This can be an especially challenging time of the year. The holidays are behind us and we begin to move forward into a new year. Many do not want to move forward into a new year because it means moving on without our loved one. We do not want to find out what it is like to start 2022 without him. We do not want to learn to live without her. Yet, here we are facing a new year. It can be lonely and frightening and really difficult.
To add to our difficulties, winter brings long nights and very short days. The darkness seems to consume us. We feel like it is time to go to bed and it is only 6 pm. We wake up and it is still dark. The sun coming up is a highlight and seems to come a little too late and leaves a little too early. We don’t want to go through cold, lonely, long nights. We just want our lives back the way they were. And yet, here we are.
When life takes turns we did not ask for and we did not wish, how do we continue to move forward? Sometimes we move slowly and cautiously. It can feel like one step forward and three steps back. It can seem as if we are making no progress at all. Grief sneaks up on us and when we think we have this under control, we are knocked down again. We struggle to regain our footing one more time. Is there good news in it all? Will this ever end?
The answer is yes and no. You will always miss your loved one. There will always be times when you wish she was by your side. There will always be moments you can’t believe he isn’t there. I experienced this over Christmas myself. My Dad died seven years ago. That is a lot of time to process grief and move forward. Yet, I found myself sitting in Christmas Eve Service a bit sad and hurt because he wasn’t there. My daughter was singing in the church he pastored. I couldn’t help but think how proud he would be of his granddaughters – singing, dancing, graduating to careers. He loved these girls more than anything. Yet, he is missing some of the most beautiful moments of their lives. I allow myself to sit with it for a moment – even to be a little angry and a lot disappointed in it all. But then, I move forward – grateful that I have the gift of being here to experience it. I find myself grateful for all he instilled in these girls in the short time they had to know him. And I am grateful there are more beautiful moments to come.
This progression doesn’t happen quickly. We don’t wake up one day and the grief is gone. Grief is unique and strange. It comes and goes like waves of the ocean. We celebrate the life of someone we love so much one moment and miss them like crazy the next. We want them here with us so bad we ache and also give thanks they are not suffering any longer. It is a part of who we are. It is a part of loving someone so very much.
Yes, the nights are long – but the good news is the sun will rise. It may not come up as quickly as we like or stay as long as we like. But it does rise. It rises and gives us glimpses of good. It rises and brightens moments we would have missed otherwise. The sun will rise and we will continue on our journey of grief. Joy is around the corner – it just may be we don’t reach that corner today.
The best part of winter for me is what is happening beneath the surface I cannot see. God, in his infinite wisdom, brings winter to allow for the nurturing of the ground and the restoration of beauty yet to be seen. There is so much that goes on below the brown, crunchy grass. Nutrients are being gathered. Renewal is taking place. Goodness is being fueled and we don’t even notice. But in the spring, it will all start to show. All the work of winter will spring forward in just a few months.
God is working in us too. It may feel dark and harsh and lonely right now. But God is at work in you. He is not done with you yet – that’s why you still have life and breath. Yes, everything you have known has changed. Yes, it can be really scary. But we are told over and over again to not be afraid – God is with us. And he has promised the morning will come. And with the morning, comes joy. Joy may not be today. It may only be for a brief moment. But goodness is growing in you too. Keep moving forward, one small step at a time (even if you fall back three steps). There is beauty being formed beneath the surface. Joy does eventually come. You are not alone.
Blessings as you begin this New Year!