So, the sadness and exasperation I was feeling during our respite holiday? They were an expression of grief: Because we’d been to the same holiday apartment year after year, before I got sick, I was suddenly confronted by the decline in my health. The activities we used to do together were no longer possible for me, and that was sad!
The daydreaming I’d done, while gazing at the horizon on the white-sanded beach six years earlier, came back to bite me. I’d imagined how our future might look, and it was lovely. Now our new reality was slapping me in the face, and it hurt!
It hurt to be in bed while the kids played outdoors with their grandparents. It hurt to spend sunny days indoors when I’d much prefer to be going on adventures like we’d done on our previous holidays — day trips to nearby sleepy coastal towns and cultural attractions.
With this new understanding of my holiday gloominess, I was freed from the confusion and guilt which had nagged at me: Which parent in their right mind would be feeling sad when they’re staying in a luxury suite, the weather is warm, the sun is shining and their kids are being cared for by someone else?
Sounds like a fantasy! But for me it was far from ideal. It wasn’t the life I’d dreamed of. It wasn’t how our family was meant to end up.
Our next holiday
In a few days we’ll be up the coast again. My in-laws are already there, ready to take on carer responsibilities while my husband and I get some rest.
I’m aware that much of my time will be spent indoors (when I’d rather be outdoors). I’m aware that I may feel defensive when other parents of young kids watch me walk away from the poolside, leaving our little ones with the grandparents. (No, they have no idea what our life is like, but that’s OK — their thoughts and feelings are not my responsibility! I don’t need to feel guilty about resting, and I don’t need to explain myself.)
This time I’m prepared: I know that a new blob of grief might cast its shadow over me, so I won’t be as alarmed and confused when it does. But this time it will be a little less intense — the blob will be smaller. And the time after that, it will be smaller again. Someday it will just be a tiny dot.
Postscript — How did the holiday go?
We got back home a few hours ago. What a wonderful time we had! As expected, the grief blob did touch me a few times but it was much less severe than last time — I was pleasantly surprised, actually!
Yes, it was sad that I couldn’t spend more time being active; but I did enjoy the treat of lying in our huge king-size bed for most of each day, with a gentle breeze flowing in from the balcony, reminding me of the outdoors.
I took a few short walks to the beach, and I soaked up every second of it: the invigorating ocean wind blowing against my cheeks, and the springtime sun shining on my arms — warm but not stinging.
I find the ocean so rough and unpredictable and dangerous but strangely soothing all at once. Gazing, mesmerised, at the pounding waves, I felt a sense of peace trickle down into my parched heart. And I thanked God for sustaining me through what has been an intensely difficult five years.
We ate out once each day (I managed OK because I had plenty of bed rest before and after each time). I enjoyed a couple of long soaks in the huge bathtub. And I enjoyed some brief-but-no-less-special moments with my husband, my kids and my in-laws.
Sure, our new reality is vastly different from the family times I envisaged eight years ago, but we’re making the most of what we still do have. We’re creating new memories.
Here are some of them!
How can I help you grow?
Below are some resources to equip you and support you in your own cycles of grief.
Grief Isn’t Something to Get Over is an article written by a clinical psychologist. She explains how the grief process is so often misunderstood and gives some helpful advice.
When Chronic Pain & Illness Take Everything Away: How to Mourn Our Losses is written by Esther Smith, who blogs at Life in Slow Motion. I found this to be a super helpful guide book. Esther talks about her own experiences, then gives practical guidance at the end of each chapter. I think this book would be a helpful guide to anyone who’s experiencing grief, no matter what the source. The e-book costs around $4.
The Scars That Have Shaped Me is by Vaneetha Rendall Risner who blogs at Dance In The Rain. I love pretty much every single thing Vaneetha writes! She is raw, authentic and gospel-focused in a way that I’ve found tremendously helpful over the past few years.
(I’m not affiliated with these links in any way — Esther and Vaneetha haven’t asked me to promote their books; I just found them so helpful that I couldn’t not mention them here!)
If you don’t have a counsellor, I highly recommend that you find one to discuss these ideas with. My blog posts and resources are here to support you, but they can’t replace face-to-face help that’s tailored to your specific situation.
Search for a Christian counsellor in your area on this site (USA and Canada) or here (Australia). If you’re in another country, try a Google search, e.g. Christian counsellors South Africa. (NB If you already see a counsellor whom you’re happy with, don’t feel you need to leave them in search of a Christian one!)
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