Memorial Day: Why I’m Not Running This Year

First of all, I can’t. #CORONA. Second of all, the biggest thing I’ve learned this year was how to face my fears and the things that make me the most uncomfortable head-on. As I write this, I can feel my body start to tingle, I can feel my heart start to beat a little faster, I can feel my patience getting a little shorter with my kiddo giving me a live commentary on everything happening in the show she’s watching right now and I can feel my arm-pits begin to do that smelly nervous sweat. This. Is. Uncomfortable.

In the past 7 years, I’ve quite literally run away from the town I live in, in hopes to steer clear of any mention or reminder of what Memorial Day means to myself and others. The truth is, I can’t run anymore. Sure, it’s painful. Sure, it’s uncomfortable. But the fact of the matter is that it is real for me and it was my life. I am a military widow and I am raising a Gold-Star kid. 

If you know our story then you know that there is a lot of hurt, pain, and sadness involved. But what I haven’t shared a lot of is the current feelings of forgiveness. It took me a really long time and a lot of intense therapy to get here. Every year I would run away because the emotions were too unbearable. The anger I felt toward him, the anger I felt towards the military, and the anger I felt toward myself. It was all too much and the only things I knew how to do were to unplug and run away. 
I didn’t want to hear stories about heroes, I didn’t want to hear the military thanking us for a sacrifice, I didn’t want to hear anything about these tragic losses during deployments or post-deployments and I didn’t want to hear anything about how strong everyone involved is. This wasn’t strength. This was merely existing and trying not to drown in sorrow, grief, relief, anger, loss, and confusion. 
It’s taken 7 years, 7 long years to get to a point where I’ve been able to accept that this is my life. This is my story. I don’t hate him anymore, I don’t hate the military either. But I am sad for the baby he left behind that will never know her biological father because I can’t imagine how difficult that might be for a young girl growing up and I’m sad that he didn’t feel like his life was valuable enough to continue on. 
I forgive it, I forgive everything. The pain: mental, physical, emotional pain. The nightmares. I forgive you. Through the years, I’ve learned that most of us do the best we can with what we’ve learned through childhood and beyond. You were a broken kid and never got a chance to repair. How can I blame you anymore for not knowing how to love and care for us well when it was so hard for you to do it for yourself? Your mind was tortured by your past and then the unimaginable experiences you faced in war. 
You were good at your job protecting the country, the home, that you loved. Your grandfather whom you idolized did so himself and showed you how to do the same. I respect this act and many people idolized you for this too.
You visited me once in one of my most vulnerable moments of healing, I’ll never forget it. You released me. From anger, from pain to understanding. I was able to forgive you. I was able to understand. So this year, instead of running away I want to say thank you. Thank you for your service, thank you for the child you left behind who is the love of my life, and thank you for releasing me. 
To all the families and widows out there struggling to understand and forgive what’s so hard to understand. My heart and my mind are with you this Memorial Day.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or feelings please seek help, Military or Civilian. Please seek out professional help or visit my resources page for current and up to date links to helpful information.