Loss can be found in so many circumstances in our lives. For the girls and I, August 2011 when their daddy/my husband died, and June 2013 when their brother/my only son died screams out at us as our HUGE, devastating losses. Nothing compares with our two guys dying within 22 months of each other in our hearts and minds. These are such painful losses that we are walking through. These losses have changed the entire landscape of our family.
I remember trying to read a book after my son died that was taking all kinds of losses ranging from death of a loved one to divorce to death of a pet to loss of a job, and grouping them together. I remember thinking that I could not emotionally handle the way they were grouping all of the losses together. I was not at a point where I was ready to think of the similarities of different kinds of losses. I could not compare the death of my son to when my dog Jake died. That does not mean that I did not truly love my chocolate lab Jake. I most certainly did. However, I still can’t group them all together. Yet, I can share that I am able to look beyond my own pain and see the heartache in different types of losses. I do believe without a shadow of a doubt that people in our world are hurting from all types of losses. Each one needs love, understanding, and the freedom to be real in order to work through these losses, to heal from their pain, and to find purpose in what they do and how they live after enduring these losses and pain.
Some of my dear friends have went through divorce. Some of our teenage friends have had their parents divorce. Divorce is the death of a family unit that did exist. It is a loss. It hurts all involved. Divorce is lonely. Often people in the family unit, whatever their role, don’t always feel free to share their pain with others. It is a loss. It is painful. All parts of the family unit that are broken need love and support. They are all hurting. It is loss.
When my sister’s beloved golden retriever Lexie died after many years of being together. Her heart was so sad. I remember talking with her after Lexie died. Lexie had truly been her friend and companion for many years. Her heart was hurting. She was in pain. She missed her friend. It is loss.
When some of my dear friends have lost their jobs and they had to start anew… they suffered loss from what they had and the relationships that were there. There was fear of the unknown… of starting over in a new place. It is loss.
Throughout our lives, we will encounter loss. The girls and I went through an additional, extremely painful loss in January 2015. Our dear Jiles family was moving 21 hours away from us. We were so sad. The kids were cousins and had grown up together, and their ages were all close together. PK was born in 1995, Kylee in 1996, AJ in 1999, MiKayla in Jan 2000, Abbie in Sept 2000, Isaac in 2003, and Caleb in 2005. These 7 kids were together since they were born, and all 7 births occurred within a span of 10 years. They felt much closer than the cousins that they were. Often they acted and felt more like siblings. Kylee and MiKayla had already lost their dad and brother. They have and continue to hurt and miss them with all of their hearts. After continuing to try to cope with half of their immediate family dying and trying to live without them in their lives, then to have the Jiles move so many hours away was so extremely sad for all of us. The last thing that any of us wanted was to be further apart from any of our family members…especially those that they had grown up with all of their lives and were so close to. This was so painful. It is loss.
When we would see the Jiles on visits, the reunions were so happy. The joy that the kids would have when they were together was so wonderful. They love each other and enjoy each other in ways that are difficult to describe. However, once it was time to say goodbye again, then the pain and the hurt would hit each one of them again. This was so difficult. The sadness was so evident. The loss was real. The loss was painful.
The loss that my daughters and I felt from their absence was painful. It was a loss. It hurt. The girls and I didn’t want to keep adding loss to our lives. We already did not feel capable of handling the devastating deaths of our guys. We did not want any more loss.
We would do our best to keep in touch through different avenues. I so desperately wanted my daughters to see that they still had the Jiles family in their lives. I wanted them to see that this wasn’t like the deaths that they had to endure. They could maintain their relationships in spite of the distance. They could find creative ways to remain close. I think that they doubted their mom in this; however, every time they were able to all be together then it was as if they had not even been apart. The connection that these cousins have is so wonderful. I remember they found some new app called house party or something like that. It would show who was in the house and then they could talk to whoever was in the house. I would hear screams of delight from my girls. Abbie is in the house! AJ is in the house! They would talk and catch up and laugh as they connected. It was great to see all of the wonderful ways that they could connect. Social media is most definitely creative.
This picture was taken today. We were able to go and see our family who now does not live 21 hours away from us, but the Jiles family now lives just 1 hour and 15 minutes away!! The season of loss and distance for these cousins has ended. They were so happy together. When we walked in and saw my beautiful niece then the tears immediately filled her eyes. Tears immediately filled my eyes. My daughters’ eyes were also teary. The joy to have this group living so much closer and to be back together is so wonderful!!
I had the fun opportunity to take this excited group out to eat lunch. The ages are now 20, 18, 17, 17, 14, and 12. I cannot tell you how much laughter was at that table. The joy in their eyes and faces was so evident. I am so thankful for this beautiful picture of them together as I believe you can truly see the joy that they each were experiencing. Watching the love and joy that all of the kids were experiencing today blessed my heart in ways that were so awesome!
Since my son died, I will be experiencing wonderful moments such as this, and then all of a sudden my heart is hit with the reality of loss. My son is not there. We had one empty chair sitting at this table with us. There were 7 of us. It was symbolic to me. My PK should be sitting here in that chair laughing and celebrating his cousins and family. My son would be 22 now if he was still living. How I wished he was sitting at the table with us. He loved the Jiles family so much. Whenever I talk to the Jiles kids about their cousin PK, their eyes immediately with love. They look at their aunty and seem genuinely happy to talk to me about their cousin. I know they love him so much. He was also an integral part of their group and of their lives.
I remember when AJ and PK were young. No matter where we were, AJ was always right there with PK. I could always see the love that AJ had for PK. PK had the same love for AJ. They had such a special bond. Abbie was always treated just like one of his sisters, and he would tease her and chase her just like she was his sister. They truly loved each other. When Isaac was born, then we were immediately blessed with a boy who had so much joy. We would marvel at how Isaac’s name meant laughter and how he truly was his name. PK would laugh so much when he was with Isaac and while Isaac had us all laughing then he would be laughing at the same time. When Caleb arrived then we had another cousin and part of our family to celebrate. I remember PK carrying Caleb around and then would later tell me stories in a very proud way of what his cousin Caleb did and how great he was. PK truly enjoyed each cousin. Part of living with grief is handling all of the times that the loss hits you. The love I have for my son is always with me. I wished he was sitting in that empty chair with all of us. I will however always be thankful for each moment we had with him. Always.
As I looked around the table, even though I was wishing that my son was there with us and celebrating the Jiles coming home, the look of pure joy and excitement and love that I could see in both of my daughters’ eyes and in my niece’s and nephews’ eyes was so incredible. I was glad that they had put us back in a corner so that we were in our own section. Watching the kids laugh and talk filled my heart. How thankful I am that this was a season of temporary loss. I am so glad that the 2 1/2 years of separation is over and that my girls have been reunited with their dear cousins. I am thankful that we can see an end to this loss and that it ended today. I am thankful that we are starting a new season of life with our family in which they are so much closer and that we will all be able to be together so much more!
When we watch the seasons in our lives then we can find much symbolism in what we see and in the seasons in our individual lives. The spring season where there is new growth and life and color that is springing up all over is exciting and reminds us of new beginnings. Even though summer can be filled with heat then many of us enjoy the beauty of greenery and all of the outdoor activities that can occur throughout this season. The fall can be beautiful as the leaves turn colors and our world is filled with a new beauty; however, as the leaves fall off and the weather turns cold then we may not always feel like celebrating that part of the season. As winter settles in then not everyone enjoys the cold temperatures or the fact that much of the greenery and plant life is covered up and seems to be gone or dead. Some find beauty in the snow. This northern lady sure does 🙂 One of the major challenges in our hearts and lives is to find beauty and gratitude in each season. In the seasons of our lives, there can be times where that seems nearly impossible. However, I do believe it is possible. Not easy. But yes possible.
Today the girls and I had the true joy of a season ending where the Jiles family lived so far away to beginning a new spring season with our family. A season of living close again and having the blessed opportunity to make so many new memories together. The joy and laughter that I was able to experience today with this wonderful group brought me so much individual joy. We are truly celebrating our new season with the Jiles and are so grateful.
“I truly believe we can either see the connections, celebrate them, and express gratitude for our blessings, or we can see life as a string of coincidences that have no meaning or connection. For me, I’m going to believe in miracles, celebrate life, rejoice in the views of eternity, and hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect in the lives of others. This is my choice.” Mike Ericksen