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Feeling Small

My grief has had a way of making me feel small. Less than. Not quite whole.

I had been with a man for 23 years that made me feel invincible. Our union felt greater than the two of us individually. I had quite forgotten how it felt to be "just me". Instead, I have felt like a lesser person somehow.

Lesser in the sense that I have doubted my own capabilities. (Did he only make me seem capable because he was?)

My intelligence. (Did he somehow make me smarter? Or did being around him make me feel smarter?)

And most of all, my ability to cope. (Was I only strong because of him?)

This last thing felt especially true. When Mike died, I did not think I could cope. Worse, I did not think I could carry on. Not well, at least. Mike was my sounding board, my voice of reason, my cheerleader, my comfort. Often, my compass.

Moving forward felt impossible.

I have felt less able than some of my other mother friends who, for one reason or another, have less supportive partnerships (or none at all) and yet manage to raise children, as well as run their households and hold down jobs.

And I have felt bad for complaining about my bad fortune in losing my husband. (At least, I was lucky enough to have a good husband, even if only for... not long enough, if you ask me... but you get my point.)

Do you know what has made me feel more like myself these last couple of years? What has even made me puff up my chest and feel "greater than" at times? What has struck me down in humility and exhaustion but has also helped me back on my feet, like a phoenix rising from the ashes? Like I am not small at all, not by a long, long shot?

My children. Or, more accurately, parenting my children.

These last two years have been extremely hard, juggling my pain and my children's pain. My needs and their needs.

The rollercoaster ride of pre-teen and teenage life, I have ridden with them. Their heartbreak, mine. Their wins, mine. Their losses, mine.

And when disasters strike and I am powerless to heal/ comfort/ rescue them, I am brought to my knees. Hard.

And yet, I have doubled down on advocating for them. To be the mama bear and the squeaky wheel, both. To get them help and support. To have them seen and heard.

To build a village around them.

And I have also put them on training wheels and pushed them off, insisting on their own abilities to advocate for themselves. Coaching them on what words to use, what thoughts and attitudes to inhabit.

I have put them in front of God Himself, and prayed ceaselessly for their hearts, minds, and bodies.

And I have held up mirrors in front of their faces and reminded them of the astoundingly wonderful creations they are.

And hopefully, I have made God known to them.

I have repeatedly reached into a mysterious well of wisdom, discernment, patience, and stamina I never knew I had. Truly, if this is what parenting has made of me, I am a stranger to myself.

Today, we find ourselves in another season of change. It feels as though we keep finding ourselves in new thresholds all the time.

And I feel both the honor and humility of guiding my children through these thresholds. They give me courage to move forward. They open my heart to all the possibilities the future can offer.

As much as life has given me reasons to fear, and for all my mental exhaustion, my love for my children can only ever offer me hope for the future. And I attribute all this hope to my faith.

My faith in a God that holds our lives in His hands. Who has been where we are headed. Whose expansive love has always been evident, even in the midst of doubt and pain. Whose mysterious ways will always surprise, and even delight, us.

My God has persistently guided my thoughts, actions, and words when I have felt less than. Not wise enough. Not capable enough. Not strong enough.

These days, I think, I am not doing a bad job.

My kids trust me, still, even at almost-13 and 15 years of age. They seem confident in my love. They confide in me their fears and anxieties. And sometimes, even their best-kept secrets. They are feeling a lot less scared to grow up when they have felt varying degrees of reluctance to leave childhood (and Dad) behind.

So maybe I am actually capable. I am smart enough. (At least, I have been smart enough to surround my children with a village who love them and support them.)

The fact that I am still sane, still grateful, after juggling the challenges of my children's mental health, autism, hormone imbalance, and gender identity? I think, perhaps, I am more than able to cope.

And I can only be infinitely grateful.


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