Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moving Forward

Every day at 1:00 I think of Joseph. It's his naptime. From the time he was about 18 months that has been when his little body turned in for a mid-day rest. Any earlier and he just wasn't ready but if I left it much past then he would start to melt down. I am still trained to think I have something to do at one o'clock every day. Holly is a little more flexible and can make it even until about 3 some days, but usually it is closer to 2:00. But in my head I still think I need to be home at 1:00.

It is things like this that happen every day that make this grieving thing so hard. I really do feel like I'm doing much better, but it's when I randomly feel like announcing that it's Joseph's naptime to our friends at lunch that I wonder if I will ever be normal again. I have so many secret memories and associations that can be triggered at any time, and they can trigger so many different emotions in me. Sometimes I just want to laugh but other times I want to cry.
A few weeks ago we were at the library with some friends and their children. Holly and I came out to the courtyard early before the story time was over and there was another little boy playing by the fountain. I don't see many little boys who look like Joseph but this one reminded me of him so much. He had the exact same sandy hair that was unusually thick for a child. He even was dressed similarly to the way I dressed Joseph. And he had that boisterous personality that we all know and love. Holly just stood and watched him for a while and within a few minutes they were chasing each other and playing. At one point she came over to me and he just came over and smiled to try to win her back. It was so sweet. But I had this crazy thought, "I wonder if I could just watch him for a day...would his mom let me, I wonder?"

Our friends came out shortly after this but I felt like I was just done for the day. I couldn't muster up the strength to have a normal conversation and I know I probably acted a little like a zombie. I was just so overcome by memories and the longing to see my Joseph play with Holly. And I couldn't help just watching him to see if he really acted like Joseph.

My friends may not have noticed, or if they did they weren't bothered, but I am bothered that I can so easily be "not present" when I'm around friends. I have always enjoyed get-togethers and parties and being social, but when I can so easily drift into this world they can't understand it just makes it hard. I feel like I'm the outsider, even though no-one is making me feel this way.
About a month ago I started seeing a counselor to talk about everything and work through some of my feelings. It has been so very helpful and I wish I had done it sooner. At the last meeting she asked me what my goal was--where I'd like to be in a few months. I had a really hard time answering her because on the one hand I don't want to stay in that overwhelming sadness but I don't want to move on and forget Joseph and just pretend like he was never part of our family. So, my answer was that I wanted to be somewhere in the middle--able to live and move forward with hope but to always bring him with us wherever we went. I want Holly and this new baby to know him and see pictures of him and know that he will always be part of our family. The hard part about that is that it will inevitably bring sadness, as we will then have to acknowledge he is no longer with us and that we will be separated from him until heaven. It is hard to even say I want to move forward because it feels like the more we do the farther we move away from him and the time he was with us. But she did encourage me that moving forward is not betraying him, as I had inwardly believed.

I am writing all this because I thought today how many people carry burdens like this all their lives. Maybe it is the memory of abuse or neglect, a deep loss, a struggle with infertility and/or miscarriages, chronic illness, or a painful marriage. And each day they have to struggle against the temptation to be bitter, to just "check out" or give up, or to stay isolated for fear of being abnormal. I guess I realized there is pain all around me and I am not the only one. But thankfully we do have hope. We can bring our burdens to God without trying to minimize them or ignore them and he promises rest. He recognizes that we are weary and burdened (Matt. 11:28) and he offers some relief. He doesn't say, "Cheer up and get on with it," but "Come to me." He will do the changing.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

You don't know me but I found your blog a few months ago. I had to write today to tell you how much this post spoke to me. I so don't want to move on, I just want my baby back! Thank you for the encouragment that it's okay to remember but it's also okay to smile and look forward to the blessings of a new day. Praying for you and your family. Joseph is sooooo adorable!!!! Thank you for sharing.

Sam said...

Gill-o,
thank you so much for words.. you've got such a gift and I am grateful to be your little brother. I am always surprised at how much I think about JoeP. The sideview mirror on my car is still broken from the day I hit a mailbox when he was in my car. People always ask how that happened, and I love telling them that I hit a mailbox because I was in the midst of entertaining JoeP. There are some pictures of him in my room, and every time I see them, I am reminded of what a blessing he was to so many people during his short time with us. I miss him so much, Gillian; yet, I cannot imagine the pain you feel everyday. Thanks again for including us in your thought process what God is teaching you through all of this

Love you

Lynn T said...

I love you Gill...your words are amazing. In the midst of your pain, you spoke volumes to me and I am sure, countless others. Thank-you.
Lynn

Heinzfeet said...

My word, Gill, I am overwhelmed by the way you express yourself. As I sit here with tears rolling down my face it feels good to sit and think about Joseph for a while. I think we should all do that...to celebrate the ones we have lost. I love telling the girls about Chip and his crazy personality and how he would swim out past the bouys at the ocean and spend hours diving to the deep darkness to find sand dollars. It keeps him alive for me. Your post really made me reminisce. I love thinking back on the day when Will and Joseph were riding the Barbie Jeep in our backyard and Will nearly flipped the thing over and Joseph just laughed his head off. He had no idea Will nearly crushed him under that thing. He had the sweetest personality. We all remember him and will celebrate his life for many years to come. It's good to share our memories with our kids...it makes them a part of our family even now. Love you, Gill!

jody said...

There you go again lady.......you are AMAZING woman and writer. You really should do a book. Your faith and ability to share and articulate your feelings, doubts, emotions, fears just make me in awe. I am so glad you are talking with counselor and that each day brings some joy and peace. It sounds like an impossible balancing act and you are such an example to all of us - no matter what the struggles we face. I hope you do find that 'middle peace/place' in time and your stories about moments with Joseph and memories just break my heart, but are so true. I think of you, Allen, Joseph, Holly at the most random times and find myself thinking of memories we shared with our kids. I look forward to your family's return to Atlanta and making new memories....while remembering the little guy.

I love you so much. My heart goes out to you and the pain you going through......please know I am always here to listen. Jody

Nana said...

Gillian thank you for this post I like Ashley am crying.You really have an amazing gift of expressing your feelings and indeed your grief and sadness.The other day I was cleaning out Sam's room and I found a treasure in fact two treasures the first was a photograph of the grandkids I guess it was probably about 2 years ago and Joe P. was in my arms crying(he just didnt want his picture made) and Holly was looking at him it brought back a flood of memories of Joe P as a boistrous full of life happy toddler!!!!!The next treasure was a photo of him in his superman outfit he looked like "superman"so precious I do not remember seeing this photo of Joe P. before so it is a true treasure...framed already and sitting in my kitchen.Holly noticed it yesterday and said "Oh look its Joe P.!!"Another treasure came to mind after reading Sams comment about the broken mirror was the time he went on a weekend getaway with Uncle Sam to visit Aunt Sarah-Jane and Uncle Phil and cousins Eli Bella-Claire and Deacon in Kentucky.I was strapping him into his car seat and kissing him goodbye and he wanted me to go too and Sam said "No girls allowed" and Joe P. looked at me with a huge naughty smile and said "No GIRLS allowed" and then he told Sam "Yets Go".Joe P. will live in our hearts forever.I just wish I could hear him say "Yets Go or Yets do it one more time"We miss him soo much and only can imagine how very hard each day is for you and Allen and indeed little Holly-bear.The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.Ilove you O.M.B.

Anonymous said...

You have no idea how this post has helped me - thank you.

Carrigan Family said...

Thank you Gillian ......

abbie said...

Oh Gillian, this made me cry & I'm continuously so heartbroken at your loss. Yet like you said, we do have hope in Christ. I just pray that He will gently and lovingly guide you through the difficult days and moments. Thank you for this beautiful post.

Kate Etue said...

Gill, thanks for your words. Your honesty is such a blessing to those of us who have no idea, and I'm sure to those out there who know exactly what you're talking about. I enjoyed laughing about JoeP stories with you the other night... I'm so honored to have known him and to miss him...

Brea said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts so beautifully, Gillian. I still struggle to wrap my mind around the enormity of your loss, and my heart still aches for you. Continuing to pray that God will heal your heart, bit by bit, as you are ready.

This post served as a reminder to me to treasure each day I'm given with my children, even when the days are challenging and exhausting. Thank you for reminding me again that children are a gift from God.

Sarah-Jane said...

I am reading this for the third time today. Lynn called me this morning to tell me you wrote.
I know the ache is still so deep.
I love you so much and I am so thankful that you have Hope amidst this grief. I love you more than you know and think of Joe P all the time.

thanks for being so vulnerable.
sj

Anonymous said...

Contratulations to you all .I am very happy for you and your husband and daughter to have a new daughter soon.I have followed the blog for a long time.I knew your sisters at UT.I met you all at Campus Crusade.Your two sisters and you were always so nice and so happy I envied your love for each other and your friendships.Your blog has ministered to me it is like my daily devotional.Please do not stop writing you bless many through your faith in God.

Shannon said...

I wish I had met your sweet son. I am amazed how much I think of him though I never knew him. He most often enters my mind at church when we sing about Heaven. I pray for the day when all of the redeemed gather together in Jesus' presence. No more tears. Nor more sorrow or goodbyes. Won't that be amazing? Praying for you.

ambie said...

Very touched by your heart Gill. Like so many others I couldn't help but have tears fill my eyes as I read this and am so thankful that our precious Lord is ministering to you. I think of you so often. Love,
amber

Jean Joiner said...

i could barely get through this one. thanks for sharing your heart with us.

KR said...

I thank God for you and your willingness to write so honestly. Such a gift. Each time I enter Target I say a prayer for you guys.

Allyson said...

What an amazing post - fighting back the tears so I could read every word. I'm so sorry. Every time I pass a Moe's I say a prayer for you guys. I can't even begin to imagine the depth of pain you must feel. I hope it helps to know that other, yes, even a stranger like me, think about your precious Joseph often and pray for you almost every day (I pass a Moe's no less than 4x a day)!

Congratulations on your new baby girl. You look beautiful!

Randi said...

Hi Gill,
Sometimes, I will see a little boy who looks like Joseph and I just have to stop and compose myself. I am thinking of you. God will see you through until you all can be together again (and you will).
Love,
Randi

Michael and Jana said...

I'm crying right along with everyone else. Moving forward is so hard in so many ways and I can't begin to understand how hard it is for you right now. I thought of you often on our Make-a-Wish trip. When Joshua met Buzz I couldn't help but imagine Joseph there as well. I know I never had the pleasure to know him, but the memories you share here are one of the wonderful ways you honor him while you are learning what moving on looks like in your life. May God bless you!
Jana

Anonymous said...

Gillian,

I haven't met you yet. I am a friend of Ashley Smith's and I used to attend Christ Community while I lived in Nashville. (I go to a smaller PCA church in Goodlettsville now that I live north of Nashville).

Anyway, I have been following your story and praying for you guys, and I just wanted to let you know you have really been an inspiration to me. I so appreciate your honestly.

This most really struck me. Even though I can't even possibly relate to losing a child, I deal with a continued grief regarding the loss of my marriage. (I was happily married for 5 years and then my husband was unfaithful and wanted a divorce). The divorce was final in September, and overall, I am doing very well thanks to the Lord giving me stregnth all those time I felt like I couldn't keep going on and didn't have any emotional energy left to care for me three young children.

Still, I have some days where I zone out, too. It must be normal in the grief process. Every now and then, when I am at a friend's house and I see their intact family laughing and having a great time, I start mourning the fact that my children no longer have an intact family. And, it hits me at the most random times, just as you have decribed. My counselor says its normal.

Anyway, I just wanted to encourage you and let you know what you are feeling isn't weird, and your friends are there to support you and they are just happy to know and love you through those times.

Thanks for sharing and encouraging me in my walk with the Lord. I really appreciate you.

Melissa Matsumoto

Anonymous said...

Gillian, I jusst read your beautiful words and I have tears also because I truly understand everything you wrote! I have experienced so much of what you are feeling. So many times I will see a person that looks just like Chip- with his ballcap turned around. I will have to hunt him down to make sure it is not him!! I know to some that sounds strange but those are real feelings! You are incredible in expressing your journey of pain and I believe that will bring more healing for you. God bless you always!!
Love,
Ann Lewis

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you are able to get this stuff down so vividly and intelligently, Gillian. Your opening paragraph was really painful and interesting. So much original thoughts on grief. I feel like I've never heard another person speak so honestly about the strange details of grief the way your writing does. I am glad you have decided to make a record of this pain and this experience. I was going to say maybe you should one day publish this (maybe you should!), but if you don't, it's still some of the best writing on grief and death I've ever seen.

With that out of the way, the Cunninghams love you, Allen and Holly very much.

I wonder if God gives you these little experiences on the playground where you saw a shadow of Joseph - maybe as a foretaste of heaven. I usually don't talk like that, but we know all the details of the day are foreordained, even the thoughts that you have about the experiences themselves. So God brings a little boy with some resemblance to Joseph to you and Holly and lets the three of you share a mysterious moment. It's not like God would be surprised if you said to him, "Was that Joseph?" He's God - he knows these things before you say them or speak them. So perhaps there is something beneficial in these, coming from the hand of God to you, to whet your mouth for your son you'll be seeing soon.

What's the saying of the Catholic nun? That when we are in heaven, all of our life will in retrospect seem like one bad night in a cheap motel? You will laugh with Joseph again - I'm sure he will find these blog entries (they get wireless in heaven, right? Hows' that work anyway?) and all of you will have many funny conversations about them and their meaning.

We love you guys. Wish we could see you and share in your grief with you. Paige and I talk about Joseph regularly. I only met him that one time, though all these pictures and stories and being friend with you and Allen has seemed to have made him grow a lot in our hearts and minds. God bless.

scott cunningham

Emily said...

Your posts continue to touch me on such a deep level. Although I have never met you, I think of you often, and I very much hope I have the chance to meet you when you are back in Atlanta. I can only imagine that the moving process would be paralleling your feelings about "moving on", and that it would be both a welcome and incredibly difficult experience.

You will all continue to be in my prayers!
Congratulations on your new blessing!

-Emily Hilimire

Cadence of Life said...

Gillian--your little joseph was so blessed to have a mommy like you! your heart, words, and thoughts are so pure and i just can't imagine. he is sealed in your heart forever and always. much love-sharon

Anonymous said...

Oh, how you ministered to my soul today. I'd like to say that I wish I'd read it sooner, but I think it was meant for me to read today.
By the way, Allison and Brian will be living in Atlanta.
Love,
Mel

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

Incense...

Christy said...

I think this is my very favorite of your "Pray For Joseph" posts.

THAT GIRL said...

your scripture is lovely... what peace to know that weariness can be comforted away by the great Burden Lifter!

Ami said...

I have been reading your blog for quite some time now, and I remember the day you posted that he was with the Lord...I just gasped and cried. I watched his videos, read the sweet stories of his love for Target and trains and all things BOY...my heart breaks for you and your family. I have a little boy who looks very similar to Joseph, and very much loves the same things he did...he will be three in June and I cannot imagine the pain and anguish that you feel. Your faith is so strong and you are a perfect spokesperson for God. You have made me a better mother with your unselfish ways and words.

I am so happy that you are being blessed with another precious child, although I know the pain will never subside for your precious JoeP. I think she will have his heart and give you sweet reminders of his wonderful personality...and that is the way it should be. He will be remembered, of course, by those that knew him well and had the privilege of loving him, but also by strangers who adore him through your stories, like me.

Wishing you the best...
Ami

Leigh Anne said...

You don't know me, but I e-mailed you last fall after I stumbled upon your blog. I check in to see how you are and I am amazed at how you have such a gift for sharing your feelings and emotions with us, many strangers. I had tears streaming down my face and wanted you to know that I pray for you and your family often. I was happy to see your good news...congratulations! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Gillian, I have noticed that people are still writing on this post so I thought I would add something. I know that you are getting ready to move and I wanted to mention about Compassionate Friends. I know that they have a great group in Atlanta. I can truly say that it is a wonderful organization and so very helpful. It is so comforting to be with a group that totally understand the grief that you are going through. I know that everyone's grief is different-- but it is such a good and safe place to just talk about any feelings that you're having! I just wanted to mention this before you leave. I hope your move goes very smoothly and we can't wait until your new little girl arrives!! :}}
Much love,
Ann Lewis