Thursday, October 29, 2015

Regrets that Paralyze You


Regrets can paralyze you.  They can serve as roadblocks to keep you from moving forward.  They can snatch you, suck you back and spiral you down into grief. We all have regrets... it's simply part of living and part of making mistakes, but what we choose to do with those regrets or how we choose to come to terms with them either propels us forward or slams us back.

After my husband's death I dealt with regret on a level that I had previously never experienced.  There was so much that couldn't be undone, fixed or changed, so I was just left with all of the 'could have,' 'should have,' and 'would have' beens swirling around in my head.  

The accident was one of the biggest issues. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday... I had suggested that Scott take his plane on the trip with his dad.  For a long time, that really bothered me.  I felt responsible.  I wondered, "What if I had not suggested that, and he had just flown commercial? Would I still have my husband?"  A good friend pointed out to me one night, when I was crying on the phone about my regrets, that the accident would have simply happened the next time he flew.  As I thought about that, I realized that he was going to take the four kids and fly to Omaha for a Nebraska game the following weekend without me.  The depressurization of the plane played out in my mind with my husband and four children onboard.  My stomach sank at the thought of loosing my entire family.  My mind went back to the night before the accident and the quiet assurance that I had had about our family being aright even if something happened to Scott. (Before the Accident) It jumped forward to the phone call the broke the news and the words of peace and comfort that circulated in my head, "This was supposed to happen."  All of these things testified to me that this was not my fault and that it was part of a bigger plan that I could not yet see.

I was also tormented by the idea that Scott had missed or ignored the prompting to not get in that plane that night because he didn't want to disappoint me.  He knew I was making a special dinner and he didn't want to hurt me or make me mad by missing it.  The investigators questioned me, "Why was he in such a hurry to get home?  Did he have patients to see or something pressing?  Why didn't he just wait another day for the part?  What was so important that he needed to leave that night?"  They had no idea how their questions ignited my fears. As my heart sunk, I could only respond with the truth, "It was just me.  He wanted to get home to me."  Then the tears came as I explained about the dinner I had been making.  They didn't know what to say.  I could feel the uncomfortable silence on the other side of the phone.  I hadn't given them the information they needed, but they had confirmed my worst fear.  It was all my fault.  He got in that plane because of me.
I lived with that conversation for months, going back and forth in my mind between the idea that God had incorporated this tragedy into his great plan for our lives and the thought that I had been the cause of something so very wrong, something that would never be set right and something that would assuredly destroy us. This regret would resurface and cause my stomach to churn.  It would start me crying and make me doubt everything good that I had felt.  

Finally, I got an answer that gave me some relief.  About 4 months out, I attended a conference for young widows and widowers out in Utah where Chris Williams spoke about his pregnant wife and all but two of his children dying in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. His whole talk was touching, but as he described the night of the accident, his words hit me in a different way than anything else he had yet said.  He described how it had been a wonderful, fun evening together, and then he told of the feeling of peace and love for his family that came over him right before the impact that would take their lives. My mind went back to my experience and feeling those same feelings before the crash.  I listened more intently as he said, "There was no prompting to not get in the car that night.  No warning from the spirit came.  What happened, God allowed to happen for a greater purpose that I did not yet understand."  As he said those words, all of the weight of the regret I had carried fell from me like water running down a roof in a rain storm.  

I can't describe how I knew, but deep down the realization pierced me, "They didn't ignore a warning because of me.  It simply was not there."  I saw them laughing and talking about the fun weekend they had enjoyed together and the cars they had raced.  I knew that they had felt peace too, just like I had that night.  God had not intervened to stop what was going to take place, instead He brought us feelings of love for one another, comfort and reassurance.  He knew that this tragedy would hurt and cripple us, but he knew that it would change and refine us too.  He wanted us to gain everything we could learn from this  and so He didn't stop it.

I don't know what regrets and guilt plague your mind.  Sometimes there are things that we can go back and fix.  We can rectify those acts, apologize, make it better the best way we can, and then move forward.  But sometimes there are things that we cannot fix.  Sometimes there are things that we will never know and those can be the regrets that continue to haunt us and hold us back.

I can't answer those questions for you, I cannot bring you peace, but I can share with you how I found my peace.  It didn't come from the investigation or from people assuring me that my fears were unfounded.  It came from the spirit speaking peace to my mind.  The funny thing was, that is didn't happen when I was on my knees crying out to God to give me understanding.  The answers didn't come then, but my prayers were heard.  When the time was right and I was ready, I was placed in the path of people who shared their experiences with me.  My answers were not found in the words they said, but through them, I was touched on a deeper level and peace and understanding came to my heart.

Those are the answers that carry me.  Those are the ones I go back to when I start to fear and spiral down. I remember how I felt.  I reread what I wrote about those experiences and I feel it all again.  Answers can come, maybe not all of the answers we would like, but the ones that we need to move forward can come if we just pray and ask and then wait.  They come often when we don't expect, but if we put ourselves in a place where we can hear and feel those answers, they will come.

Don't live with your regrets.  Fix those things you can and pray for help to understand and feel peace about those that are beyond your control.  God wants to help us change and move forward.  He wants to give us those tender mercies and assurances that keep us going, but He can't if we won't hear and He can't if we aren't prepared.  That is what I make my focus now.  I try to be in a place where I can get those answers.  I am learning how to recognize them better and better.  

Does that make all of the pain go completely away? 

No, but it does help me to manage it.  It helps me to know that I am on the right path.  It helps me to know that there is a higher purpose in all of this and that gives me the drive to keep going and looking for ways to make Scott's death make a difference.  So that is part of the purpose that I have discovered. Yours may be completely different, but what ever it is, I encourage you to get the answers and peace that will help you let go of your regrets, find purpose and move forward.

See and comment on this post on my new website, How Do I Go On?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Finding Joy among the Crashing Waves

The holidays are approaching and I watch everyone else filled with excitement and anticipation.  Scott loved the holidays and it was always such a happy time in our house, but I find now that I dread those days.  I have learned to live with all of the normal days of the year... I have had well over 1000 of those days to practice being without him, but this is only our 4th thanksgiving, our 4th Christmas, his 4th birthday, and our 4th wedding anniversary apart.  Four really isn't that much, and I think the lack of practice on these special days makes them all the harder.

Honestly, I am tired of being sad... tired of dreading the day and looking for distractions to make it go quicker... I am tired of faking a smile and tired of the triggers that make me well up with tears. I really truly want to be able to live and enjoy those days again.

My children are growing up and leaving, and already we are not all together on those days.  I suppose this loss is something everyone faces, even without death in the picture.  Children grow up and leave home to create their own families.  Change is constantly in motion in our lives like waves crashing on the shore. We often catch ourselves fearing the next wave to come.

I am reminded of our surfing lessons in Hawaii this summer.  As we were trying to paddle out with the waves crashing in, we were toppled and tossed off our our boards with each new waves.  With eyes stinging from the salt water, we would recover our boards and try to make up the lost distance before the next wave gathered strength.  It was a tiring, loosing battle until our instructor taught us to dive under the wave.  Instead of sitting up on the board and trying to fight our way over the wave, we simply laid flat on the board and bowed our heads to dive beneath it.

It was effortless to get to the other side of the wave this way. We avoided the churning and emerged smoothly on the other side.  So as the waves of change crash upon our lives, we can either fight miserably against them or we can learn to peaceably roll with them.

Maybe I am finally at the point where I am tired enough of being beaten up in the resistance that I am finally willing to embrace the process of change in my life.  Just as we bow our heads to go under the powerful crashing waves, I can bow to the power of He who creates these waves of change, and as I do that, I know that He can help me pass to the other side of them.

So what is holding me back?  As I think about it, it has to be fear.  Fear is that beast that always tries to paralyze me and prevent me from moving forward in faith.  It is what dampens my hope and kills my joy.

What do I fear?  

Unfulfilled expectations, more loss, being alone...

How do I combat those fears?  

There is only one way that I know to combat fear, and that is through prayer.  Through prayer, I can get the power to overcome those fears.  So tonight that is what I was doing.  Not formally on my knees, but pondering through out the evening and when I slipped into the tub tonight.  My mind went back to earlier today and a lesson formulated in my mind.

This afternoon, my daughter sang a solo in the all city choir.  In the audience I was trying to get the camera ready to video her portion of the song that was coming up.  I was fiddling with the settings, when I looked up towards her.  I found myself wishing that I had brought my glasses so that I could see her better, and then in the middle of that thought, superimposed upon it, came a clear voice... "Isn't she so beautiful?"

I stopped everything as tears welled in my mind.  "You're here!" I thought shaking my head slightly, "Of course I'm/you're here... I/You wouldn't miss this." It was if there were two voices thinking the same thing in my head. Then I was still and I just felt... felt the emotions flood me... the love that my husband had for his little girl filled me with such an alarming strength that I fought back more tears.

As I video taped her part, I just shared that moment with him... the two of us watching together... both soaking it in... and then he was gone.  The song was over and just as quick as it had come over me, it was gone.

After the performance, I told Rachel that her dad was there.  She smiled and said, "I know." So tonight I have been thinking about this and what I wrote earlier about special days being hard.

Why today?  Why did I feel that today?  

I sunk down in the tub in my darkened bathroom letting the water cover my ear to block out every sound but my breathing.  The realization came as I pondered those questions.

I get to be physically here and I get to enjoy all of these special moments with them.  Scott does not, but it's what he wants more than anything.  Together we watched her today, and I felt those emotions in him.  Today I wasn't thinking about him not being here.  I wasn't lamenting it.  Sadness was not blinding me, and it just happened... Maybe his ability to experience and be with us is contingent upon me not being sad and focusing on myself.  Maybe he depends on me to focus on the kids and the joy I can have with them.

This is a new thought for me.  It makes sense in my mind.  I know that for Scott to be with us and for us to feel him, we have to have the spirit with us.  It is absolutely critical. That is why we live the way we do.  It is why we have given up things that drive the spirit away and why we try not to argue or fight, but I had not pulled sadness into that category.  Maybe it's time now for me to understand this... maybe it's time for me to make that change and I needed to know why in order to have the power to do it.

If I choose to turn inward and be sad and dwell on what I do not have, then I block the spirit and I block my husband.  I miss out and he misses out.

I don't have much time left with my children... It's time that I stop missing out on the joy that I felt today.  I have a lot of big things coming up.  My son, Alex, is getting married this Christmas.  They are coming home for Thanksgiving and we are having it together with her family, Scott's birthday is the beginning of December and then the wedding is on our anniversary.  I can't miss this... I can't be sad and miss this... miss all of the joy my husband wants to experience with me and share with me.

Maybe if I view it this way, I will have the incentive to push those bad thoughts away and I will be able to be still and just feel. Maybe this is how I duck my head and dive under the wave.

That is what today and tonight taught me... now I just have to do what I believe to be true.  I have to act in faith and trust that the feelings will come and I will feel a great measure of joy this year.  This new revelation is exciting to me because I think I have somewhere to focus now and I feel like I can do this better this year.

So if you struggle on those special days because you have a loss that eats at your heart, choose to push away the sadness. Choose not to dwell on it and to be grateful. Choose to be still and to see the joy around you.  Open a place in your heart for the spirit to fill you.  You may not have a spouse on the other side of the veil, but you do have a Father in Heaven who loves you beyond description.  He wants us to find joy in this life and He wants to fill us with it, but He can't if we don't want to receive that gift.

If we are so focused in fear on the next wave to come, if we are bracing for the impact then we will miss the ease of the water flowing over us as we bow and dive beneath it.  Choose to bow.  Choose to trust your instructor and you will come out less beaten up on the other side.