Each year during the last of December, I spend a lot of time reflecting on the passing year and thinking about what I want for life in the coming year. This year that process seems much bigger than ever before. When I did this last Christmas, I had no idea what 2014 was going to bring, and only hoped for Justin’s continued recovery. That was my only focus last year at this time. It wasn’t even on my radar that this year I might be doing this alone with a completely blank slate in front of me.
This holiday season has brought both grief and joy – grief for not only the loss of Justin, but of others, and joy for all the new life in our family. I’ve spent time celebrating and grieving with family, and I’ve spent time alone working to shore up my emotional state. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the last two years, if there anything that could have changed things, and where I am emotionally with all that has happened. I have finally reached a point of peace, have gone beyond the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’, and accepted that this was Justin’s path and nothing I did or didn’t do would have changed that path for him. I’ve learned that grief is like the ocean, and when you have two years of life to grieve for built up inside you, sometimes those waves that come are more like tsunamis. I’m learning to breathe through the tears that I hate so much, to let the feelings come and actually feel them, and not try to box it up and put it on the shelf.
In December 2013, we lost Michael. In 2014, we lost Cheryl Marie, Sir John, Lady Beth, Big Bad Jim, and Justin. There were others within our community who were lost in the last two years, people I knew of or were acquainted with. And people close to me lost people close to them both in and out of the community. The boy I went to homecoming with so many years ago. The girl from Algebra I didn’t know very well. And just last week, another boy I went to high school with and a dear friend’s mother. It seems at least once a week in 2014 I learned of another loss. I’ve lost count.
My baby moved out this year, too. Bratgirl flew the coop and moved to Sedona. She’s actually doing pretty well finding herself and settling into adulthood. I’m proud of the steps she’s taken and the path she is on. Justin was proud of the path she was on, too. It was something we continued to talk about in our regular chats even after his move to NC. When he met her, she was a smart mouthed 14yo with purple hair and an attitude. I was happy that they did finally find common ground and love.
And in 2015, I’ll be 50. That seems so very odd to me to say. 50. How the hell did that happen, anyway? I’ve never felt my age. If I didn’t know how old I was, I’d be 25. But 50? Really? Wow. I’m still getting used to that idea. Good thing I have until July. Maybe by the time it happens, I’ll be used to it.
Things will change in 2015. Big things will change. My path has had many twists and turns and even some circles in it. For a very long time, I’ve been focused on other people – Justin and Bratgirl, mostly. I haven’t taken good care of myself, and I haven’t thought much about my own needs and wants in a really long time. So yes, things will change in 2015 for me.
The biggest life changer for me has been losing Justin. I’ve had a lot of time to think and process everything from the last two years, dealt with and finally let go of the guilt and regrets, the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. And to find the place of peace. I lost Justin the first time in December 2012. We struggled to bring him back and I worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life to do the part I could do for his recovery. He lost his identity, his sense of self, who he saw himself as with the brain injury, and began his plan to die in February 2014. I fought it hard, put things in his path that might help him, and kept doing what I could to care for him.
I lost him the second time in May 2014 when he went home to NC to die. When he left, I was lost. I kept floundering, trying to figure out what to do. If I do *x*, will he check back in and choose life? What if I do *y*? And in August, after Sir John’s loss, he tried again. But even then, there was still hope. And I was still lost, not able to get any momentum forward, just seeming to wait.
Then I lost him forever in October. I know without a shadow of a doubt that he waited for me to arrive before leaving this plane. I’ve learned a lot about people and grief and death and dying in the last two months. Grief is like the ocean, coming in waves. Sometimes the waves are gentle and just brush up against you. Other times the waves are tsunamis, smashing into you and knocking your feet out from under you. The time between waves, when the ocean is gently rocking, is getting longer now. But the big waves still come out of nowhere and knock me off my feet when I least expect it.
I’ve mostly let go of the things I needed to let go of. There are still trickles of things that come when I am feeling overly emotional or a bit insecure. When I’m afraid and lonely. But I recognize them, feel them, and allow them to pass through me. I’ve lost a couple of people I thought were friends but who I’ve learned weren’t really. I’m okay with that. We each have our own paths to follow and our own Karma we create. My Karma is good. I’ve learned a lot about love and compassion, too. If only more people could learn about love and compassion, our world would be a much more joyful place.
2015 is going to bring new things, new relationships, big changes. A new home in February, which will be a good thing for me. New learning and growth that will ultimately lead to a new career path. Grandbabies growing up and adult children flourishing. Spiritual growth that I can feel will be huge for me. The ragged edges of the hole in my heart from Justin’s loss will heal, although the hole will always remain. I’m learning to accept that the plans we made won’t happen, and that now it’s up to me to make new plans for myself. There will still be a rocker on the porch where I can watch the sunset, it will just sit alone now. There will still be grandbabies playing and growing, I’ll just be watching them grow alone. There is sadness for that loss, there is grief for that loss, but there is also beginning to be hope for a new future. And I’m learning to be okay with that.
I have work to do. 2015 will bring new and good things. I’m hoping it doesn’t bring more loss.