This morning my Facebook memories reminded me that seven years ago today was my bridal shower. Seven years ago I was preparing for my wedding day. Last weekend was spent doing the same thing with my sister. In just two months, she’ll be getting hitched to a very special man. I’ve been calling him Bro for a while now but soon it will be official! 😀
As I looked through the pictures of my bridal shower, a few things stuck out to me. First, the pure joy on my face and on the faces of the ones who were there with me. Those pictures captured a Michelle fully living in the moment, completely filled with joy. Secondly, it made me look at myself today. So very much has changed in those seven years. I’ve gone from single to engaged to married to widow. I’ve experienced great joys and deep sorrows. I’ve changed so much, matured even more, and have learned to love myself for all of it.
I’d be lying if I told you this has been easy. It hasn’t. It’s been a difficult walk at times but it has been the right path for me. I sit here trying to think back to what I was thinking seven years ago. How I felt. Who I was. But I can’t. I don’t remember her very well and I believe that is on purpose. It keeps me from judging my past actions and self too harshly.
All of the wedding preparations for my sister have been a great blessing. I’m so happy to see her and her fiancé embark on this journey of marriage together. In all of the preparations and festivities, cold hands of grief have coming clawing at my heart. If you remember or if you’ve read How I Learned to Shine Again, you will note that I was blessed to be a part of my best friend’s wedding in the months leading up to Chris’s death and just a few short weeks after his passing, I stood beside her at the altar at her wedding ceremony. God gave me such grace and strength on that day, I’m so very thankful for that. It is the only way I was able to set aside the pain over the sudden end of my marriage while celebrating the beginning of hers.
It’s irritating at times how grief can snake in like this. In the midst of happy planning for my sister, the weight of sadness pulled me down. All of those lies that grief whispered in my ear before returned. It tried to push on me old feelings, old lies about who I am and how my heart will always be marred by the scars of this loss.
You’ll always be damaged. No one will ever want you. You’ll always be alone. You’ll never have your family. You don’t belong.
Those nasty words echoed through my spirit. Then in typical grief fashion they were followed by feelings of guilt.
Why can’t you be happy? You’re such a horrible sister that you can’t get past this. You could be doing so much more for her right now. You’re the worst sister ever.
Thankfully after being jarred from the unexpected return of all of these feelings, I grabbed my coping tools and climbed out of the hole. First, I prayed and prayed and prayed and then prayed some more. Praying helps me untangle my emotions. In asking God what is going on with me, I find myself being guided to the truth. Secondly, I use all of the tools I learned in counseling. I allow myself to feel sad, recognize the cause of my sadness, and work through the unbalanced thinking that the grief episode has thrown me into.
I confess it can be incredibly difficult to get past the feeling that my life will never change. I look around and everything seems to be more of the same. Still single. Still the same routines. It really isn’t but that’s how it FEELS. This is when I rely heavily on my secret circle of friends to help me reset my thinking. Then I take a moment to recognize one of the greatest constants in our lives is change. Our lives are always changing. Sometimes too slowly, sometimes too quickly, but they change regardless.
Reflection on our past is important. It provides us some evidence of how we have changed. Just like I can’t remember the Michelle at her wedding shower (her feelings, her fears, her plans) in seven more years I won’t remember the Michelle I am today. I will (with God’s grace) look back on the Michelle of this day and say you had no idea the trials and triumphs ahead and how they’d shape you and yet here you are doing things you couldn’t imagine, living a life better than you’d planned, and thriving in the storms of life.
One thing I do know about Michelle of yesterday, she had no idea how many people would watch, learn, and find comfort from her struggles. She thought she was just a part of the crowd. She had no idea how special she was. She believed she was “just Michelle.” But she was really wrong about that or rather I was incredibly wrong about that. (Too much third person talk happening in this post. LOL!)
What is true for me is true for you too. You and I, we are so much more than just “insert name.” We are each made with a unique set of gifts and a significant purpose. We are here in this moment, living and breathing with a purpose only we can fulfill. You are so very important to this world, even if you don’t feel like it. Feelings are fleeting and to quote my late husband, “feelings are stupid” cause sometimes they make us believe far-fetched lies.
Live today. Take your breath with purpose knowing you are worth far more than you could ever imagine. Yesterday has passed. Tomorrow is coming. Today is now. Be present in the present. It is a gift beyond measure.
This is just a little confession that grief still gets me down at times. No matter how much I’d rather not be, I am human. I fall. And sometimes I’m wrong. The worst thing we could ever do is hide away our struggles, because there is strength and healing to be found in our stories—for ourselves and for others.
Love, Hugs, & Sunshine,