“What’s wrong? Are you cold, Mommy? Are you crying? Why are you wearing Austin’s coat?” My two-year-old little girl came up and snuggled beside me as I quickly wiped the tears that were streaming down my face.“I’m okay, sweetheart. Mommy’s heart just feels cold right now, because I miss Austin so much.”
“That makes your heart warm again, Mommy?”
“It helps me to not feel so sad, Kyra.”
“But, Mommy, I don’t want you to die like Austin did…”
These last few days, I have been pondering her innocent question of what can make my heart feel warm again. Because, in all honesty, my heart has again been feeling the deep, aching chill like a formidable January snowstorm that you can’t do anything about. As much as you want the storm to go away, you can’t force it away.
Although I grew up in the snow belt of northwestern Pennsylvania, I really don’t enjoy cold weather and usually prefer it ten degrees warmer than most people do. In much the same way, I also like things that warm my heart. Whether it is a long visit with one of my sisters, sipping a hot drink while having a date with my sweetheart, or a getaway with special friends, I always cherish these times. I try desperately to avoid the tough times that bring pain to my heart, making it feel like a frozen chunk of ice. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing we can do to protect our hearts from feeling pain and loss. However, there is something that can help ward off the “chill” before it destroys us.
This year, I was amazed that I was truly excited again to experience the holidays with my husband and children, as well as our extended families. This was our third Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year without our oldest child, Austin. Austin loved the holidays more than anyone else in our family, and he enjoyed helping me to make it special for everyone. I long for our four daughters to continue to have fond memories of our holiday times together, so I did everything possible to create a meaningful environment. However, I was unable to keep the nostalgic memories from engulfing my mind and bringing a sense of emptiness along with them.
It seemed like no matter how much I tried, I simply couldn’t shake these unwanted feelings that continued to follow me each day. Finally, after New Year’s Day, I shared my struggle and my heart with my husband. He was so gentle and wise as he helped me to identify that the emptiness and feelings of depression were still a part of my journey with grief. After allowing the pent up emotions to finally resolve into tears, I no longer wondered why I was feeling like I did. I knew what was bothering me, and why I had been feeling this touch of depression throughout this holiday season.
The holidays are, to some, a joyous time, and many people seem to thrive from one year to the next. For many others in our world, the holidays are a stark reminder of what they have lost, or maybe have never had. It is a lonely time, and once the break is over, they are relieved to get back to work. I am sure that many of you can identify with similar feelings to what I experienced these past few weeks. Has your heart felt some of the coldness that I described? Did you yearn for something that you saw others so freely enjoying? What is the answer when we struggle with these feelings? Is it just something that we need to endure each year? What can help our hearts to thaw from the bitter cold that wants to paralyze us?
Since the holidays, I have been attempting to focus on my blessings, and the greatest thing that has warmed my heart, has been focusing on my eternal home where I know that all my longings and desires will forever be fulfilled. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We may experience many special moments woven into the fabric of our lives, but we will also experience many snarls and tangles that remind us that this world is really not our home. These trials should not upset us but rather remind us to look forward to Heaven as we constantly thank God for our blessings today. “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” (Heb. 13:14)
May your hearts be warmed by Jesus presence and your hope of eternity!
-Cindy (For The Mullett Family)