What is this?

What is this? I don't really know, other then a continuation of my updates and writings that I was sharing previously on Caringbridge of this journey through cancer and now widowhood and single parenting.

Maybe it won't end up being anything at all, or maybe it will be a glimpse into my heart, my life, my current situation, my testimony.

Whatever it becomes, I am touched that you are interested.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A homecoming update

I am a bit tired, so forgive my lack of 'finesse' in this post. It's been a busy week, and as much as I want to just lay in bed and watch a little tv and drift off to sleep, I want to send out a little update more. I know many have been praying for my transition back home and are genuinely concerned for how I am holding up. I know that if I don't do it now, as the little one is in bed asleep, it will probably be a while before I have the time to get anything written.

Well, I can say that I have put one foot in front of the other. That's an achievement.

I have moments where I just still can't believe that this has happened to my life, to my husband, to Aria's father. To a son, a brother, a friend. To Brandon. I have to sit and look at a picture and tell myself that I will never feel his hand hold mine again. I try to remember what that even felt like. It feels so long ago. I struggle to remember his voice and his mannerisms. I feel like it's all so foggy. I look at the pictures and I feel like I'm looking upon a life that was not my own.

I spend a lot of time just wondering what it would have been like to watch him being a father. I feel like even the best I can imagine would have paled in comparison to how he would have been in that role. This is where I get the most upset as I long to know that part of Brandon.

The rest of the time I guess I am just in survival mode. I move from task to task robotically. I try to stay distracted. This has not been too hard to do with the demands of caring for an infant alone, keeping up the house, running errands, taking care of all the aftermath of the past 5 months, transitioning back into work, researching part time child care options, finding and lining up support groups, attempting to find a few minutes each day to myself....blah, blah, blah, the list goes on.

Despite the challenges I guess I can say I am holding up better then I expected. Though I can take no credit of my own here. God has given me the strength of David vs. Goliath, at least that's what I felt I was up against in coming home.

Additionally, He has carried me from minute to minute through the support of so many people. I am continually blown away by the time, resources and thought that so many have selflessly given to me. I feel very unworthy. And I know you will say I shouldn't feel that way, but I can not even begin to express how much has been done for me.

Like I've said before, I have no idea what our loved ones in Heaven get to know about the happenings in this world, but I like to think that they now see the big picture and celebrate when God's promises come to pass. So with every single act of love you have shown me, I imagine Brandon rejoicing in a way our minds can not even comprehend for how God is using you to care for Aria and I, Brandon's most desperate prayer. Thank you for giving us that gift, all three of us.

I have been praying for God to open my heart to accept the love of being a mother. Please do not misunderstand this statement. I love our daughter; unconditionally and with my whole heart. But it's hard to express how difficult it is to experience such love and such pain at the same time. Every adorable little baby thing she does that melts my heart carries with it such pain that Brandon is not in these moments with us. Our minds are not equipped to balance such polarizing emotions. It has felt like my senses have been dulled so that I do not fully feel the heights of the joy so that I also don't completely feel the depths of the pain that accompany it.

Thankfully God has been answering that prayer and I have begun to find lasting joy and fulfillment without immediate pain and emptiness. Aria and I are becoming quite the team. She has no clue how much she is blessing my life in this time.

I have so many people continually checking on me. You have no idea the worth of your messages to me right now. I sincerely apologize that I have not been able to get back to everyone. Please know that I read most messages right away, and often they are just what I needed at that moment. To not feel forgotten or alone. I hope to respond as soon as I can, even though it's not nearly as soon as I would want it to be.

I need to get some rest, but thank you for your love and support. I think of the kindness of my family, friends, neighbors, strangers, ARFCOM family, Quakertown Community, Church Communities, CaringBridge Followers, friends of friends, and so many more DAILY. I am humbled and beyond gracious.

I'd like to end with a quick prayer request. Please pray that Aria adapts quickly to being comfortable with others again. My time away, though needed, has made her very attached to me.

Thank you and God bless!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The time has come

I sit here today doing my best to embrace constantly opposing feelings.

Since the beginning of October Aria and I have been staying in Pennsylvania with my parents. I didn't know if I would need to stay 3 weeks or 3 months, but I knew I needed the refuge of my family and time to process.

I woke this morning with excitement. For the first time in months I did not have disturbing and tormented nightmares all night long. So as I emerged from my sleep I woke in an alternate reality. I knew I was heading home to Colorado tomorrow, and my heart fluttered as I thought 'I can't wait to get home and see Brandon again!' as if I were just visiting without him. A couple blinks of my eyes then I'm suddenly overtaken with what feels like my heart stopping and my soul dropping to the floor. My breath falls short and my throat tightens as I yet again accept reality. I am going home to a life without Brandon. I now am overcome with dread.

The ridiculous part is that this happens over and over every day. However, it always seems most confusing first thing in the morning.

Why does my mind torment me like this? I imagine it's part of the 'process'. Maybe it's a coping mechanism, realizing the devastation a little bit at a time over and over because our hearts are not able to take it all at once.

I know that I need to return to our home, and start to rebuild my life piece by broken piece. The longer I put it off the longer I sit in this limbo of wondering how hard it is going to be.

I remember someone telling me that sometimes the anticipation of what is to come is worse then it coming to be.

Again opposing feelings. I highly doubt my worry is worse then my reality. I have only begun to think of the challenges that I now face between grief and single motherhood. But then God gives me peace as I do my best to rest in His word that every day His mercies are new (Lam 3:22-23) and '...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.' (Matt 6:34). Or in short I guess you can say 'One day at a time'.

So maybe there is some truth to that statement because while worrying about what is to come I am carrying the weight of not only today's challenges, but tomorrow's as well.

Am I ready to face our home, full of memories and empty of my husband? Am I ready to take on single motherhood in a house alone? Am I ready to let the reality of my new normal set in?

No. I'll never be 'ready' for this. But I have to face it. I have to let the quiet pierce my heart and feel what I have been keeping at bay since June 27th.

So as I pack up my bags I feel anxious leaving the safety of my temporary respite, but relief in knowing that I am returning to the loving support of family and friends. I feel scared to take these steps into the unknown, but assured that the time has come to do so.

For when I am weak, then I am strong:

'But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.' 2 Cor 12:9-10

We so often misquote that scripture, I know I have. 'For when I am weak, He is strong'. No, He is ALWAYS strong. It's when I have nothing left and stop trying to do it myself, and allow the Spirit to take over in me, then I am strong, because He is reigning in me.

And truthfully, I have no choice but to continue to put my faith to the test, seek my strength from Him and trust God to guide and provide for my needs. Trust in uncertainty.

I would truly appreciate your prayers for peace beyond understanding, strength to face each challenge that will come and to find hope in every day that will carry me to the next. Thank you, thank you, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

...Oh and prayers for good travels tomorrow. No fussy baby, and no travel delays or cancellations! (Thankfully my mom is traveling with Aria and I, and staying for a few days to get me settled back in.)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

4 month / 6 week Update

So many of you have invested in Aria and I's life that I wanted to try to do a monthly 'lifestyle' update on us. Aria's age is not only her milestone marker, but more or less notes the beginning of our new kind of normal.

4 months on the new path of parenting, and 6 weeks without Brandon-walking it as a young widow and single mother.

But God has blessed me greatly with Aria. Her little baby smiles make my heart melt. Though every smile, giggle and new development is bittersweet. Thankfully what does linger is the sweet part.

I believe God knows that I need rest at this time for my physical and emotional well being, and He has given me the gift of a baby who has been sleeping through the night since 7 weeks old. She continues to put herself to sleep in the evening, rest for 8 hours, wake to feed, then sleep again for 3 more hours before starting her day around 10am. And my goodness, she must be a lot like me and thrive in structure. During the day she tells me she's hungry within minutes of the 3 hour feeding schedule. It's unbelievable.

I am still nursing and have not had to supplement formula yet, though I have been given some breast milk from a dear friend whom I trust to help fill in the gaps.

Aria loves her bumbo style seat and really enjoys standing, with support of course. I'm afraid she is going to be an early walker! She reaches for and grabs things and is putting her pacifier in her mouth on her own now too.

I have to say that this part, from 3 months on, has been so amazing to watch her learning. I wish with every fiber in me that Brandon was with me to share in this joy. I find myself wanting to send him pictures of what she just did as if he was just out golfing and missed a brief moment of her cuteness.

As for me, I'm getting by. Surviving I guess.

Brandon was really the only person I broke down with. He was my support and my counselor, and now when I need him the most, he's gone. So all the times that I normally would take my thoughts to him instead I pray and write. I am learning to lean on God in a way I never have before. I know this is supposed to be a beautiful thing, and at times it truly is, but to be honest I'm not quite there yet. I'm human. I want the physical arms of my husband, but am learning to seek the spiritual arms of my Savior.

I find that I spend most my day in constant communication with God. Most often it's just asking Him to get me through the next part of the day. Give me the strength to keep going. Help me find true joy in my daughter. Thanking Him for each blessing I see. Telling Him I trust His plan for my life, even though right now I don't like it. Asking Him to help me believe when fear overtakes me. Thanking Him for loving me so much despite my sin. Asking for forgiveness for the horrible thoughts that cross your mind when in deep grief. Telling Him my fears and sharing with Him my sadness. I try so hard to remain in praise of Him. Keep my heart focused on His promises and on Heaven, and that this is just a small stroke in the big picture.

Then, when I have moments where I can get it out, I write. It seems to be the only way I can process reality and have an outlet for my thoughts. I found a journaling app for my phone that has been a great tool.

In it I write notes to Brandon. I tell him how much I miss him and of all the things that remind me of him. I tell him all about Aria, and how he would have been such a great dad.

I jot down the random mindless trails of thought that otherwise just spin in my head, gathering speed and intensity until I release them, an explosion of thoughts, fears, anxieties, what-if's and desperate prayers.

I write down memories. Now that we are not making new memories together, I am terrified to loose the old ones. It's a strange, strange feeling. Searching my memory for little details, trying to remember the sounds and smells. Like if I don't replay them over and over in my head, burn them into my memory and write them down, that they will be lost forever.

I think I will be what is called an 'active' griever. Soon I will be attempting to get involved with support groups of many kinds, if available child care allows. Most group settings are encouraged after your first 3 months of grief, once the initial 'shock' has set in.

I hear that 3-9 months after is often the hardest and loneliest for a widow. Reality sets in and you have to figure out how to navigate a world on your own that you once shared nearly 24/7 with another person. The bed is empty, the house is quiet. There is no scent of their soap and no arms to hold you tight anymore. It's all just gone.

I will continue therapy, hopefully both regular and grief specific. Being an introvert, I feel I have to figure out how I am grieving on my own first, then seek the help I think I need.

Your prayers are greatly appreciated for daily strength and peace, and that God directs me and makes possible for me to get the help I need. Of course prayers for Brandon's parents and brother in these matters as well, who are deep in their unique grief of this loss in which I can not put my own words to. And prayers for my parents who grieve the loss of a 'son' and grieve for the pain and the difficult road ahead for their daughter and granddaughter.

Whew, this post feels like a heavy one. But this is the truth of it. Some days are ok, most just plain suck. It will be a while before things will feel good again. But God is good. He never said it would be easy, just that He would be there. And He has not failed me.

Thank you for bearing the weight of my words and helping to carry me through this journey ahead. God bless you.