Processing pain is my key goal

My New Year’s resolutions for 2016 started off by asking for God’s help in strengthening my relationships, whether it was with family, co-workers or friends.

I looked at last year as a new chapter, but wanting more substance and purpose. Never would I have imagined that in less than three months into 2016 we would lose our son, Joey.

At first, it was unbelievable. The thought of going on without Joey was incomprehensible, but it’s now been nine months, and I keep praying to live and ask God to help subside the pain. In some ways, I am getting the help I need.

As with anyone who has lost a child, parent, spouse, sibling or friend, I want to become whole again even though I know my life has changed.

One thing I have been learning slowly and over time is that the pain of losing Joey keeps vying for my attention, and it’s taken a lot of courage to be open to it. Ernest Hemingway was quoted as saying, “the definition of courage is grace under pressure.”

Someone else once told me that courage is fear that has said its prayers.

In a conversation with a friend who also lost a child, she said if I try to deny or suppress my pain, it will be even more painful. I don’t want to live against myself because if I do that I will have also turned my back on everyone who means something to me. As much as it hurts, I want to love and have family and friends close by to help me.

Loneliness and regret are much more painful than opening my heart to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual pain that is important in healing.

In year’s past, some of the resolutions I would make dealt with getting organized, losing weight or being a better friend.

But as I look at 2017, my one resolution is continuing to work through the pain of losing an exceptional young man. At age 29, Joey was only beginning to come of age, and he had only started to show his talents and how he could contribute to this world. The pain that Joey died before he had a chance to live has also made grieving a lot harder for us.

As his mother, I believe I owe it to him to remain open to the pain, which honors the love I felt for him when he was here.

In the beginning, I was angry that God would take our son away, but I don’t believe in a vengeful and punishing God. If I really thought that, I know I wouldn’t be able to make it through the next difficult time.

I always thought that it would be me who died before my children, but on March 13 when the police and sheriff’s office knocked at my door to tell me the sad news, my world was turned upside-down.

When I talk about working through the pain as this year’s resolution, I think that also includes freedom from bitter thoughts and resentments, too.

I don’t think any of us understand why God sends us the crosses we have or the sacrifices demanded, but there’s no looking back, and I know he wants us to be at peace.

In addition to my family and friends, I am also reading a book about understanding grief by Alan D. Wolfelt, who writes about 10 touchstones for finding hope and healing our hearts. When I think of resolutions, I will also think of those touchstones:

Being open to the presence of my loss.

Dispelling misconceptions about grief.

Embracing the uniqueness of my grief.

Exploring the feelings of loss.

Recognizing I am not crazy.

Understanding the six needs of mourning.

Nurturing ourselves.

Reaching out for help.

Seeking reconciliation, not resolution.

Appreciating my transformation.

I will always miss Joey’s smile, his sense of humor and all the unique characteristics that made Joey who he was.

Patty Decker writes news and features for the Free Press. You can reach her at patty@hillsborofreepress.com