The Roller Coaster Returns

Has it really been three weeks since I’ve blogged? That time has been filled with moving, moving stress, more moving stuff around, and trying to turn my moving chaos into a home for my kids before school starts next week. This move has been unlike any other I’ve undertaken because I did it as the only adult in the family. His absence was more glaringly obvious than it has been in months. There was so much I relied on him to do that he was not here to take care of and the silence of his absence is deafening.

The move wasn’t just getting out of one house into another. It was counseling kids who suddenly were hit with the reality that we were leaving the last place we lived with him. It was trying to ask for help from friends and church family who were busy with their own lives when this long after his death that feels so much harder. It was trying to handle my own conflicting emotions between the new, better house and leaving the last one I shared with him.

Yeah, it’s been emotional. It’s been more than a move.

And yet time does not allow me the luxury of simply processing this at a leisurely pace. The first day of school looms large on the calendar and I must excavate from the boxes anything my children will need to start the new year. I must take time to buy supplies when we need them or simply cannot locate them. I must get them settled enough in their new home that this place becomes their refuge from the stress of starting anew.

I have been doing this little by little. I’ve been doing so-so. Until yesterday.

Yesterday it hit me that the roller coaster of grief had somehow loaded me into a seat when I hadn’t noticed. Yesterday as I stood in line to help Jarod register for tenth grade, it hit me. The realization that when I helped him do this last year Kraig was alive rested in my chest and made me fight for control.

As the day progressed and I headed to Meet the Teacher night for four kids at three schools, his absence screamed. I struggled with the realization that I am entering the anniversary of his last week with us. I am moving toward the one year anniversary of his death. Again, I felt the clacking of a roller coaster I hadn’t bought a ticket for pulling me forward beyond anything I can do to stop it.

Maybe it’s because this is the last “first” of this first year of grief. Maybe this was why I wisely scheduled our Disney trip just past this. Maybe there was wisdom in knowing we just needed to pass this awful anniversary and then life would have carried us past the first year of grief.

In a few weeks we will arrive at the end of this first, long year. Will scars have magically closed over the wounds that have brought us struggle and tears this year? Will Thanksgiving and Christmas and so many other milestones be easier this year? Or will the grief just be softer?

Throughout the past several months, I’ve tried to help Ryan, my child with autism, wrestle with his greatest question—why didn’t we know Dad’s death was coming? Autism demands advance notice. Autism becomes anxious, upset, and trapped in a circle of processing when the unexpected occurs. I’ve tried again and again to explain to him that God sees what we cannot. And God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that had we known what was coming, we could not have enjoyed that last camping trip with Dad. We could not have simply experienced that first week of school last year as a normal week.

But somewhere inside my heart, I feel as though I’m experiencing it in flashback, knowing how it will end. Like watching Titanic and not being able to change the outcome, each day the thoughts have risen unbidden, “This is what we did with him last year at this time.” It’s an unwelcome intrusion to an already stressful job of making a home for my kids alone. It’s a ride I’d like to exit now but I sense I must finish.

Today was filled with things I had to do. There was no chance to sit and sip tea while I processed and blogged. The stress of it all became so overwhelming that my need for a rest turned into an unplanned hour and half nap. God knew I needed the rest, I think. This roller coaster cannot be avoided and I will need my strength to keep my focus on Jesus through it all.

I woke from the nap at dinner time and decided to just take the kids out to eat. I would find a way to fit it in the budget. We needed this. I needed this. And again, God my provider stepped in. We found ourselves seated at the booth next to a MOPS friend I hadn’t seen all summer. Her family finished their meal and left before ours was served. When ours was done, I discovered they’d paid our check. God knew I needed this gift, this reminder He is still here with me.

This roller coaster of grief is not something I control. It’s not something I can plan for or always anticipate. The weight of it over the past few days has caught me off guard and rattled me with its intensity. But that does not lessen who God is or what He is capable of doing with it. This coming week will be bittersweet as I send kids off to a new year and try to help them embrace the adventure it contains. As I continue to try to make this house a home without his help, it will be hard. The ghosts of last year may raise their ugly heads but God’s presence is so much more solid than they are.

So as I head to bed tonight, I will ignore the clack, clack, clack of the coaster. I will focus instead on a God who has not left me once through this year. I will choose to rest in Him and pray tomorrow is a better day.

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