Right now I feel full to bursting with gratitude – I have just had the most amazing holiday, seeing a gorgeous part of the world and having precious time with family and friends. I have also started a new job which in the first two days has had me on the verge of tears on so many occasions because I have felt overwhelmed with people’s kindness, their welcome and their words of encouragement, as well as inspired and excited to be part of an amazing work – in two days there feels like there has already been some healing of the crap of the last 6 months that was the legal world. I am thankful to God for his perfect timing, for his amazing provision of an opportunity which feels so right and so life giving.
I feel blessed and life feels good and exciting and there is so much to be thankful for, overwhelming amounts, but it feels like this time has been a long time coming – 8 years to be exact. Since John died I have lost count of the number of people who have told me I am doing amazingly, which has meant a lot, but the truth is that there has been a really ugly side to my grieving, a side I am not proud of and fortunately a side which is now long finished. However, in those first few years I went through periods of real bitterness and of self-pity. I got good at putting a front up so most people would not see it but behind closed doors I would blow up at my family, at John’s family and at my closest friends, so most people never saw it, but those that did I think I probably put through hell. I would scream and swear at them and lash out saying things I knew would hurt them because I was hurting so much that I needed to hurt someone else. I am thankful that they were patient and gracious and are still there because I have no doubt there were times when they would have happily washed their hands of me. During those times I felt anything but thankful – I felt incredibly bitter – I felt like God had forgotten me, that I did not matter to him because if I had mattered he would have protected my little family. If I am being really honest I did not even feel grateful for the basics of life that we take for granted, the things that most of us can still be thankful for, even when we face struggles in life, for health, a roof over our heads, food on the table, family, friends – because all I wanted was to die too, I did not see that there was a happy life ahead for me without John and I just wanted to go and be with him.
For a year I could not step into a church because I was so angry with God, because I just couldn’t fathom why or how or what. Why did he not step in that night and save John? How did John die of some freak illness in his prime when actually it is pretty damn hard to die at the age of 28? What sort of “good” plan was that for any of our lives and what good could possibly come out of any of it?
As I have slowly but surely emerged from the pit of my grief I have learnt some pretty important lessons about the power of being thankful and of celebration even in the hardest of times and the power and release that comes as a result. I knew that I did not want to stay in that place of bitterness, even when I was right in the centre of it and even when at times it felt like the safest and easiest place to be, so slowly I started to be thankful for the things I did have, for the people who loved me and fought for me, for a good job, for a beautiful little girl, for a home and financial security, for my health and in that place of thankfulness started to come healing – it was not instant but it was deep and thorough. When the feelings of bitterness and self-pity came I would allow myself to stay there for a bit but then would pull myself up, focusing on all that there was to be thankful for, and as the months and years went by those times of bitterness and self pity became less and less to the point where they are thankfully no more.
One of the things that was hardest for me in the early years was watching people having babies, on two counts, the first being that I knew that they had gone into the hospital together, as a couple, and gone through the experience of having a child together, with all the joy that brings, and taking that baby home together, when my experience of my child coming into the world had been so incredibly lonely and so far from what it had started off as and secondly because I did not get the chance to have more babies. Early on I knew that I had to celebrate with my friends, I made a point of being the one to organise the meal rotas, and of visiting and standing with them in their excitement and joy. I cried my tears in private and in public celebrated. Often they knew and I knew they knew but it was so important for me to share in those times with them because I love them and want good things for them but because I knew my heart would get hard and ultimately it would only mean more pain for me.
I would be lying if I said those times of the family/couple/baby issue hurting were behind me but the place I am in is so far forward from where it was 5 years ago and even 1 year ago. I still have to put those masks on occasionally but there are only a few people that see those masks go up and generally I know more contentment with where I am that I have done in a very long time. I can genuinely say that if I never have any more children then that is ok, I have one beautiful and amazing child, I love my cousins’ kids desperately, as I will any nieces and nephews I may have, and my life is full of gorgeous children, who make me laugh, who give me cuddles and make life so much better.
I have learnt the important of saying thank you, and of celebrating with others, even when that is hard, it lifts our eyes and souls upwards, it stops us being self adsorbed and stuck, it releases us and it brings healing. It reminds us that it is all so much bigger than just us and our stuff and I truly believe that whilst it may take time having a heart of gratitude, a spirit of thankfulness and a desire to celebrate leads us out of the tough places as it changes our hearts and our attitudes.
Today I am not only thankful for where I am right now, for all the good things that I have but for the journey I have been on, for all the lessons learnt, for the relationships that have deepened, grown and started. I am thankful for a husband who loved me, believed in me and cherished me and a Dad who constantly had my back, who scarified so much for me and in his own way loved me unconditionally – I am thankful that they had a relationship with their heavenly father and are now safely with him in heaven. I am thankful for all they both taught me in their lives, by loving me, but also in their illness/deaths.
Most of all I am thankful to a faithful and loving God who has picked up the pieces of my shattered life and rebuilt me patiently – still some way to go though!!