Someone once told me my story reminded them of Job. I’m not sure that’s a life one hopes to copy, nor that I’ve endured quite the tragedy as he, but I’ve had my share of loss.
In 2005, my husband and I would barely survive a motorcycle wreck. A distracted driver ran a stop sign and altered me physically forever. Though I didn’t lose limbs, there are many days it feels like it, as the damage to my left side is permanent and limits me significantly.
Most of that year was spent in a hospital bed learning to walk again. A difficult journey for anyone but being in my twenties it changed who I was. Seemingly overnight I was launched decades into my future as my body felt old and broken. Every single night I cried myself to sleep, at the beginning from the pain and later for the loss.
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The only blessing to come from that wreck was in strengthening my relationships. Through my weakness, I learned to lean on others and accept their help. My husband and I grew closer and encouraged each other to recover. We treasured time with our children more than ever before and shifted focus to prioritize them above everything else. And my walk with God grew deeper, allowing me to search for the purpose behind the pain.
I still grieved losing pieces of me, and for the plans I’d had, which were now changed by my injuries.
In 2008, our world was forever paused with the loss of our oldest son, Austin. He was 14 and went from being a healthy, active teenager to gone, in an instant. It is a grief that cannot compare to any other loss or pain. It shattered our family and threatened relationships. And it wholly altered who we were and would be.
I no longer cared about my health or physical recovery because a literal part of me was missing. My only motivation many days was caring for our youngest son. The physical pain I still endured was almost a numbing agent to the heartbreak. It was safe in my cocoon, and I could blame my tears or lack of involvement on my leg if I needed to.
Though I found a new mission in finding joy and sharing it with others facing loss, I was still lost in many ways. Joy was a mask I could hide behind.
In grief, finding ways to stay busy helps keep your mind still. If I needed to release pain, writing gave me needed peace. Raising a family, being active in church and community, and my job became other outlets. Because I worked for a non-profit, I saw daily, tangible proof of my purpose in a career. Being with the same organization since college, much of my identity came from what I did for a living until that was lost too.
In 2013, I learned I would be losing my job of 16 years, and it would be the final spiral of losing myself. I didn’t know who I was outside of this job, as it was all I’d ever done or known. The loss would also come at a time when jobs were scarce, the economy was low, and I feared we’d lose our home in the process.
My time on unemployment was short – more out of frustration in the system and feeling myself sinking each day I sat home. Anxiety, fear, anger. One disappointment after another. I felt like a total failure.
Physical loss. Child loss. Job loss. Blow after blow. And losing myself in the process.
Though I consider myself a strong person, my faith was shaken and confidence all but non-existent. I felt battered and broken. Everything about me had been attacked year after year – physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually. No surprise, my health was at it’s all-time worse. And it took almost losing my husband to receive the wake-up call I needed to save myself.
My husband’s life could mirror mine in the losses and defeats he’s endured. No doubt a factor in the decline his health suffered recently. But hearing the crack in my youngest’s voice as he left the hospital after visiting his dad was the life raft I needed. He’d suffered so much and didn’t need to watch both parents fade away too. It was then I decided to find myself fully again and realized I was worth fighting for.
Total, all-encompassing healing hasn’t been easy and won’t come overnight. But I’m filled with promise as each layer begins to peel away, one piece of grief-laden baggage at a time.
Photo credit: Ihor Malytskyi / Unsplash
In 2008, my world as I knew it changed forever, with the sudden loss of our 14-year-old son, Austin. The journey to my blog (and attitude toward life) was bumpy and tearful, beginning at a memorial blog for my son. I later chose to take another path, challenging myself to find the JOY in every day, despite the sadness I still felt. I love and miss him daily but I’m living my life to honor him – and celebrating every moment it brings. My goal…to find and share the joy in every day. You can find me at Joyful Challenge