Investing for the Better
Lately I’ve been thinking about this whole thing of “bitter or better.” Will the experience of burying my baby leave me bitter? Will it make me put up walls, close my heart, not want to feel, not want to live, be angry, be miserable, and so on? Or will the experience of giving birth to Hailey and saying goodbye to her 36 days later leave me better because of it? Will I keep her in my heart and go on to live my life to the fullest, seek joy over my sorrow, strive to be the best person I can be while on this earth, make the lives of others better, have a light in my eyes and a smile on my face?
I am determined to be better.
It’s easier to be bitter and all the other things that come along with it, as I’ve mentioned before. Being better takes effort, but don’t most things that are worthwhile take effort? Not only does being better take effort, sometimes it is just plain hard, especially because grief has a tendency to suck all of the life and energy out of you.
Grieving is, amongst other things, exhausting. There are many times since Hailey has passed that I have just simply not had anything left to give to anyone. I have felt everything stripped away…like I’ve given everything I could and it was taken away… my grief was sucking all of the energy out of me. My mind, my heart, couldn’t deal with anything else. The grief consumed me. And part of it is also that fact that it’s scary to give of yourself again when you’ve given and had it taken from you. I think the exhaustion that results from grief is one of the reasons why it is also so common for grieving people to isolate themselves.
Thankfully I didn’t isolate myself after losing Hailey and my dad. Even though I was geographically isolated from family and many friends, I still went out into the world, to church, Bible study, the gym, etc. and interacted with people. But I’ve realized lately that I haven’t given much of myself to anyone. I haven’t made any effort to invest in someone and be their friend. Investing in people takes energy and effort that I simply just did not have.
Along the same lines, one of the most common questions I get asked since my plan of becoming a stay-at-home mom obviously weren’t going to happen anymore is “when are you going to go back to teaching?’ or ‘when are you going to get a job?’ and so on. People just don’t understand. Starting a new job after losing Hailey and my dad would have been impossible for me because it would have been something else I would have had to invest in, and in my grief-stricken state I just had nothing to give, nothing to invest. Thankfully we are in a position where I do not need a job so I can take the time to heal and rebuild myself so that I can get to a point where I can invest myself into something eventually.
And usually those are the two areas I focus on and immediately recognize as being areas where I do not have the energy to invest myself in. But I’ve realized lately that at times I am neglecting a large part of my life and who I am. I forget to invest in something else, which is the most important relationship I have next to God… my marriage.
One of the first things Josh and I were told when we learned that Hailey was going to die was that the loss of a child significantly increases the risk of divorce (some statistics show as high as 80-90% of couples divorcing after losing a child while others show it as low as 20%). I had also heard stories about divorces occurring because a couple had a special needs child. At the time, I couldn’t fathom why that was so. Unfortunately, I have come to understand it. Let me just say right away, no Josh and I are not headed down that path, thank God. But I am now aware as to why so many marriages do go down that path…
I’m not going to get into mine and Josh’s dirty laundry or anything like that. But I will admit, there were times especially initially after losing my daughter and my dad where interacting with my husband was difficult. Why? Because I had nothing left to give him. Emotionally I was drained, exhausted. Investing in him felt impossible. It was easier to not care about anything, how I treated him, what he needed, etc. And that is so dangerous, and I believe that is why marriages can fail. Thankfully my husband was usually fully invested in me even during the times I had nothing to give.
I often write about how when I’m at my worst in my grief I feel like my world has been taken away from me, I have nothing, I feel alone, I feel empty, I don’t know who I am if I can’t be Hailey’s mother, I don’t know what my purpose is, and on and on. It pains me to realize how neglectful I am towards my role as a wife. I somehow downplay it in my head like it doesn’t matter. And I’m finally realizing how much it does matter. My role as a wife, my husband, and my marriage are immensely important to me. I am not nothing, I am not alone, my world is not over – although at times I think the opposite.
Our relationship has had its ups and downs as all do, and perhaps more so sometimes because of all the added stressors that we happen to have. Some of the best statements about marriage that I have heard are: “you have to work hard to have a good marriage” and “marriage is not about always feeling love toward your spouse; it’s about a commitment and choosing love as an action.” So in this grieving process, I am learning more about my marriage and my role in it. I do have something to live for. I have someone to live for. He is not perfect, nor am I. Our marriage will always take work. But the wonderful thing is that we are committed to each other. Neither one of us is going anywhere, and that brings tremendous security and peace.
So to my husband: I am sorry if in my grief and ‘doom and gloom’ states I have ever made you feel like you are not enough or that being your wife is not enough. Because you are and it is. And I value you and our love and our promises we made to each other before God. This road of life we travel together has been filled with troubles intertwined with wonderful moments, love, and joy and will continue to be so I imagine, and I am thankful to call myself your wife and continue on together. I want the experience of losing our daughter and my father to make me a better person, and that includes being a better wife. I love you.