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In sixth grade I had a lead in the class play at Forbes school.  I was, wait for it, Charlie Brown in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”  Oh, there have probably been better Charlie Browns in the theatrical history of the role, stinking voice change ruined my range just before the first night…I digress.  I was more than comfortable in my role and with all due respect and humility, was awesome.  If you’d ever like me to sing a few numbers I remember most of the lines, just ask (maybe even if you don’t ask I will rock a few notes to let you experience some of what I offered those nights some 31 years ago).

Charlie Brown was known for his very own catch phrase or tag line.  Yes, it was, “Good Grief.”  I knew a lot about grief coming into this period of my/our lives and now have a sadly fresh perspective on it.  Our life has been a hands on workshop.  I’ve already discovered a couple of truths that have become quite evident.

The first is a simple thing that I have done for and with myself.  I realized that I hadn’t been looking at pictures (or anything of) Trey(s).  It just took me “there” far too quickly.  So…what to do?  I can’t spend the rest of my life avoiding looking at pictures, let alone videos of Trey.  I can’t go “crazy grieving dad” all over everybody and get rid of all reminders.  I know of families where that has happened and it is not pretty.  Also, that is the last thing I want.  I love Trey, I miss Trey.  I believe everything I have said about the eternal perspective we have on his life.  Yet, in a moment, it hurts real bad to look at his pictures.  Then, the simple solution hit me.

I had to stretch my grief muscle.  “Grief muscle?” you think.  Leave me alone.  I’m grieving.  Here’s what I’m talking about.  As I encounter pictures of Trey I go ahead and look at them.  Whether it be on my phone, lying around the house, framed, loose, online, whatever.  I look at them.  I go as long as I can.  When the tears come, I move on.  Yes, there are times when I do cry and that is more than healthy.  It is necessary.  However, it is not always practical.  Thus, you stretch a little each time you (I) look at a picture.  I even looked into his eyes for bit the other day.  Even in something as lifeless as a picture, those eyes pierce deep.  There is an inner conversation I have, reminding myself of the truth’s of his battle with cancer and how it ended.  I have to keep things in perspective (yes, in general, perspective is overrated) and not let the sadness run away unchecked.  Yes, just like with stretching any muscle, I have to go little by little, bit by bit, more and more (generally) each time.  Too little and something else may make it snap in a given moment.  Too much and I will break down and be rendered useless for a period of time.

A second nuance I’ve discovered is still very much a personal theory but I’ve chosen to share it with you to get your thoughts and see if it may bless you.  It deals with a very real topic, depression.  I am not a doctor, I am not a trained therapist, I’m no sociologist nor social worker.  I’m a guy who knows emotional/relational needs and how much they have an impact on every part of our lives.  Here’s what I have come across.  Some things…some, are easier for us now that Trey is with Jesus in heaven.  Would we rather have him here?  It’s a waste of time and space me even writing that…OF COURSE!  Turns out though, that isn’t an option.  So given that we are left with a life without him we have to deal with a new life.  With that new life comes a lot of different life patterns.  Some are easier.  Just not having a six year old around simplifies things.  Not having a terminally ill child gives us more time to focus on our other two kids.  While we greatly miss his energy, excitement and passion for life, we definitely notice the absence of the drain his power imposed on our lives.  We now can play a family game all together.  Choosing and watching a movie is somewhat easier.  Eating out is more like eating out, not juggling a three ring emotional circus.  “How can you say that?” you ask?  Because it’s true.

Now, if we were to feel ashamed each time we thought, felt, experienced these “easier” things and then turned them around and felt guilty for having these moments we’d be in trouble.  You see, the sad times are there…everywhere.  We decorated the Christmas tree yesterday, sledgehammer after sledgehammer.  We have a 5 piece “PEACE” stocking holder set…sledgehammer.  There are an endless supply of things to be sad about.  If we were to discount and, in fact, feel bad for the “easier” moments, all we would have is bad and sad.  If we didn’t do fun things at all out of guilt that he isn’t here, all we would have is sadness and despair.  I’d be willing to bet this is a fertile ground for depression to set in.  Whether I’m right or wrong.  I am going to avoid feeling bad about feeling good at all costs.  The same is true for everyone in my family.

So, with my grief muscle, I will stretch it and let it grow.  With each day it will get stronger and get to a point where it’s fully matured.  To hurry it is pointless and damaging.  To ignore it just delays the entire process.  Stretch and grow, stretch and grow.

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