Enlarging of My Soul

Travis passed away three months ago today.

It is hard for me to even type those words.  I sat here for several minutes not wanting to even put my hands on the keys, to put words to the reality.  Something in my heart cringes, pulls away like a wound is being pushed on.  I can not begin to tell you how often I have had remind myself in the last few weeks that “it’s only been almost 3 months.”

In so many ways the shock is beginning to wear off for all of us.

I had to replace our vehicle recently (another blog for another time) and I had this moment in the financing office where I had to sign the title to our old van.  I saw Travis’ name next to mine on the title and my eyes filled with tears.  I hesitated.  I thought, “I don’t think I can do this.  I can get rid of this connection.”  Don’t misunderstand, I have no affinity to the van as a thing, it was just something Travis and I owned together, it was part of our family.  Later that night, after the children had a ride in the “new” (new to us anyway) van and I was trying to get them all in bed, one of the children expressed almost the same feelings.  They began to cry and said, “I wish we had our old van back.  Dad rode with us in that van and he’s never ridden in this one.”  We both cried and held each other.  No words can be said and after we seem to have cried out what is there, we continue with life.

Our oldest started playing baseball again.  It has been extremely hard for all of us to be at the ball park.  We have joy and happiness for him but sadness and grief that Travis is not here.  This past spring, he sat at these very same fields with us watching our son play ball.  I almost dread his first home run or when he gets the chance to pitch a game.  While I will be excited and proud of him, it will be bittersweet for all us without Travis here.  Maybe he sees it all from heaven but it isn’t the same.

We have not been able to eat a meal at the dining room table.  That was a huge part of our family life, our family identity so to speak, 5 nights out of 7 we made sure that we were around the table eating dinner together.  We have tried several times but after the tears start, we all move to the kitchen.  It’s just too hard right now.

One of the other children is preparing for a recital.  They remarked that they are scared that they are going to cry in the middle of the recital because Travis had been there for the last one but he will not be there this time.

All the times I have had to mark “widowed” on an application.

In other ways, shock is still very present.

The other night I was trying to get dinner ready and get the children out the door for something and a thought quickly went through my head. “Travis will be calling any minute to tell me what time he will be home for dinner.”  Reality and tears quickly follow.

I still get out 6 plates for dinner even though I constantly remind myself that there is only 5.  When everyone has been served and one plate is left on the counter…reality sets in.

I still wake up in the middle of the night and reach out to Travis’ side only to find him not there.

I find that I still use the words “we” and “ours” all the time.

I am fairly new to this part of the journey of grief but there are a few things that I am fairly certain.

1.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve and no one else, even those who have experienced grief, can tell you “how” you should grieve.

I am not sure that I totally get that or understand it right now but I see glimpses of it.  I do the things that my heart feels drawn to.  There are times that I make myself get out and do something, hang out with close friends, talk about my grief with others, but just as many times do I feel solitude.   While there is an empathy that can be shared with others who have experienced grief, no one is the same.  Just as no operates in their marriage the same or parents the same, no grieves the same.  There are some standard “emotionally healthy” practices but everything else is on an individual basis.  I do not really like that very much.  I sort of wish there was a manual, a “how to” of sorts.  I feel a lot of the same lack of control that I did for the 10 months of Travis’ illness, now in relation to grief.

2.  Loss is not something we get over but something that becomes a part of us.  With that statement, I think I can also include the words: grief and pain.  If there is always loss then on some level there will always be grief and pain.

Loss seems to be something that is being woven into our lives.  A dark thread, for sure, but if we never have the dark threads how will we ever know how bright the other colors actually are.  Our lives were bright with Travis here but the things that he did for us, with us, who he was as a husband, father and man seem all the brighter now in his absence…because of the loss of him.

The following quote seems to echo this.

“I did not go through the pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow.” (A Grace Disguised)

3. Loss can enlarge my soul but I have to allow that to happen but not censoring or limiting my grief.

I do not have any personal thoughts on this one but I have been intrigued by the following quotes:

“Loss can make us more.  In the darkness we can still find some light.  In death, we can also find life.” (A Grace Disguised)

“…tragedy can increase the soul’s capacity for darkness and light, for pleasure as well as for pain, for hope as well as dejection.  The soul contains a capacity to know and love God, to become virtuous, to learn truth, and to live by moral conviction.  The soul is elastic, like a balloon.  It can grow larger through suffering.  Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss.  Once enlarged, the soul is capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace and love.  What we consider opposites–east and west, night and light, sorrow and joy, weakness and strength, anger and love, despair and hope, death and life–are no more mutually exclusive than winter and sunlight.  The soul has the capacity to experience these opposites, even at the same time.” (A Grace Disguised)

There is a picture that it is given in this book that seems to have embedded itself in my mind and heart.  A picture that describes so much of where we are and where we will be at some point on this journey.

“I felt like I was staring at the stump of a huge tree that had just been cut down in my backyard.  That stump, which sat all alone, kept reminding me of the beloved tree that I had lost.  I could think of nothing but that tree.  Every time I looked out the window, all I could see was that stump.  Eventually, however, I decided to do something about it.  I landscaped my backyard, reclaiming it once again as my own.  I decided to keep the stump there, since it was both too big and too precious to remove.  Instead of getting rid of it, I worked around it.  I planted shrubs, tress, flowers, and grass.  I laid out a brick pathway and built two benches.  Then I watched everything grow.  Now, three years later, the stump remains, still reminding me of the beloved tree I lost.  But the stump is surrounded by a beautiful garden of blooming flowers and growing trees and lush grass.”

That is where we are.  All we see is the stump.  It is most prominent feature for us right now.  Sometimes we look out the window and expect to see the tree, just like always.  When we only see the stump, it is very painful reminder of reality.  The stump pops up in the oddest places and the oddest moments.  Emotional breakdowns out in public are quite common.  Being with friends that we shared together is another place.  Sundays are like scaling a mountain for us “emotionally”.

Hope speaks to my heart and the hearts of our children and says, “There will always be loss but one day there will be beauty too.  Hold on for that day.”

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2 Comments

  1. October 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Dear friend:

    I’m so very sorry for the pain and loss you and the children must endure. No matter one’s faith, it’s deeply painful and we are never truly ready.

    As you share this experience through your written words, know that you are giving so many inspiration, strength and hope for the pain we experienced both present and future.

    As you said, individually, it will be dealt with differently, but truly the same deep pain and grief.

    Tammy, please allow your own words to inspire and give you the continued strength and hope you need for you and your children.

    As I read this, your heart lay in my hands. I thank you for sharing your heart with all of us. Your children are so blessed to have you as their Mother. I’m so proud of you!

    Sending prayers and strength to you and the children. Keep writing Tammy, keep writing! You are my inspiration!!!

    Love you.

  2. Marykay said,

    October 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Once again, at a loss for words, but so glad you are releasing those words to the page. Thank you for letting me into your world.


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