I struggled with writing this post. We are, once again, on the cusp of another anniversary. Our 7th one, to be exact. Seven years of living with child loss. Seven years of living without my son. I hate these anniversaries. They are like swallowing a bitter pill, a pill that threatens to choke me each time I must swallow it. The countdown to July 29th began in earnest as soon as the calendar page turned to June. Like a broken record, the impending anniversary date throws me for a loop. ‘Round and ‘round we go on this never-ending remembrance date of the worst day of my life, the day my 16 year old son died. The anticipation, the slow, methodical, heavy march toward July 29th stomps firmly on my heart each morning.
To be honest, I had expected this year to be a bit easier, only to find it’s not. Because I failed to catch a few significant details. Details like the fact that Matt’s younger brother is turning 16 in a few weeks. Details that the same said brother will also be getting his driver’s license soon. Details that, yes, this same brother will also be working for Pioneer, the same job Matt worked and was headed for that fateful day in July, 2011. They are pretty big details to digest. Truth be told, I haven’t swallowed them well.
However, I am incredibly thankful for lessons I learned early on in this grief journey. Lessons like have a plan. Have a plan for these significantly painful days. Lessons like be honest about the grief. Lean into it and don’t stuff it. Lessons like find healthy ways to express it. I took (and continue to take) these lessons to heart. For that, I am grateful.
After weeks of wrestling with various ideas, we’ve come up with a plan. Believe it or not, I am happy and excited to share it with you all. Though I am heartbroken, I am so grateful God continues to comfort and guide. Like every year, we desire a plan that reflects Matt, one that gives others a glimpse of who he was; his personality, likes, and dislikes, his relationship with his siblings, etc. This past year, I’ve been grieving more and more for Matt’s brothers and sisters for the loss of their sibling. Siblings are often called, “The Forgotten Grievers.” I want Matt’s siblings to know that they are not forgotten. The plan this year centers on this. Matt adored his brothers and sisters, especially when they were babies. Though it may be strange to say of a teenage boy, Matt loved babies. Matt’s youngest brother was only two years old when Matt died, but one of my most treasured memories is of when Matt would come home from work at Pioneer. The very first thing he would do after entering the front door was scoop up his little brother into his arms and plant a kiss on his cheek.
We have partnered with an organization this year for the 7 year anniversary that reflects this same love of babies. It’s called Options for Women. As described on their website: “We are a non-profit 501 (c) organization dedicated to helping women who are facing an unplanned or difficult pregnancy. We offer limited obstetrical ultrasounds, medical quality pregnancy testing, education, material resources, and referrals. All of our services are free of charge and confidential as allowed by the State of Minnesota.” Family was important to Matt, and our family is not the same without him. Options for Women seeks “positive solutions for women making difficult choices; empowering them and supporting them afterward. We are affiliated with Elevate Life and Heartbeat International pregnancy help organizations. We want women to know their options.”
As I said, Matt loved babies, and he loved his siblings. Beginning July 1st, therefore, I’ll be posting a photo of Matt with his sibling(s) and a needed item for Options for Women daily for the month of July. I’ll post links, as well, on how and where to donate. There are many ways to give, and I’m excited to partner with them, to spread love and hope to women, families, and babies in need.
I’m grateful for the compassionate support, not only from Options for Women, but from friends and family who continue to walk beside us through this journey, through each difficult day that comes our way. I weep with gratitude for those friends and family who allow me to still cry on their shoulder, who give me the grace and freedom to talk about my son, to pour out my grief without reserve. You are appreciated more than you’ll ever know.
I am also thankful for the multitude of healthy ways in which to express my grief. Writing/Blogging, of course, has been instrumental. I continue to utilize cheap therapy like throwing eggs. (Seriously, if you haven’t thrown eggs, you’re missing out!) I also, on occasion, seek more expensive therapy like massage. (I get a massage twice a year, guaranteed: Matt’s birthday and death date.) I will forever be indebted to GriefShare, too, for its role in grief recovery. The Compassionate Friends, also, has played (and still does) a huge part in moving forward after child loss. Grieving is not easy, and the temptation to deal with it in unhealthy ways is ever present.
More than anything, I am grateful to God and His word. When my world fell apart almost 7 years ago, I survived because I was held by Christ. He is the foundation of my life. When my life crumbled, I turned to Jesus and found Him to be the Rock He said He was, a sure and steady refuge for the tsunami of grief that hit the morning of July 29, 2011.
Psalm 16:8 I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.