Letting Go

When my husband Nate was severely injured (and nearly killed) in the line of duty two years ago, a side of me that I had never known existed came to the surface.  I’d always been the smiley, bubbly girl of Nate’s life.  But seeing him lying there, helpless, in an ICU hospital bed and hooked up to countless machines did something to me.  It brought out this fierce, protective instinct that had – until that moment – remained dormant.

I was his bulldog that week and for many months afterward.  When the doctors warned me that visitors put him at a risk for meningitis or other complications, I refused to let anyone come in to see him (no matter how much they pushed or insisted).  I kept the reporters from badgering him with questions.  And when he started to recover and oftentimes forgot about his limitations, I made sure he wasn’t pushed to do more than he was ready to do… and took care of him on the days that he did try to accomplish a little too much.  I canceled plans with friends so that I could be home after my eight-hour work day, realizing that Nate needed companionship after having spent most of the day alone.

I was there to hold him when he cried that one time and asked me why God had spared his life when so many others are taken too soon.  I was there when he dedicated his life to helping others, especially children; because he wanted his life – going forward – to be a life of purpose.


For me, it was as though a flip had been switched.  I was his protector, and no one could get to him before first going through me.  And although Nate and I – in our love for each other – had always been supportive of the other’s physical and emotional needs, his relying on me so much (even for daily feeding, bathing, and dressing) sparked a fire inside me.

Recovery from the tragedy that had burst the safe, little bubble we lived in took time.  It took more time than I had imagined.  We’d think that we had put it behind us, only to have something (a sight, a sound, a smell) trigger flashbacks that left us reeling with unresolved emotions.  But time (coupled with faith… and the love of family and friends) healed those wounds; and we began to look back and see miracles, hope, and reason for celebration.

We saw a reason to smile.


I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally moved forward and placed the nightmare behind us.  But then this summer happened.  And I realized that maybe I still have one little thing to get over still.

Nicole the bulldog hasn’t yet put down her protective shield.

I struggle to make plans with friends if I know Nate will be home alone, because I realize that he had been home alone for so many days while I still worked full-time.  (And I know how – due to the inactivity and boredom – he had struggled with self-worth for some time).  I worry that he’ll be lonely or sad.  And heaven forbid one of his guy friends take a joke too far, or someone ask him to do something that challenges the physical limitations imposed on him since the assault.  The sweet version of Nicole is instantly replaced by mama bear, ready to attack should her charge show any signs of exhaustion, whether it be physical or mental.

Deep down in my heart, however, I know that mama bear can go into hibernation… for good.  Nate is now perfectly capable of taking care of himself, whether he’s coming up with plans for his day or determining what his body is able to do.  (And now that I’m pregnant, I have to be willing to realize that the roles will reverse, as I will need him to help take care of me some days).

The fact of the matter is that the act of letting go isn’t easy.  But it’s also not something that I alone will face.  It’s a part of life for anyone who has mentored or cared for someone.  Young mothers have to wave ‘goodbye’ to their little ones, as they climb onto a large, yellow schoolbus.  Fathers have to leave their teenager at a college, located just a little too far away from home.  And the list goes on…  When the time is right, we who have been caregivers and teachers must learn to let go of those we have cared for and taught.

And it’s not easy, because the switch that so easily jumpstarted our protective instincts is not so easily turned off.

For me, I’m not yet having to learn how to let go of a child.  But I am learning to put down my guard so that my husband can be the strong man of the family again.  Because he is capable of being that man.  He wants to be that man.  And while he appreciates my having his back, I know he’s also ready for me to stand by his side again… instead of my marching a few paces ahead of him in order to block whatever dangers may be coming.

I need to remember that the God I worship is strong enough to move mountains or to part oceans, and He loves Nate even more than I do.  So I don’t need to carry Nate’s well-being on my shoulders.  I need to learn how to let go… and to let God take care of the rest.


All that to say, when an opportunity came up for me to go away this week, my first reaction was to politely decline.  My parents / sister invited me to visit them at the cabin they rented for later in the week.  (They invited Nate too, but he isn’t able to make it).

I realized, instantly, that this would be the first time that Nate and I have really been apart since the assault.  And that’s when I realized that I haven’t yet put down the protective guard I had put up.  Because I was afraid of leaving him.

In the end, I said ‘yes’ to the gracious offer, ignoring the lump in my throat and the guilt in my chest.  I know, full well, that I need to take this step in order to fully heal.

Nate really is going to be okay.  He’s proven to me that he’s more than okay… that he’s happy, and motivated, and busy with things that he loves to do.  (Remember how I mentioned that he dedicated his life to helping others?  He has been volunteering so much lately to help people in need.  And he’s even going to start teaching children Sunday School at my church, because he wants to be a positive role model for them.  The kids already adore him, so I’m not sure who is more excited — him or the little ones that follow him around on a weekly basis).  🙂

Honestly, maybe it’s a relief for me to have arrived at this point, even if it’s a little tough – at first – to let go.  In the end, it’s also very freeing to realize that he doesn’t need me in that way anymore.

Life…  It’s all about learning and embracing the journey, isn’t it?  🙂

Have you yet been faced with the challenge of letting go?






16 thoughts on “Letting Go

  1. Yes!! Having a child sometimes brings out the worst nightmares and fears in me. Esp being pregnant again now, I will start to have a stream of irrational thoughts and panic can overtake me. I have to remind myself that God could choose to take my daughter away from me at any moment, and nothing I can do would stop it. In the same way, He can protect my daughter from harm despite overwhelming odds in a bad situation. I remind myself to take “reasonable precautions” and then I have to keep my thoughts from getting away from me and trust God with my family.

    1. Yes, I can only imagine that once you have kids, you want to wrap them in a protective bubble forever!! I know that I will constantly be challenged to – as you said – take reasonable precautions, do my best… and then – in the end – trust them to God’s protective arms!! 🙂

  2. I always enjoy your writing style, but lately your writing has been even more awesome than normal!! This post is so heartfelt, raw and real!

    I feel that I’m constantly learning the lesson of letting things go. It’s like I want to hold on to things so tightly, clenching my fists. But then God teaches me to let go (reminding me that I was never the one in control in the first place!) It’s a lesson that I seem to keep on learning. 😉

  3. This is such an amazing post! I can’t imagine going through something like that. I can only imagine how hard it would be to let go after being “on” and protective for so long. I’m so glad that your husband is doing well, and that you both are healing. I hope you have a great time at the cabin. And I definitely agree that it can be hard to let go and give things to God!

    1. Thank you, Jayda!! I’m really hoping that these few days away will be healing for me… And although I know I will have a blast at the cabin, I also know that I will be oh-so-happy to see my hubby again once the weekend comes back around! 😉 But it’s all about baby steps and learning, I suppose! And I’m most definitely a work in progress! 🙂

  4. You are so strong and Nate is so strong! Together, you two are an amazing pair. Letting go and deciding to take the trip this week doesn’t mean that you’re completely letting go, or that you don’t reserve the right to let your mama bear instincts take over at any point in the future. You two are a team.

    1. Thank you, Amy! And you’re right, if needed, those mama bear instincts will always be there to come out, if needed. I know that going away will be healing for me, as I really don’t want to live my life in fear of leaving Nate. (I was never that way before, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a healthy way to live). So this mini get-away will be a healing thing for me, while still being a baby step. 😉 And I really opened up to Nate, telling him just how hard it was for me to leave him (as this is the first time after the assault). He told me that he’s going to be strong for me and help me get through this, and it meant the world to me. I think that maybe the focus doesn’t have to be so much on not being protective of him, as much as it has to be that we are both in this together. 🙂 We’re a team, and I can stop feeling as though I’m the one who always has to be strong.
      Thank you so much for your bloggy friendship! Means the world to me!!!

  5. Oh, Nicole this post is so, so awesome! I am really happy that you have been able to let go little by little and then made a big step by taking a trip. I can’t even imagine all of the emotions that you felt and are feeling (same with Nate!), but I love that you can recognize them, analyze them, and then share them in such a real way. It’s amazing!

    1. Thank you, Allie! 🙂 I think that writing has always been a part of the healing process for me. Sometimes when I try to talk about what I’m feeling, it comes out like a jumbled mess. But put me in front of a laptop or a piece of paper, and suddenly I’m able to express thoughts with much more clarity. And I’ve always felt that if I can write about my experiences and help / encourage even one person, then it was worth it!! 🙂

      1. I’m the same way with writing! It’s just much easier, you know?! I think it’s amazing that you want to help and encourage others. I think God puts us in situations so that we open up and can help other people with their struggles. That’s one of the many reasons blogging is so amazing to me… it just creates such a wonderful community!

  6. Oh sweet friend, I love how protective you have become of Nate over this time. I know you are finally learning to let go a little bit, but it’s so sweet how you have stepped up to protect him when he needed it. People get this idea that the man should always be the protector in the relationship, but I really do believe that it goes both ways. I know this has to be so difficult to be letting go and to go on this trip with your family, but it sounds like it’s the right direction. *hugs*

  7. Nicole, I read this a while ago and didn’t know what to say. Still don’t. I just think you and Nate are incredible people and the world is so blessed you have you both happy, healthy, grateful, and able to pass all of that on to your son. You’re both so incredibly strong and brave; so many people have learned from and been inspired by you two!

    Hugs forever! ❤

    1. Thank you, Janelle! Your encouragement always means SO much to me… You have no idea! I can’t wait to give you a real hug in person someday! (Oh, if only my summer hadn’t booked up so crazy fast. I looked at the calendar today and was a little disgruntled at how busy each weekend is, because I would have loved to finally meet you in person. It WILL happen one day! We will MAKE it happen!!!). 🙂

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