October arrives, whether we’re ready or not. We marvel as the leaves on the trees transform before our eyes, from lush green to touches of burnt reds and oranges, eventually withering. We watch as they slowly begin their gentle dances to the ground.
While some of us may dislike October for bringing with it the shortening of the daylight or the encroaching cooler temperatures, most us of find some aspects to love. Pumpkin spice lattes. An excuse to wear your over-sized hoodie and yoga pants again – excitement over boot weather and flannel, boyfriend shirts again. Trips to the pumpkin patch with your little ones. Maybe even the enjoyment of coming home from church and lounging around watching football on the couch for the rest of your Sunday. Or perhaps it’s the joy of cooking your mom’s famous chili recipe again that always warms your soul, especially on the days where the cold starts to nip at you a bit.
October is some of those things for me, but 6 years ago my Octobers changed forever.
And now I bet our Octobers are different.
You see, you might be decorating your yards and homes with spooky gravestones and skeletons and thinking about what creative costumes your children are going to wear this year.
For me, I’m thinking of my daughter’s grave, longing to visit her there and run my fingers over the butterfly etched into her gravestone, reminiscing of the few memories we shared together through bittersweet tears.
For me this month is a juxtaposition of two very different Octobers. One which contains frightening images of death marketed for entertainment in our culture. The other which contains a very different understanding of death, where death is real and heaven heals, where a grave isn’t scary or evil, but instead marks the beautiful resting place of my child, where I long to sit in the grass and stare up at the sky and trees, being with her in the only way I know how.
My Other October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
My two Octobers felt so opposing to one another that I struggled to make sense of them together, to live with them together, to cope with my grief as I held them both and looked at them with confusion.
I can now cope and embrace my life with both Octobers, but it’s been a long journey for me to accept my two Octobers. To accept that my October is probably different than yours. To accept that I have to live, navigating this fragile, awkward, painful, complicated, precious, sacred space. To accept that this space, this other October, is mine to carry and live with and the rest of the world isn’t meant to–and that’s okay.
That October, when our grief was fresh, my husband and I walked in a pregnancy and infant loss remembrance walk and released a butterfly in our daughter’s memory.
That was our first experience with our other October. Later that October we bravely tried to have our “normal” October back by going pumpkin picking by ourselves (and our dog).
We were invisible parents who were pumpkin picking without our child. We were seeking to return to normal, to find a new normal, to continue our life, to carry on, to find happiness again. God brought us a way to smile that day, despite the pain we carried, and we brought our pumpkins back to our front porch.
And then they were stolen.
Probably neighbor kids being immature and thinking they were funny. But they’ll never know that their random act, probably intending no harm, left a woman, me, crumbled in tears, broken inside.
If you’ve ever grieved a child, or any loved one, you know that every day you work hard to build yourself up so you can stand and walk forward again. And then setbacks happen; these incidents, seemingly harmless, happen that just break us and knock down all we’ve built–we are like a child who has painstakingly constructed a tower of blocks only for it to be kicked down by another laughing toddler running by. All the pieces fall down.
The outside world didn’t know it, but the Lord and I had done some heart-wrenching work to build myself up to where I could try to live again without my baby and find joy in simple things, like those pumpkins. So when they were taken from me it as as though all I had built was taken from me, and I was left broken again, having to pick up the pieces with help from the Lord. One by one. Little by little. To rebuild.
Thankfully, with every passing year, I find a way to have both Octobers. To accept both. To hold both. To be stronger living both Octobers.
I don’t know what your October looks like. I don’t know if you carry one October that is nothing but fall and fun like I did for 24 years. I don’t know if you carry the same two Octobers as me. I don’t know if your October is a completely different October.
What I do know is that as we all walk through Octobers, and we don’t walk alone. We walk every step together. And God offers to walk it with us if we let him.
We only know our own worlds, our own Octobers, but we have to look beyond ourselves and our worlds. We must seek to see each other, to share with each other, and live with each other. Together we bring healing and joy and love and hope and life.
Whatever your October holds, expect God to show up for you there. Even during that first confusing, awkward, painful October, when I experienced brokenness, I also experienced God’s healing, strength, and presence. Over the years as I walk through my Octobers, He fulfills His promises and walks through them with me. I look for Him, and I find him.
Make the choice to look for Him and live with your heart expecting his promises to be fulfilled in your life too. May you find Him in your October this year.
What does your October look like? What Octobers do you carry? If you hold two different Octobers like me, how have you learned to do them together? Please leave a comment and join the conversation. Have a question about my other October? Please ask! I’d be happy to try to answer and share with you.
This piece originally appeared at KristinVanderlip.com, published with permission.