Proud to have been asked to contribute to Tulsa Moms!
Grief’s Broken Compass by Jen Farley
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC Lighting a candle for dad.
Nothing will make you more grateful for technology than a teen driver in your family. From plugging in an address to maps to tracking their locations, mom is just a call away…while sitting still in a safe, well-lit location, of course. Grief is not this simple. If I could find a magic piece of technology to show me the way, my last several years would have gone much more smoothly. You see, my husband is gone, my boys are staggering at times, and my compass has just been spinning.
Shane was the most hilarious part of my day. He was the coach of all coaches for each of the boys’ endeavors, a true kid magnet, the fixer of all wrongs, the less serious of the pair of us, and our very fearless family leader. He passed away on a rainy night in April of 2015, and the truth for us in feeling lost is that I was usually the driver if we were in a hurry. He refused to drive over the speed limit but he was always the designated navigator. We made an amazing team on our travels through the day to day!
We have three handsome little men that are mine to raise. How am I supposed to know how to do all of this? The first answer is that I, alone, am not. Number one best decision I have made in this journey has been accepting help. My family, all of whom are not blood related, have saved me from many a mom blunder. I sent my youngest son’s skating money and bingo basket money yesterday in an envelope that I found on the floorboard of my car with no forms attached, just some chicken scratch in a pink marker that also happened to be in the car. I emailed the teacher and apologized later. I once called a friend while at a wrestling tournament and asked her to completely outfit my oldest in one of her husband’s suit coats and a tie because I had no idea that the dinner he’d been invited to required a jacket and I was 45 minutes away. Shane’s best friend taught my big boys to shave. My sister has given the last few years of her life to as many practices, games, and state to state travel as I have. I would like to say I’m better than all of that, but the real answer is that I want my boys to still experience everything that is part of being a kid and we can’t do that alone! This journey has made me less judgmental and more eyes up for other moms and dads in need. I know that a teacher will help me out when I am not on top of my game, a friend will rescue me at a moment’s notice, and I will be looking to do the same for other busy parents out there when I get the opportunity.
Some of our most healing moments have come from serving others. I decided the first summer that we needed to honor Shane’s birthday in a special way instead of dreading it’s approach. I let the boys decide what we were doing. His birthday is the 26th and so they wanted to make 26 sack lunches for the homeless in downtown Tulsa and deliver them. You see, Shane used to sing at the chapel service at John 3:16 Mission. Our oldest was just a baby and we would sit and listen and then visit with the families while they had dinner. Shane used to randomly give money to strangers because he felt led to do so. He purchased numerous soccer jerseys for other kiddos, paid for coaches hotel stays, and gave willingly to so many. I was raised with almost zero money extra and learned so much from him about giving. Since that first birthday, we have done so many fun and meaningful things in his honor. My favorite was helping the boys tie scarves to the stop signs downtown in the winter and driving around later to find some of our homeless friends wearing them.
Luke 6:38 Give, it will come back to you.
There are so many suggested ways to cope, but they are not the answer for everyone and there is no cure for the motion sickness that grief causes. There is so much research out there about the waves that you will ride. I would like to take some dramamine just thinking about it. The sleeplessness, the fatigue that follows, and the initial shock to your body will indeed get better. Someday. There may not be a timeline. But someday. I lost about half of my hair within 6 months and I know looking back that it was stress and poor nutrition. My oldest son would run for relief. Too many miles at the beginning, but he manages it now along with good protein intake for balance. My precious, gentle giant middle child would need to occasionally just yell into his pillow. He once broke every trophy in his room. He told me that they didn’t matter anymore because he won those with dad’s help. He and I glued them all back together and they are now a reminder of how we will all put our lives back together despite our emotional brokenness. My littlest has definite moments of realization about the absence of his father. You can certainly not underestimate the power of developmental thinking. A child’s brain can only handle so much at a time, and just like with learning to walk, talk, or read, they will all deal according to what their minds can handle at each stage. Being patient with each of them has been essential. They are so patient with me. We forgive each other for bad days, and we have come to realize that we are 4 individuals all dealing with the same sadness in our very own way.
Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary…
I could write all day of examples of our daily life and how much we wish he were still here to help us find our way. The hard fact is that he isn’t. I recently found a letter that I wrote him just one year after his passing. There is only one good way to take a successful trip and that is with a compass that never breaks.
‘I love you so much that it physically hurts. I know it is time for me to get strong again. To realize that you have equipped these boys with a love of the Lord who is the only real source of strength. How many times did you marvel at their prayers? I still do and am so grateful that the foundation was laid by your example of faith.’
Each of the boys has a specific verse that they feel fits their needs and we all agree that this one fits our whole family, offering us confidence in knowing we are protected while we continue this journey. Our journey has been imperfect, but is made manageable by faith, family, and love.
Psalms 91:4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge.