I think about you every day. We talk about you all the time. You are missed. You are loved beyond measure. I think you would be proud of me, Matt. I have finally come to a place of resolution in traversing this grief journey. I've navigated this massive mountain of child loss and made it through the valley of sorrow. I army-crawled through the mine field of grief and made it out alive. Oh, I didn't come out whole, but I came out stronger. And it's funny, because strength wasn't what I wanted. But strength is what I got, because, as I've said many times before, I believe there are only two choices in surviving: better or bitter. (And surviving? I didn't even want that for a long time.)
I've wrestled for months with this feeling of resolution, not quite knowing what it was. But then we watched the movie Inside Out over Thanksgiving break, and I bawled unreservedly because it finally gave birth to what I had been laboring to deliver: this new life of joy and grief. See, after loss our society tells us that at some point, we will be over our grief, that our grief will be in the past, a done deal. But that is a lie. Our culture brainwashes us into believing that our sorrow (especially any sorrow lasting more than a year in length) is somehow not normal, that we are divergent if we don't "get over it."
This resolution I feel is because I have finally come to terms with the fact that I will always have grief. I will always miss you. I will miss you until the day I die. But I also have joy. I have laughter. I have love. I have learned to be grateful and forgiving. (And trust me, if grief doesn't teach you to be grateful and forgiving, then I don't know what will.) Changing our understanding of what it means to have closure is pivotal in healing from loss.
The struggle in healing from grief is not the choosing between joy and grief. It is not an either-or decision. It is the reconciliation of joy and grief to coexist, to cohabitate and assimilate them in one's life after devastating loss. It is moving forward with both, knowing that there will be times (especially in the beginning years of loss) where one outweighs the other. And that is o.k. because it is not a this-or-that position. It is, instead, a "I will lean hard on God, trusting in Him" choice. It is the decision to feel the pain, the anger, the confusion, the sorrow, and every other grief emotion while pressing into Jesus, allowing Him to carry me. He carried the cross for me. I know that He can carry this, this mess, this grief. He carries me.
Watching Inside Out and Beyond closure gave me the validation I had been searching for. See, Matt, the idea endorsed is that if one has joy in this life, then they can't have grief also. That, somehow, the grief is "over." But there is no "over" in child loss. There is, instead, a moving forward, forward with shrapnel, scars, and missing body parts, but forward nonetheless. Yet there is beauty in the ugly because it necessitates the acknowledgement of victory, victory in overcoming devastation. It proclaims healing. It affirms a story, a story of the faithfulness of God.
As we endure yet another Christmas without you, Matt, I ache. I ache. I cry. I long for you, my son. I cling to God's word, for it is my life. This world holds joy and grief, and there is plenty of both on earth. But I don't cling to this life. This life is temporary. The present joy and grief are merely the birth pangs to eternal life, a life in the presence of God. You are looking into the face of your Savior, Matt. I can't imagine it, yet I know it is all and only joy in His presence. I am comforted in knowing that you are being taken care of in the most perfect way ever.