It would be easy to look at my life and feel sorrow over the things that I have lost. My parenting journey has been filled with pain that I was not prepared for. Loss that I did not expect. Not the kind of loss that you can see or touch. Nobody took anything tangible away from me. I lost things that I could not wrap my hands around. Things inside of my head. And, things inside of my heart.
After my two year old was diagnosed with autism I mourned the loss of the life I thought I would live. The vision of a picture perfect family. A family that could venture out into public without social stories and fidgets and anxiety. I lost the ability to believe that I could control everything in my life. I lost things. Things that mattered to me.
Loss catches you off-guard. It stops you in your tracks. For a while it consumed me. That is, for a while I let it consume me.
And then one day I took a look around me and realized that nothing from my life was missing. I still had all of the things that I had pre-diagnosis.
My husband, my children, the roof over our head. The love and support of our dear family and friends. My faith. My fire. My strength. I have everything I need to walk this journey. And sure, some of the days are hard. Some of the days are difficult and painful. Some of the days question my strength. But, every single day I am surrounded by the people and the things that I need.
Too many people are not as fortunate. People lose things that are very tangible. Things and people that they need and touch and feel. They lose things that I cannot imagine losing. And, that kind of lose helps me to put my own loss into perspective.
People very dear to us experienced an unimaginable loss over the holidays. A loss that cuts to the core of parent’s heart. A loss that is both real and tangible. A loss that reminded me of all of the ways that losing something can make you feel. Sad. Confused. Angry. Bitter.
I looked to my friends expecting to see these emotions, but what I saw was something quite different. I saw two people with strength beyond the bounds of strength. With love and faith and patience and hope swirling around them.
Loss presents each person with a choice: bitter or better. My friends made a choice, they choose better. Not bitter.
I continued watching them in utter awe of their strength and faith. I found myself drawn to their strength. In fact, I felt as though their strength was helping me to process my own grief. And, in that moment I realized that I had my own choice to make in my own life.
I was living in the middle of bitter and better. And, I think that I had been living there for a very long time. Many days I felt strong enough to choose better, but in moments of weakness I felt myself drift towards bitterness. So I existed in the middle. Unsure if I could every fully choose. Unsure until I drew strength from my dear friends and their unbelievable faith.
Better moves us forward. Better gives us strength. Better gives us the things we need to move on. For ourselves. And, for our children. Better gives us hope. It opens our hearts to love, love from ourselves and love from others.
Bitter keeps us stuck in one place. Bitter is all-consuming. It sucks the life out of everything living around it. Bitter drains our energy and our hope. It closes our hearts to the love that is waiting for us. Bitterness wins. But, only if we let it.
I will not let bitterness win. There is too much good in this world. In my family. In me. I will wear my choice to be better like a warm blanket. I will let my choice comfort me. I will let it give me strength. I will hold my recent reminder about loss and strength near to my heart. I will let it guide me down this uncertain journey. I will do that because I choose better. Not bitter.