Struggling is something we all encounter from time to time. Struggling can mean a variety of things, whether it is financially, emotionally, mentally, etc. So many people look forward to the new year because it is a year of new beginnings, and the whole: new year, new me bit. 2020 made everyone want to experience something new, but the beginning of 2021 seemed like an extension of 2020, so it wasn’t an “out with the old” situation as far as I was concerned. I had to step back for a minute because I found myself struggling, and to be honest, I’m still struggling. I’ve struggled with the new year off and on for the past 18 years because it reminds me of loss. New Year’s Day 2003 my husband lost his sister to brain cancer. I was 5 months pregnant with our daughter and we weren’t married and experiencing major issues at the time between our relationship. I attended the funeral and everything because I loved him – no matter our differences, she would have been my daughter’s aunt, I was there when she initially got sick. When she had brain surgery the first time in 2001, I was there with his family, holding his hand and praying with them that she would recover. I think our struggle at that time was that he was losing his sister, we had no idea what we were going to do about being parent’s because we were so young, and his mom practically hit the fan when she found out I was pregnant even though we were both adults with jobs. Maybe it was because we’d broken up, and at that time I was pregnant and didn’t know. I wanted us to be together after that, but you can’t make someone be with you no matter the situation. We resigned to the fact that we’d be co-parents. Hell, I was pregnant, working and going to college. Aside from that, my Grandmother – my rock, was deteriorating right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it and my brother was somewhere in the Middle East fighting in a war. The stress of it all had my doctor threatening to put me in the hospital on strict bedrest until the baby came. This was mid-January and she wasn’t due until the end of May! February 26 came another blow, my Grandmother waited for me to walk out of the room with her to take her last breath. I was an utter mess. I struggled this entire pregnancy and it seemed like every turn, the struggles piled on. I had hyperemesis, now I was having blood pressure issues, I had extreme food aversions – not that I could eat anything anyway, and there were very few things that my hypersensitive nose would allow me to smell without making me ill. I could smell bleach constantly though. That was the only thing that would calm my nausea which I found to be so weird because the smell of undiluted bleach is so strong. I remember my Dad would fuss at me because I would go into the bathroom, shut the door, and clean with bleach for an hour. I was 20, still living at home with my parents when I was pregnant because I didn’t want to be away from my grandmother much. Days when things would get too hard for me to bear, I would find solace at my besties house, we ended up pregnant at the same time, but she was 4 months ahead of me. Our kids are 2 peas in a pod now even though they don’t live in the same city. By the time I had my daughter, she was a healthy 8lbs 8oz, and I wanted nothing from her Dad but for him to be there for her. I was tired of loss at this point and all I wanted was to take care of my daughter. My did things change – if it’s meant to be, things will work themselves out.
Back to struggling. January was always a time of happiness for me because my birthday is at the beginning of the year, the 8th. I remember, especially as I got into high school, being with my friends and just having a blast. Whether it was dinner out, bowling, making me do stupid things; singing happy birthday to myself holding my tongue, or because I was the youngest of the crew – letting me drink and me laughing and rolling around on the floor while playing cards or whatever. I struggle even writing this because one of my friends, who shared so many of those times with me is no longer here. This year will make 7 years that he’s been gone, and I couldn’t even go to his funeral because I was pregnant with my son at the time, and I knew that physically, mentally, and emotionally I would not have been able to handle it. He was there for me when I was pregnant with my daughter. He videoed her baby shower, he showed up to the hospital bearing gifts after I had her. He was an uncle to her, because he was like a brother to me, and I struggle because he is one in a line of too many people who will not get to see her graduate this year. I struggle because after I lost him in February 2014, not even an entire year passed and my Dad was gone. It was January 11th to be precise. When he came home the first week of December after being in the hospital, he told me, “You don’t have to look like that, I’m not going anywhere.” Days passed and he became weaker and weaker. Then came the hospital bed and the inability to get up on his own. I remember that Sunday morning because my husband had just come in from work at 5:30am and his phone rang at 6 – not mine. It woke me, but I thought nothing of it. It was probably one of the guys from the job calling about something. He did something he never does and turned on the light and started talking low. So, I sat straight up in bed and started crying. I knew before he could even tell me. I knew because I saw his suffering getting bad and for an entire week, I prayed; God, before you let him suffer, please take him away from here. While I wanted my Daddy here forever, I couldn’t bear to see him living that way. The tears where tears of relief and joy because I felt like God answered my prayers. Now the tears I shed are for the things he’ll miss and because I miss him. Then came February 2017, the only other man that treated me like a daughter and was there when my baby girl was born, crying right along with my Daddy – my big cousin who was the only person who could show up at my house without calling passed. Loss was following me like a shadow, claiming the first of the year like it was a time of sacrifice I was required to give.
Struggling is hard. It is something we will all experience at one time or another. I just find myself struggling a little bit more at the beginning of the year. Whatever you are struggling with, know that it is ok. If you must step back and take some time, that is ok. If you have to ‘ghost,’ that is quite alright as well. I laid out a timeline of my struggles to explain why I find this time of the year so difficult. Some years I grin and bear it, others, like this year; I couldn’t do it. I found myself stuck in a fog, trying to find my way out and kept getting lost going in circles. When you find yourself struggling, find yourself a happy place and go there. Stay for a little while. The sun will shine again and your path will be lit. Find strength in your struggles and know it’s ok to cry. I used an entire box of tissue writing this.💋💋
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” -C.S. Lewis