There are no words to describe the hurt that my heart feels, every second of every day. Sometimes it’s not necessarily that I’m even consciously thinking about Ethan, but there is a nagging pain that just doesn’t go away. Oddly, I don’t want it to. It lets me know that I’m not forgetting him. Sometimes my heart hurts so badly that I’m afraid it will just crumble inside my chest. Sometimes it takes every ounce of strength I have in my body to get out of bed in the mornings. But I know I have jobs to do. My mom is here with us, and has been such a blessing. She takes care of this family in ways that I can’t right now. But I still have to be present in my children’s lives. I’m thankful that they don’t have high expectations of me, and show me so much grace when I feel completely undeserving of it. Of course, they’re children, don’t get me wrong. There are times that they get crazy and I lose my temper, but I’ve found myself being easier on them than I probably should be more often than not. I’ve been reminded by my incredible husband to remember that we are blessed to be able to raise them, love them, and when needed, discipline them. We are blessed to have the opportunity to raise them into strong, faithful, loving adults. The loss of Ethan should only strengthen our resolve to be the parents they need us to be.
Grief is so strange. Sometime this summer I remember mentioning something a friend shared with me about grief. A friend of hers wrote that grief is like a shipwreck in the middle of a sea of waves. At first the wreckage is all around you and the waves are crashing continually, with no end in sight. With time, the debris begins to scatter and the waves space themselves out. But when they come, they come fast, strong, and crushing. Those waves leave my heart in pieces, my breathing short and shallow, and my mind so cloudy I can’t think of anything else. I continually remind myself that all Ethan wants is for us to be happy and at peace. But then the anger comes. He’s not HERE! How can I be happy and at peace when a piece of my heart and soul is missing?! My faith is taking a beating. I know that Ethan is where is was made to be. I know that this is all part of God’s plan, and I’m beyond grateful to Him for blessing us with Ethan, and the time we had with him- I wouldn’t change a single thing. But the pain of his absence in our lives is so much more than I ever expected. I look around my house and long to see a baby swing sitting in the living room, bottles sitting in the dish rack, and my baby bouncing and cooing in a bouncy seat as we eat dinner. Instead, I realize that the baby swing and bouncy seat are stored in the attic, our counters empty of bottles, and a picture of my baby sits on an end table in my living room… I’m reminded again of the reality. And my heart breaks, over and over. I’ve said it before, I thought I was prepared for the grief and pain that would come with Ethan’s birth and death. I thought that after losing my dad, I could handle the loss of our son. My friends, NOTHING could have prepared me for this. Losing a child is probably the least natural loss a person can experience. And it leaves you feeling like a foreigner in the world you used to know.
There are many moments now that I can allow myself to laugh and begin to find a new level of normal- or so I think. The feeling is unnatural, and brings with it an overwhelming sense of guilt. I don’t want normal. I WANT to think of him every second, because he deserves it. But I’m so torn, because I know that thoughts of him bring heartache and longing. A huge part of me often feels like I’m in denial, refusing to acknowledge what my mind knows to be true, but my heart won’t accept. Many times it’s when I’m alone that reality hits and my world falls apart all over again. It feels like just yesterday I was feeling him rolling around and kicking in my belly. I miss the days of knowing that he was safe, warm, and with me. That I was doing my job as a mother and protecting him, caring for him, nurturing him. My heart longs to be able to do those things for him now. And then I think about something my son asked me several days ago. In his precious innocence he asked me if I wanted to bring Ethan back from heaven. And I couldn’t figure out how to answer it. Selfishly, I want nothing more. But as a mother, and a follower of Christ, how could I tell my son that I wanted to bring his brother back from a place of pure and complete love, joy, and peace. But more importantly, I could never imagine taking him away from the presence of Jesus. So I said, “No baby, baby Ethan is so happy in heaven. I don’t want to bring him back, but I miss him so much.” In a the midst of this whirlwind of hard days, tough nights, and unending sadness, that was such a difficult thing to say to my little boy.
Ultimately, as difficult as it is at times, I continue to trust in Him. I can feel the devil pulling at me, trying to get me to let go of that faith and grasp tightly to my anger, bitterness, and fear of the future. But he will. not. win. As long as I live I will be grateful to God for Ethan and his beautiful life. I will praise Him for that gift. I believe with all of my heart that God understands and welcomes us when we are at our worst, and perhaps lowest points. He knows that I’m angry. He knows that I question Him and wonder why He allowed this to happen. But I know that He still loves me through it. And that He is using this for His good and His glory. As 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, followers of Christ are not those who mourn with no hope for those who have already fallen asleep. I know that someday I will see my precious son again, and that gives me hope for tomorrow. Until that day, I will do everything I can to honor who Ethan is to us, and who he is to so many other people. I won’t say that honoring his life will negate or minimize the grief, but there is a purpose to it all, and someday I’ll understand that purpose.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelations 21:4