In the last couple of weeks (maybe longer), my heart has been in a very dark place. I have cried more tears of frustration, self-pity, sadness, and loneliness in the past 10 days than I think I have cried in two years total. It has been almost five years since my dad left this earth, and while some might say the tumultuous grief journey I have traveled in the last half decade has somewhat softened, I am realizing that perhaps it has simply changed. Lately I have been wrestling through grief over my life...Lost. Changed. Different. I have allowed myself to be swallowed by the bitter pill of "It's not fair," and "What if that chapter of my life had never been written."
You see, I was embarking on a great adventure, the exciting "next step" every 18-year-old spends months and years dreaming of and planning. I was growing, thriving, learning new things. I was happy. I was stepping out boldly on my own, carving a path I had spent years equipping myself to walk. One short, glorious month down that path, I was thrown to the ground by this thing called CANCER. And nothing was ever the same. I quit school when most of my peers were just starting. I moved home when my friends were moving away from home. I held my dad's hand during chemo treatments while my friends were pursuing their educational dreams and having fun. And then I was forced to navigate the deep, all-consuming grief of losing my treasured daddy while my peers were going on summer vacations and dating cute boys and I could no longer relate. Can I just scream, on this internet space, that it's not fair?! It wasn't fair then, and it's still not fair now.
It's not fair that my career path was altered.
It's not fair that friendships I had just started to forge never got the chance to bloom.
It's not fair that I never got the carefree "college experience."
It's not fair that I suddenly felt the huge weight of holding my family together.
It's not fair that I lost a year of my life watching my dad shrivel away.
It's not fair that my 18-year-old brain was forever blazened with images of my dad gasping for breath.
It's not fair that every day I am left to wonder what could have been.
And while I am forever grateful for that year spent with my dad before his death, my life has never been the same. Honestly, I am tired of watching people live the life I have always wanted to live and wonder if I would be living that same life if the cancer had never happened. Instead, I go to 401k meetings at work and struggle to manage my money while feeling lost and alone because I do not have the guidance of a father. I watch my siblings and friends get married and make big life decisions and I feel so lost in the middle of it all. I worry about things like how to get the stupid tractor fixed so we can mow the pasture, and how to make sure my little brother has a way to pay for college. I have spent the last five years worrying about everyone else and trying to hold them all together, and who has time to move and get married and buy houses when there is so much worry and responsibility already heaped on? I'm tired, overwhelmed, and lonely because how could anyone possibly understand when I can't even explain to them that I am sad, much less the tsunami of emotion behind the sadness?
Then the guilt takes over. Because I read that last paragraph and I think, who am I to complain? It has been so much harder for my mom. And there are kids around the world who never even knew their dad, much less have 18 years of memories with a dad who loved and doted on them. How can I be so selfish and ungrateful? Sometimes I just have to admit it, though. I have to dump it out and let it sit on the table in all its ugliness. Then I can embrace the beauty of this life I live.
I have many, many amazing friends who love me.
I have a good job.
I have a roof over my head and a mom who goes above and beyond for my siblings and I.
I have four (now six) brothers and sisters who are goofy and loving and all I need to bring a smile to my face.
I have Jesus, and I have this journey He has given me to steward.
While some days I just wish time would rewind and play out differently, I know from these past five years that I can do hard. I can walk this journey out and soak in the blessings poured out along the way. Life is not fair--we were never promised easy--and each person faces their own struggles and challenges. I truly do not intend to whine to those of you who were unfortunate enough to read this (oops, too late, already did...). It's just that this pouring out, this writing down is my best kind of therapy. Please don't feel sorry for me, just know that the grief and needs people experience following the death of a loved one (or some other tragic life event) don't end one, two, or even five or ten years down the road. It's hard...it's always hard. But I can do hard. And I'm trusting, believing, knowing...that in the end, I will be the better for it.