8 Months…What’s next?

Another month has come and gone. Just like the 7 before it. More days without her sweet face to kiss. More nights without hearing her giraffe rattling around on the baby monitor. More times I look up thinking I’ll see those big brown eyes but, they aren’t there.

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This morning Jonathan said “It’s so hard to believe it’s been 8 months…yet I feel like I haven’t seen her in 8 years.” And he’s so right.

There are days when I truly wake up and have to remind myself she’s gone. But honestly, those days are getting farther apart. She isn’t fading but, our old life is. We are now once again used to the life of non-parents. We get up and go about our days without any of the “parenting stuff”. It sucks. I hate that that now feels normal. We babysat my friend’s precious 15 month old overnight Sunday and…it was hard. It almost felt awkward because I’m out of the mom habit. But…it’s our life right now.

Today, I started a new  bible study and was asked in the get to know you activity “What’s the hardest part about life right now?” and my answer was…everything. Everything is hard. Every single aspect of my life is so hard. Sleeping is hard. Being motivated is hard. Getting work done is hard. Marriage is hard. Family is hard. Friendships are hard. Being around people is hard. Being alone is hard. Writing is hard. Praying is hard. Life is…..just hard.

But it’s also good.

While I’d trade everything about my current life for Sophie to be here, healthy and whole…I can’t do that. This is the life I’ve been given and while it’s painfully hard, there is still good. There’s redemption in the fact that even in the hard, the Lord has opened so many doors and opportunities for us through Sophie’s story. Friendships have formed for us that I don’t think would have ever happened without cancer. Relationships have changed and deepened. Our marriage has grown, changed, torn a little, and been stitched back up by the Lord and His incredible grace over and over again.

The Lord has been just so good to us even in our suffering. I’ve written countless times about the way our community has poured into us and the way we’ve been loved on. He has deepened my desire to know Him and have a true relationship with Him daily. It’s been life changing in good ways too…which is hard to accept that good can come out of your 2 year old’s cancer and death.

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For a long time, thinking about “What’s next” wasn’t really an option. Again, 8 months isn’t a long time but, at the same time…sitting around doing nothing isn’t a healthy way to spend the next 50 plus years of our lives.

So many amazing things are happening right now and it’s bittersweet that she isn’t here for them and…without her cancer, they wouldn’t be happening.

Most everyone knows, or has at least figured out that I am not returning to teaching this year. My heart is not in it and I frankly don’t have the energy. I’m not sure if I’m done for now or done forever but, we’ll see what the next few years hold for me.

I have been enjoying the freedom that comes with running your own schedule. I am freelance writing and creating social media content for a marketing firm, helping a friend on his law firm’s blog, running my personal blog and Sophie’s Facebook page, continuing to submit content to Her View From Home, and I have a few speaking events coming up! All really exciting stuff!

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at our local Childhood Cancer Awareness kick off party…it was again, hard…but I’ll take any opportunity to talk about my baby.

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I have a second speaking event coming up next week for the hospital which I am EXTREMELY excited and nervous about. I am speaking at Children’s annual employee recognition banquet to basically most of the hospital staff! I will be sharing Sophie’s story and reading my Letter to Nurses…oh and then sitting with the CEO of Children’s Health!…No big deal right? They’re even sending hair and makeup TO MY ROOM!!! So yeah, excited about telling a room full of medical personnel about the impact their jobs have on families and how God is Bigger than suffering…it’s a big deal.

Finally, on October 4th I’ll be speaking at a Celebrating Women event that my sweet friend Ashley asked me to be apart of. I’m super excited about that!

Jonathan, also has some great doors opening to him. He’s getting more involved on the deacon board and in teaching freshmen boys bible study at church. He’s also decided to pursue fitness full time. Going back to anything ‘normal’ has felt wrong to both of us and he has always had this desire to help people. Fitness is his third love behind Jesus and me…at least I hope I come before fitness haha! He has decided to start his own online fitness coaching business and I’m really excited to see him be able to do what he loves while helping others achieve health and wellness.

There will never be a time when life isn’t hard. She will always be missing. There will always be a Sophie shaped hole in our lives. But I’m so thankful for videos and pictures and her special things to remind us on the days that she seems to be fading that she’s real. She happened. She changed our lives and made us parents. She was brave and perfect. And we will see her again.

One Day Closer.

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The one my soul loves….

Statistics say that 80% of couples that lose a child end up ending their marriages.

When you get married all starry eyed with fairy sprinkles in the air you say your vows not really thinking you’ll ever need to follow through on the ‘bad ones’. You know for better or WORSE, for richer or POORER, in SICKNESS and in health. So long as you BOTH shall live.

When your spouse dies, you’re a widow or a widower. There’s no ‘term’ for losing a child because it’s that terrible. Marriage always takes work but, especially when you’re grieving. The loss of a child is so horrible-so impossible-so all consuming-that marriage takes a backseat to grief. Most days are spent just trying to function so, putting effort into your spouse is not even a thought sometimes.

It takes conscious, daily, purposeful effort to maintain a marriage during extreme grief.

Now-I’m not saying Jonathan and I have done a perfect job over the last year but, we have tried really hard.

When Sophie was diagnosed, we knew we’d be spending a lot of time apart between one of us needing to be with her and the other needing to work. We had no idea, of course, just HOW MUCH time she’d spend in the hospital. We had no idea I’d have to stop working entirely and that he’d have to go more than week without seeing us sometimes.

It was hard. So hard. But we were determined from day one to stay as a team. We knew that stress between us would not benefit her. So, we put communication first. I sent middle of the night novel emails to him so he’d know where my brain was at. We tried to get time alone at Ronald McDonald House, dinners together, and an occasional night at our home together. We prayed fervently for her but also for each other. And we made it through 231 days of cancer with very few arguments.

Then, she died.

And I could write a book on everything we’ve done in the last year (in fact I’m planning on writing it eventually) but, for now, I’ll just say. We don’t get it right everyday. The last 5 months have been hard. Unimaginably hard. But we are still here and we still love each other most.

Ephesians 4:2-3 says

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience bearing with one another in love; eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Grace has been our theme. We have given each other HEAPS of grace. We’ve given each other the freedom to grieve differently and to not judge where the other person is at. One day I may have a ton of energy and be happy but, he may be deep in a hole of grief. The next day could be completely opposite. We’ve tried really hard to be there for each other when we need it and give space too.

Counseling has also been huge for us. We started grief counseling together in February and it’s been so good. It gives us a space to talk about what’s on our hearts with someone we love and trust and who know us and her. I can’t say enough about how valuable counseling is-for ANY marriage-but especially in grief.

We also have started planned date nights. We’ve found that a lot of the time-we don’t have much to talk about anymore because she was and is our whole life. It’s hard to talk when you both know what’s ‘wrong’. It’s also been hard for us to not just completely check out when we are at home. We don’t really talk about her or ‘it’. There have been many nights of Netflix and us staring at our phones because checking out is just….easier. So our ‘homework’ for counseling has been to write a date night on the calendar and a night where we talk about it. These designated nights, written on the calendar give our brains the freedom to plan out our week and things to look forward to.

I made a date jar for Jonathan’s birthday and the dates range from a movie night at home, going for walks, playing cards, going to dinner, hiking, double dates, group dates, to overnight dates out of town. They’re all different and most of them are cheap or free. We draw a date on Sundays and look at our week then write the date on the calendar.

It’s been SO good for us. Time to connect-without phones. Time to talk about it if we want but also talk about the future of just random stuff too.

We are always a work in progress and we don’t get it right all the time but, we’ve promised each other to put each other second behind Jesus but above anyone else.

I’d choose him and this life over and over again.