I’ve been going through a process for a couple of years now. Yes, that long. I’ve written about parts of it on occasion, but I haven’t gotten to the point of letting it all hang out.
I’m not grieving the loss of anyone. I’m grieving the loss of a life. More specifically, the life I had always thought I was going to have. That may sound strange and some may not ever be able to understand it, but it is there and it is very real for me. It actually took me a while to figure out that the whole range of emotions that I was feeling was tied up into one thing – grief.
See, I didn’t ever think my life would look like it does. And, the life that I have is not a bad one. Quite the contrary. I see many wonderful things about it and every day I find things that I am grateful for. At the same time, it is so very different from the images that I have carried in my heart and head for as long as I can remember.
When I thought about life down the road I saw myself being married. I would have children. They would go to Little League or soccer practice and suck on oranges with all the other kids. I would have friends to have coffee with, to go do things with. We would be closely connected to a church and be involved where we felt led. Our kids would be able to play in the neighborhood. They would go to school where they would make friends and have a chance to interact with other kids. We would be close to family and they would be an active part of our lives.
My life does not look like that.
I think my journey through this really got started after Chris and I got married. The realization that I couldn’t just pick up and leave Haiti if it got uncomfortable or if I felt it was time settled in on me like a one ton weight. There were many times in those first months where I found myself an emotional ball of goo. It was hard. There were a lot of tears. There were many moments where Chris wondered what happened to the reasonably sane woman that he married. It was hard for me to move through. I then realized that I was in fact going through a grieving process. I was grieving a life that I may never have. In the midst of it I was grateful for what I was in, but I at the same time I felt much sadness for what I was letting go of.
Things got better. In fact, last year was a good year for me. There were still those thoughts in the back of my mind, but I was able to let them be there and still appreciate what was in front of me and come to a good level of contentedness. I loved that things were feeling more settled for us, I loved the work we’re doing here, and I loved that we were in the center of God’s will for our lives.
I still love those things.
But, in the past few months I feel like so much has bubbled up to the surface again. I feel like I have had to make so many sacrifices to be here. That I’ve given up so many things. Dreams, desires, relationships, things…essentially a life that I may never live. And this is what I grieve. I am grieving a life I may not live.
It’s hard for me to share this because I know there are people out there that would call me a whiner. That would accuse me of not being grateful for what I have. That’s fine. This is just where I’m at, how I’m feeling, and those feelings are okay. They are part of me, and they are very real. They are mine. I’m okay with others not understanding them. You would need to be in my shoes to get there. It’s often hard for me to even express them because I know that others won’t understand. I even have a hard time talking to Chris about it because he doesn’t struggle with the same things. His life looks the way he had hoped it would. He is living out his dreams. He wanted to be a missionary. He is. He wanted to be in one of the places that needed the most help. He is. He wanted to be married and have a partner in ministry. He is and does. He wanted to adopt. We have/are.
I know that God has called me here. That in itself was a process where he made his plans for me very clear, and when the time was right I stepped into them because I knew they were perfect and because I wanted to be obedient. I know that it is His plan that Chris and I are together and living this life together and I am continually grateful for my husband and that we do get to go on this wild ride together. I know that Olivia was meant to be a part of our family, before we ever knew we would be a family. Last night as Chris and I were talking about some of these things he said, “I believe serving God is a privilege.” I completely agree. While it is a privilege, there are still sacrifices that are made. I’ve just been really aware of them recently.
When I wander around here feeling bored I think about the things I could do if I lived in the first world. I think of the friends I’ve left behind. Of how my relationships have changed because I live here. Sometimes I feel very lonely. I miss the freedom and ease that I had to spend time with people. I miss women my age. Now that I’m a mom I feel jealous of friends back home that can be a part of Mom’s groups and things like that. I grieve that loss of relationship. We have friends here, but they are not the close, intimate relationships that I miss and need.
When things get busy around here and I see Chris and I getting worn down or stressed out I struggle with the fact that there are few places in this country that we can go where we can actually get rest. Everything here feels like work. Even going out to a restaurant for a meal isn’t enjoyable most times because you end up having to do things like remind the waiter that he can’t keep your change or get frustrated because you wait for an hour for your food to come. On weekends we feel like we need to close the house up completely in order to get any time to ourselves, and even that doesn’t work and we end up with people coming by at all hours for things like getting a cell phone charged. We’ve put down a lot of boundaries, but there is still very little privacy and it’s not something that most people care about or understand. I grieve the loss of freedom, of privacy, even in my own home.
There are places in Haiti that I haven’t been and want to see. But, like going out for dinner, the thought of doing some of these things makes a person groan simply because it feels like more work. I would think nothing of driving four hours back home to go on a weekend get away. Here, four hours of driving means feeling like you’ve been beaten up and by the time you get where you’re going you feel that everything has been sucked out of you. The other issue is money. We don’t have a lot, so thinking of going away means factoring that into the equation. I struggle with that. I don’t know if we’d be any better off if we lived back in North America. I just struggle with that always being an issue for us. I grieve the fact that there are things in life that I want to be able to do, but may never get to do. There are places in the world that I would like to visit and we may never get to do that. There are things that I would love to do as a family, but they may not be options for us. If they are options for us it may mean sacrificing a family visit so we can go do something different. I struggle with having to make choices like that because I know they would probably be less hard if we weren’t living this life.
Every single day I look at Olivia and I am acutely aware of the fact that my family is not a direct part of her life right now. They won’t get to meet her until she’s almost a year old. I think this has been one of the hardest struggles for me and the most difficult sacrifice to make. We knew that this was going to be our reality going into the adoption process while living here, but it doesn’t make it any easier. There are many days where I look at her sweet face as she’s looking up at me cooing away, and I choke back tears because my parents will never know their first granddaughter in this stage of her life. I feel that they are missing out on so much. I know they feel it too and that it’s hard for them as well. It is heartbreaking for me. I am grieving this most of all right now. I know that people all over the place are separated from family and friends as they go through these major life moments, I just hadn’t ever imagined I would be one of them. It is always there under the surface, in the back of my mind. I’m getting good at pushing it down, but every once in a while it bubbles up and I just need to let it out.
I think about things like raising our kids here. There are so many advantages to it and things that I’m looking forward to. At the same time, I do think about how different their childhood will be. They won’t get to go to a “normal” school. They won’t build the same kinds of friendships with other kids. They won’t get to participate in the same types of activities. I worry that my kids will end up being those weird missionary kids that no one knows what to do with. You know the ones I’m talking about. I want my kids to be normal and socialized.
Finding out that we won’t be able to travel with Liv until the adoption is done was a hard thing to swallow. Not that we weren’t prepared for it, but the reality of it is leaving both of us feeling out of control. It is giving up our freedom to experience life as a family as we had wanted to experience it. It is giving up our freedom to choose whether we would travel together or not. It is having someone else put your life in a box and tell you that’s all you get. It’s just hard going into it know this is our life for the next couple of years. That feels overwhelming and HUGE. I know we’ll probably look back later and feel that time has gone by faster than we thought possible, but looking at things now it’s hard to get there.
Chris and I both know that there are many great things about living here and leading the life that we lead. It’s interesting. We like that it can be so much simpler than it would be if we were anywhere else. We like that it challenges us. We love feeling like we’re accomplishing something. We know we’re helping to change lives. We LOVE that we get to be with our daughter while we go through the adoption process. We hope that our kids will grow up with a broader world view and a deeper appreciation for other people because of living here.
When Chris and I each chose this life it meant making sacrifices. When we chose to do this life together it meant more sacrifices. Those are sacrifices that we are happy to make because we know we are walking in obedience and this is God’s will for us. Being there though doesn’t mean that the sacrifices are easy. That’s why they’re called sacrifices. I know I’m on a journey. I don’t know how long it will last. It might take a lifetime. I know that in the grief there is also joy. I know that in the grief there is also contentment. I have experienced both. I have experience them simultaneously. Many days I’m fine and just plug along with life, but the process is still there, it’s just quieter. Other days it surfaces and I need to feel my way through it, let it come, and let it be.