’ve picked a Word of the Year before but didn’t end up seeing it through. Throughout 2020 I felt very off balance, as I’m sure much of the human race did as well. Grief, trauma, the pandemic, moving to a new house and relearning how to live after child loss took a toll on me mentally, spiritually, physically and, obviously, emotionally. When the Word of the Year posts started coming around at the end of 2020 I couldn’t shake the word balance, so I wrote it in my journal and made a commitment that that’s what my word of the year for 2021 would be. I needed to find balance in grief and joy, anger and peace, anxiety and contentment, many questions and few answers. I wanted to find balance in parenting my living children and my desire to keep my child in Heaven relevant in my everyday life. I needed to find balance between my commitment as a wife and my individual grieving self. As I reflect back on 2021, I think I did pretty well with my purposeful decision to find balance in my life.
Reflections From My 2021 Word Of The Year: Balance
Grief and Joy
Anger and Peace
This is a tough one, especially in the early days and months of grief. With any type of loss it is easy to let anger consume you. Early on, my anger was directed solely at God…How could he let this happen? Why didn’t he stop it? Why didn’t he intervene somehow? Because I had a great team of Christian supporters, they spoke truth into me constantly and reminded me that God is life not death, that he heard my every cry, scream and yell and that he weeps with us over the death of our son. I couldn’t be talked out of being angry, but I listened to every word and every truth that was spoken to me as I processed my way through the anger. God is bigger than me and my circumstances and he can take whatever I throw at him. I know he is good and I still trust him, but I was so angry over the death of my son! In my experience the more I talked about, wrote about and allowed the anger to move through me, the more peace that settled in. I don’t have a definite time frame to share, but the anger towards God did subside. It also came and went in waves and phases of being directed at other people and things. Nothing can be changed that is not faced. Acknowledging anger, processing it and letting it go takes patience, time and practice. I’m no expert in the matter, but I can tell you that 29.5 months after the death of my son, I hold a lot more peace inside of me than anger.
Anxiety and Contentment
My mind wanders, thoughts are everywhere and anxiety can be very overwhelming, so tending to it gently helps me not to be debilitated by it. Learning and putting into practice grounding, breathing and meditation practices have helped me manage it and feel more content, than anxious. One of the tools I use to help me manage it is medication, and I can tell a big difference when I don’t take it. I wish I didn’t have to rely on it, but I trust the time will come when I feel comfortable to let it go. I feel I managed anxiety a lot better in 2021, than I did in 2020. Willingness to manage it and experience I had gained also played a part in helping me balance it.
For a little more information on this subject, here is a post I wrote about coping with grief and PTSD: https://ajourneyforcaleb.org/myabcsofcoping/
Many Questions and Few Answers
Caleb took his life without any warning, suspicion or inclination at all. He didn’t leave a note, send a text or make a phone call and his toxicology report was squeaky clean. He didn’t leave behind a single answer or reason as why he entertained the thought, made the steps and followed through with an action to end his life. On Monday, August 12, 2019, he went to school, hung out friends, worked out, played video games and died. It’s absolutely incomprehensible and moving forward without answers has been extremely difficult. The only answers I can rest in is that the was overwhelmed with the stresses of beginning his Senior year in high school and had made a few choices that he was ashamed of. The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy and he lied and manipulated Caleb into an action at his weakest and lowest moment. I have been able to let the guilt and need for answers go, but it did not come without a lot of counseling and grief work. It’s not an answer, but finding rest in who I know Caleb is, that he did not want to die and that he loved his family and friends with his whole heart, is a much healthier place to be then constantly searching for and needing answers that I will never get. As a result of a grief work, I also came to the reality and understanding that even if someone knocked on my door and told me that they knew why Caleb took his life, it wouldn’t change anything. He would still be in Heaven and I would still be here without him.
Mother and Bereaved Mother
To some this may seem strange that I have a need to balance these two roles but to anyone who’s gone through the devastating loss of a child, this is understandable. I am and will always be Caleb’s mom…that did not stop because he died. When I’m asked how many children I have, I will always say 3. My bond with him continues in his death, he is and will always be part of the family. In the first 4-5 months after Caleb died I wasn’t very present as a mother to my daughters. Finding the balance between parenting them and wanting to keep Caleb’s memory alive was much like a seesaw experience. One day I was up and able to be present for them and the next I was down and laid in his bed for hours crying. Once my website went live, my first blog was published and my nonprofit organization was started, I had a place to express myself and somewhere to put my pain and use it for good. It goes without saying that my daughters take priority, but I feel closer to Caleb when I have time and attention to put into my writing, sharing and nonprofit work.
Marriage and Individual Grief
I recently published this post: https://ajourneyforcaleb.org/thetruthaboutmarriage/ to share our journey of how child loss has changed us individually and as husband and wife. We did balance this a little better in 2021, but it’s going to take a long time to even it out. Going through such a traumatic experience changes you in ways you can’t explain. There are phases of moving forward and phases of being stuck, but we’re both committed to healing individually and as husband and wife.
I hope you enjoyed my reflections of 2021 and how I made daily purposeful decisions to find balance in my life. Maybe New Year’s Resolutions aren’t your thing either, but a word of the year to keep you focused, grounded and working towards something to better yourself…well, you can’t go wrong with that.
Did you have a word for 2021? I’d love if you shared your experience with me!