Today's post was supposed to be about how I've learned to navigate the grief over the years since Dad passed. Well, that's not what it's turned into, because as an empty nester today, I'm navigating an additional kind of grief - of not having kids in the house. So I thought it was appropriate to widen the scope of this, cause grief and change aren't all tied up into a nice box with a bow. They are messy. So this one's for all of you who are walking into a new season of your kids going back to school, your kids being off at school, or in their new careers, or your parent or loved one not being on this earth. Maybe for you it's even about mourning a relationship that you have that has changed. Whatever the case may be, we all need a little bit of God's grace.
So, here's the story. I thought my husband was going to be the one to have a much more difficult time than me with the whole empty nesting thing. Ha! I was wrong. I totally got blindsided. Day one of a regular week with the kids not there, or even just Sami there was a little shocking. The routine of everyone gathering together at the end of a day to come to the table and nestle into home was something that comforted me. It was a routine.
So when Mike got home, I didn't expect to snap at him about something as dumb as clothes of Matt's we're giving away. Then I'm in the kitchen, cooking our turkey for dinner trying to get in touch with my feeling and realizing I had anger. Wow, hadn't had THAT emotion in a while! What's behind anger? Fear. Of course I had fears of the change with this next season. I had fears that I wouldn't be able to get back to my dream after all these years of putting the kids first. I had anger that one day they are here, and one day they are gone?! It wasn't them, or even my husband that I was angry at. It was the situation changing - cause we all hate change, right? And it was the enemy wanting me to beat myself up for all the stuff I haven't gotten done in this season of parenting. Yeah, no I wasn't going to let him do that. I wrote about it, apologized to my husband, named what I thought might be going on and kept moving forward. That was that. I could process my emotions. Of course, they came back again the next morning but guess what? I don't have to hate myself! This is normal and part of the process of changing into a new season!!!
So here's what came as I sat with this lovely grief. Much of it has helped me since Dad died too...
#1. SIT WITH IT. Yes, that's what I said. That sweet rollercoaster of emotions is yours, so own it. But don't let it lock you into the ride. If you don't feel it, you stuff it. You gotta feel it, whether it's anger like that I felt Monday night, or plain old sadness. Maybe it's not even a feeling. Maybe it's purely physical, like you feel like you can't do anything. Be in that. Maybe you are in your head. Okay, maybe don't stay in your head. But put it down on paper. Get it out of yourself the minute it starts to take you for a ride (even if you hate writing!). If we don't sit with it, we won't heal it. Yes we have to move on, but our feelings have a mind of their own. "The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." Exodus 14:14 NIV "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 NIV
#2. BE COMFORTED. There is so much stuff out there to "comfort" ourselves with, whether it's food or Netflix - we can just seek it in those things. But here's the thing about healing. You aren't going to heal it, if you just seek comfort. You've got to let God heal it. You've got to let God get to the root of your pain, and be comforted knowing that He isn't doing it to hurt you, but to heal you. Believe me I get it. I get wanting just something to take the edge off. Hello food! But I have found when it gets tough, there truly is only one who can comfort me and that's God. Not only that, he's the one who puts people in my life who I get to share my grief with that get it so we can comfort each other. How beautifully God works in our lives. He is..."the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV. Galatians 6:2 NIV says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
#3. RECOGNIZE WHEN YOU ARE BEATING YOURSELF UP. This may not make sense at first, but listen to what you tell yourself. Do you tell yourself things you should have or could have done? Do you do what I did the other night and beat yourself up for not "measuring up" and doing more in that season? Stop yourself. Get out of your head. Recognize that those are NOT your thoughts and they are certainly not God's, because He would not be beating you up for everything you haven't done. He would be telling you that He had you in that season for a reason so be nice to yourself. "See how much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1 NLT
#4. LOOK AT THE GOOD. Gratitude, contentment, acceptance, love. Have gratitude for the entire season you've been brought through and for what God is already doing in the next. Let God show you by reflecting on the previous season, just how lucky you are to have loved or to have been present to the kids God has given you or to love the parents you did. Think for a minute just how much God must love us, to show us love and to put people in our lives to love! Accept where you are at, maybe in all the messiness and realize that God is going to do a new thing because out of every storm comes a clear sky somewhere! Love. Just BASK in the love you got to feel because you've gotten a small taste of just how much God loves us. "But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 NIV.
#5. PRACTICE SELF-CARE. How hard is this one? In 2 days I have found this statement to be true, "Kids are an awesome distraction from dealing with your own stuff." Yes, I said it. It is a beautiful thing to raise kids - a tremendous gift from God. But, wow. When they aren't in front of us 24-7 and we're left with ourselves? What a time to look at ourselves and say, "It's time to take care of you." Yes, we do our best at taking care of ourselves when we have those people in our life. But I see where God just kinda opened the skies enough to show Mike and I, "It's time for you to take a real rest and take care of yourselves." I can just feel it in my bones almost. What does that look like for you? For me? It's going to yoga more. It's being in nature more. It's getting a massage to release the toxins!! It's even letting the cortisol in my body rest by eating foods that don't inflame my system. It's doing all those things that connect me to that love of the Father - watching a sunset, listening to a song, video chatting with the kids. It's so much about just being in the season I think. And I know I'm only a few days in, but I can see how much it's about that acceptance and contentment, and even healing. I mean I'm excited for how God's going to show me how to take better care of my body this season! "Don't you realize that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT This verse is one I think I'm going to put on my wall, "Beloved, I pray that in every way you may succeed and prosper and be in good health [physically], just as [I know] your soul prospers [spiritually]. 3 John 1:2 AMP
#6. DREAM AGAIN. It is so important to feel our feelings. But we cannot let them run our lives or stay stuck on a pity pot of the past. We must dream again. We must know that God's got good plans for us in the next season. The other night I was beating myself for all the stuff I haven't done with Healthy Voice in this season, and all the work we have to do in our house. But that doesn't serve me. What does serve me is everything I've mentioned above, and this. Dreaming again about all the things I can do with Christ in my work, in my marriage, in my home, with my time. I was walking around St. Mary's and ND campus yesterday, texted my husband to say, "We gotta come back over here and do our Sunday morning runs." They were so important to us for a long time, but kids schedules took it away for a season. But that's okay, because we have new ways to dream!! God will do new things in this season ahead. "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19 NIV
One last fun thing. Did anyone look at the title of this blog and think of the old eighties song by Expose called "Seasons Change"? I did for a minute. So if you need a little extra dose of reflection (or a laugh at the eighties outfits).