The Force of Despair

The subtle change I'm noticing 12 weeks into this grief journey.

It’s been 12 weeks since we lost Parker. The sadness is every bit as deep and heart-wrenching as it was in those first few weeks, but I feel like the Force of Despair has lost just a little bit of its power to push us into that sadness since then. Here’s what I mean by that:

Picture your life as a house, and your emotions as different rooms in that house. When things are “normal,” you spend most of your time in a few different rooms: Happiness, Sadness, Contentedness, Frustration, Joy, et cetera. Hopefully you are able to spend as much time being happy and joyful as possible. Those are great rooms to be in.

When Parker died, the weight of his loss put us in the Sadness Room, and it was almost impossible to escape it. We spent some time in the Shock Room as well, but as that wore off, it was pretty much all Sadness, all the time.

You could escape the Sadness Room for minutes or hours at a time by being surrounded by love and by being cared for by friends and family, but it was only a matter of time before you got pushed back into the Sadness Room by the Force of Despair. It was unrelenting.

The Force of Despair is strong, and in those first few weeks it felt impossible to fight it. Instead, we just let it keep us in the Sadness Room, and we invited our friends and family to join us there, and we lived in the Sadness Room together.

As the New Year came and went and we got settled into January, I noticed that for me, the Force of Despair had weakened just a little. Sometimes it could force me into the Sadness Room and keep me there, but sometimes I could resist it. It was nice to be able to feel Despair pushing me to the Sadness Room, acknowledge that it was happening, but not let it actually push me in there. Feeling like I was gaining a little control back over my emotions felt good. Weird, but good.

This wasn’t a declaration that losing Parker didn’t make me sad anymore, it was that it absolutely still did, but in this particular moment, and maybe just for a moment, I was going to choose not to be sad.

Of course sometimes I found myself going into the Sadness Room on my own, not because I felt pushed there by Despair, but because I wanted to be sad. I wanted to think about Parker and how much I miss him and I wanted to feel the pain and be sad about it. That doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happens sometimes. I am always aware that the Sadness Room is there waiting for me, I’m just spending a little less time in it.

As I approach the 3-month mark of this grief journey, the Force of Despair continues to weaken ever so slightly. There are days when it suddenly feels super strong again and it can bully me into the Sadness Room, but for the most part, it seems to be trending toward weakening. I suppose this is a sign that I am grieving well and healing? I don’t know, but I am certainly not going to assume anything. Some say the first two months are the hardest. Some say year two is the hardest. Some say it never gets easier. Grief can be unpredictable and non-linear, so who knows what lies ahead?

What I do know is that I’m thankful to God for the role that his Spirit plays in my continued healing. He is renewing my mind, reviving my spirit, and helping me set my hope on the things that really matter. My circumstances are not always good, but He always is. That doesn’t always feel true, but I cling to that belief, despite how I feel.

The Sadness is still there and it sucks. We are living the worst nightmare of every parent, and we will bear the scars of losing Parker for the rest of our lives, in ways that we don’t even fully understand yet. Same goes for Kylie in losing her brother…it is a sadness few can fathom.

The difference now for me, just 12 weeks into this process of grieving, is that I don’t have to live in the Sadness Room 24/7. I still spend a lot of time there - way more than I ever have before in my life - but I am able to spend time in other rooms as well. The Happiness Room, the Peace Room, the Lamenting Room (I’ll write more on this later) and even, occasionally, the Joy Room.

I do NOT take this for granted. I know some people are never able to escape the brute strength of the Force of Despair, be it from a devastating loss or something else. So I thank God for the little bits of healing; for how he is working in me, for my amazing wife and daughter, for the memories of my sweet Parker, and for the incredible people in my life who have loved on my family with intensity and resolve.

The Sadness is deep and the Force of Despair is so, so strong. But Love, it turns out, is even stronger.