As some of you may know, I have been working on writing a book about my daughter and the grief journey I have found myself thrust into. I recently received the manuscript back from my editor and am in the process of completing the final updates and edits. It’s been during this long process I’ve had to dig down deep into the well of memories I have about Melanie. To say it’s been easy would be a total understatement.
Reliving how we got to this point has been painful, and at times, very sad. Melanie had SUD (Substance Use Disorder) and for most, this is a very misunderstood disease. With each chapter written I have found myself, in my mind, walking down small, intersecting alleyways much like you find on the streets of Venice. You never know when or if one will intersect with the other. Some of the alleyways can be very dark and other times, as you’re walking the tiny cobblestone streets, out of nowhere you find yourself looking up into the most beautiful, bright, colorful piazza! Just magnificent!
Writing this book about our life reminds me of those alleyways – the dark and winding parts that lead up to the day Melanie died, and the beauty of her life intertwined within. When you have a loved one whose life has been taken over by SUD, there are many, many dark moments. Yet, that was only a fragment of who Melanie was. Melanie was so much more than the girl who suffered with that disease. She had a heart and spirit made by Jesus and that is the girl I desire to remember.
So, while having to think and write about the tough times, I also found myself thinking about the moments Melanie left me smiling and laughing. One time when she was about 7 years old the two of us were out to breakfast, along with my boyfriend at the time. It was still early on in our relationship and he had never had children. Before breakfast was even served Melanie was playing around at the table and tipped over a very large glass of orange juice. With those beautiful brown eyes now looking like a deer in the headlights, she quickly hopped up and ran to the restroom to wash her hands. When she returned to the table, she very innocently asked “Mommy, what are those flusher things on the wall in the bathroom?” The look on my boyfriend’s face was priceless as we realized she went into the men’s room instead of the ladies room! Oh my!! All these years later I can laugh out loud at that memory because that was typical Melanie. She was a little bit of innocent and mischief all rolled into one!
Friends, our lives truly are a journey. It’s filled with hills and valleys. This is a true statement for everyone, not just those who find themselves on this grief journey. We’ve often heard the saying, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Life may not be an actual race, but I’ve found this saying to be true while walking the road of grief. It’s okay for us to take time out as we consider how best to manage our new normal. Figuring out our lives without our loved one takes time, and not just days, weeks or even months. Just like those who are training for a marathon, the same guidelines apply to us:
• Marathons are hard – really hard! Losing a loved one is hard – really hard!
• You’re never really done. We will never, ever forget our loved one, so there is always a part of our grief that will remain forever. We just learn to live with it.
• It’s all in the plan. I will admit, I’m still working on this. I don’t understand the reason for this pain and why my daughter had to die at the young age of 38, but I wholeheartedly trust God’s plan for my life, and hers. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
• Roadblocks are inevitable. You may think you’ve gone through all the phases of grief and all is well, only to discover you may find yourself back at step number 3 (or 2, or 1!). It’s okay. It’s part of the process as we peel back each layer of the onion, called our heart.
• Recovery is just as important as the race. Give yourself the time you need to recover and grieve as you need to. Everyone grieves differently. Do not allow anyone else to judge you or influence how long it may take you to recover.
• Nothing is easy. A marathon isn’t easy, and neither is grief. In fact, it’s pretty awful at times. We find ourselves having to push through the dark times and when you do you realize you are stronger and more resilient than you ever imagined.
Yes, life is a journey, not a race. You will probably never be the same person you were before your loved one passed away. Be kind to yourself.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Wishing you peace and comfort as you gently take each step along your path.