Pictures of our first vacation post-loss appeared in my newsfeed this week. And, oh, how those eyes spoke volumes. Strange how one photo can take you back in time and flood you with memories.
Because even though we smiled for the camera, I remember that those eyes were misty and tear-streaked. Moments before the photo above was snapped, there was a meltdown. Emotions always on our sleeves, it seemed to happen often in our home, and especially with our youngest son, only nine years old at the time. Before an easy-going kid, the simplest thing might upset him then. And though it was over seven years ago, I can remember asking him please, will you dry your tears and take a picture with mom?
I probably pushed the vacation too early, but I knew we needed it, in more ways than one. Spring break came not even six months after losing Austin though and we were still drowning in our grief. While I wanted to ignore our annual family outing, something stirred me to go.
We would never get over this loss but we needed to keep moving forward.
Knowing familiar places would perhaps have too many painful memories, I chose a place we’d never been before. It was the beginning of our firsts, without him.
Those firsts will sting. But they can also help to heal.
Then, I didn’t know that. As a momma scrambling, struggling, searching, all I knew is that we were barely hanging on but together we could survive.
One foot in front of the other, one day at a time.
Even if some days, all you could do is fall where you were, one of us would be there to hug and support the other through it. And that was just our life for the first couple of years.
Treading lightly. Praying often. Giving grace.
But also pushing forward. Even when it hurt. Even when it was hard.
That vacation was difficult in so many ways; however, it takes effort to remember all the bad. Mostly I remember the good. When we’re recalling past trips, we reminisce about the beautiful scenery of the Red River Gorge, the spiral staircase of our cabin, almost stepping on a rattler in the backyard, and amazing pizza with the most unusual toppings we’d ever seen on a menu.
Looking back now, I want to reach within these pictures and tell those painful eyes, it will be ok. It will never be the same but it will be ok. You will get through this. You will smile again – for real – and you will laugh. You will even find joy!
Back then, I probably wouldn’t have believed it though. I might even want to punch the girl I am now. Joy is so hard to envision when you’re barely holding onto hope. But it does come.
What a messy journey it has been on this child-loss road. Twists and curves and valleys I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but so much learned along the way. I’m just grateful that scared and uncertain girl pushed ahead and took the brave next step. And that she’s always moving forward.