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  • Writer's pictureAdrea Tilford

Sorrow Filled Anniversaries

It was Thursday night when I realized that I was beyond maxed out. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt so drained, exhausted and ready to quit everything. Instead of sending a whole bunch of emails to tell the world I was out and they could find me in bed with ice cream or on the mountain biking for the next several days, weeks, months I let myself get a little bit curious about what felt so dang heavy.

It is an anniversary week. *Trigger warning*

42 years ago, my sister died and this week is the week following her death. That my friends is enough to make this week a week I need to do less and pamper my body - my body that remembers this week without words or picture memories - more.

I was a growing fetus that week 42 years ago, and my sweet little developing baby self was in every experience of that week with my mama. In her grief and loss. In the devastation and tragedy. I felt it all with her, and my body stored those memories within my developing nervous system.

In the last few years I have become aware of how the weeks around Asia’s death anniversary tend to be harder for me. Every year since I’ve started to pay attention I realize that it shows up in different ways.

  • I’ve learned to not plan important meetings during this week because my brain does more easily jump to fight or flight and some hard moments have resulted from those meetings in which my capacity to hold difficult conversations was less than I realized.

  • One year, I longed to be with my parents - super close to them, always in sight.

  • Last year, I wanted to spend some time remembering with whoever in my family had the capacity to do so. We all made Asia a bouquet of flowers from my mom’s garden and my sister Alicia, my dad and I spent some time at Asia’s gravesite talking and holding space for each other’s grief.

  • Yesterday, I prayed and swam slowly. Letting my body release what it needed to release in the swim. Today I am writing this post.

I realized on Thursday night that I hadn’t made any intentional moves this year to honor my sister’s life and remember that her death came too early. I had sat through meetings - as a learner - and the overwhelm of content was causing me to feel bitter, cynical and depressed. I was with my parents on the anniversary days. We pieced together last year that September 11th, 1980 was in fact the day that was most horrific in my family’s history. It was the day toddler Asia wandered to the pond. It was the day she was discovered and flight-for-lifed to Grand Junction. She died early in the morning on Sept. 12. My family’s world forever changed on those days.

This year, on Sept. 11, we were driving from Kansas City to Grand Junction with my parents and younger brother. No one mentioned the date, though I definitely remembered it. We didn’t create space, even though we were together. The trip to Kansas had eaten up much of our capacity. And sometimes it’s hard to be the one who remembers. I wanted someone else to do the hard work. Instead, I write this post to you today.

Thursday, I attended a luncheon for the Center for Children, a site in our community that assists and supports children who’ve been sexually or physically abused. The testimony shared by the second speaker resonated deeply with my own. I attended the Daughter’s of the King women’s ministry event that night. The speaker’s testimony was powerful and heartbreaking.

I spent yesterday with some time and space available thinking about the messages and some questioning I was sitting with. I often hear people talk about having gratitude for the hardest parts of their stories. That without this tragedy, trauma or trail of sorrow, the person would not be who they are. Would not be deeply connected to God. Would not….

Sometimes it feels like a justification to me. The “there’s a reason for everything,” reasoning.

I cannot speak for anyone else’s story or experience in knowing how their traumatic experiences impacted their lives. I reserve the right to change my perspective on this point of view. Today I want to offer up another consideration.

I don’t think everything happens for a reason. I think some things happen and they hurt and are hard and we need help moving through them.

I am not grateful for my sister’s death. I am not grateful for the abuse I endured. I see how these events have made trusting God fully much harder for me. How could a good God let such tragedy ensue?

I believe that if I had not had these life altering experiences, I would still be kind, generous and ready to love others well. I believe I might have even been better equipped to handle some of what I am called into because I wouldn’t have such personal triggers that shut my nervous system down. I wouldn’t have PTSD keeping me from sleep. I might have even felt confident that God’s promises are for me too - much much sooner.

I am in the process of handing it all to God in deep surrender. I am learning to trust that because our God is so good, he in no way wanted any of these experiences of harm for my life. Jesus weeps in the suffering alongside me. Wailing to God for my pain. God does not choose our tragedies for his purposes, and yet because they happened, God will use them to glorify his loving presence.

  • I am grateful to think that my parents, my sister, my brother, and my tiny developing body were not ever alone in the suffering. God With Us.

  • I am grateful for the people who surrounded my family during that time, keeping vigil with my parents, holding their hearts and their hands as they grieved.

  • I am grateful for the work being done now to help me process these before-birth and compounded losses that impact my body, mind and soul.

My relationship with God isn’t strong because of my pain. In fact, my pain prevented me from depth and closeness with God for many years. My relationship with God is getting stronger because I am opening my heart to healing, love and hope.

  • Creating space and time to sit with God and hear that He never wanted me to be hurt. God is heartbroken and sorry that I was hurt.

  • Learning to recognize God's presence, voice and love for me

  • Receiving healing that I have wanted for so long

I realize that I may end up serving and ministering to different people because of my story. I am embracing the beauty of who I am. And I am okay saying that I wish events in my life hadn’t happened. I am also accepting that those events did take place. I am processing them, caring for myself when they get triggered, and finding gratitude in the truth that God was,is and will always be with me in the suffering.

It’s taken me awhile, but I am saying yes God, I want to help people discover Your healing presence.

Friend, you didn’t deserve to suffer. You are loved and wanted here.

Let me know how you take care of yourself during sorrowful anniversary weeks?

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