I have tried to limit the requirements I make of myself in this grieving process.
A few weeks into it, after Jason had gone back to Bolivia, we were talking about how we were handling our emotions, and what we thought we would do in the future. We are believers in Christ so there is the understanding that we are to be thankful in all situations and to make our requests made known to God with thankfulness. We know we are to have joy and peace. We know God is good even though He knew this whole story before it happened.
Added to these truths is the understanding that allowing self-pity to engulf us would be harmful, detrimental to ourselves and those around us. These pieces of information are like colors on a backdrop of our journey. They are like ornaments to be chosen, they are tools to be wielded, they are weapons against the twin enemies of anger and bitterness.
There’s also the understanding that Jesus was human, a living person born as a baby on earth, who experienced everything we experience and who felt grief. “Jesus wept,” (John 11:35.) So, because of His testimony, we are granted permission to be sad. Because Solomon also said so, we allow ourselves to accept a time of mourning without feeling guilty because we are not always displaying joy.
Early on we knew there would come a time when the shock would shift into sorrow and then shift again, and we would have a choice to make.
“We will know when that time comes,” Jason said.
“And more than once,” I said. “There will be more than one time to choose.”
“I agree,” said Shelly.
“Yes,” said my mom.
It was a WhatsApp conversation about the need to remain alert for the choices that would be coming.
Two months later, I was standing at a fence with another Track & Field mom, and she was telling me about her days and weeks and months after her dad passed. I was telling her, carefully, in case she didn’t follow me and I was just a fool, that “my pain is all I have right now. It binds me to him, it’s what I have left right now.”
She paused, reaching. She was reaching back into her memory because our eyes were clear, and we had made a connection, and she knew that if I was saying something honestly, then it was not foolishness, self-pity, refusal to move forward.
“Yes,” she said. “And then there will come the time when you have to move away from that. It’s not that time right now. Right now, the pain is what you have. But you will know when it’s time to move on.”
And I believed her, because she has been there.
Today, stifling the rising sobs, quickly wiping tears, forcing myself to think of anything else because that is the choice I have to make right now at work, I thought about that again. How to let go at the right time. At the end of the day, I began talking with my coworker whose dad passed suddenly and unexpectedly over a decade ago. She recounted the details.
Listen. They know every detail down to the hour of the day.
Monumental griefs of our lives, imprinted like hands in soft concrete, are solidified forever in our minds.
I said to her, “It’s not that I don’t want it to get easier. I don’t want to be drowning every day for the rest of my life. But,” and I held up my hands to show her, “the farther I move away from the time period that he was alive, and the years pass, and the time when he is not alive gets longer, I feel like I’m moving farther and farther away from him.” Would she get it? All these years later, did she feel that too?
“That’s a poor coping skill,” she said standing a few feet from me.
“Ah, well, yes–” I faltered. A year ago I would have chastised myself for my stupid, inept ability to even grieve properly. But now my thoughts quickly went to the blue chair, the deep hole, the soft earth,
the very still, very calm, strangely sleeping Dad. At this moment in time, this is not a poor coping skill, it’s survival. It’s trying to figure out where I am, and what I’m doing. She was speaking as she thought, and our words almost overlapped as she added, “But it’s still new for you. How long has it been?”
“Three months tomorrow,” I said.
“It’s still fresh for you,” she said. “You will have to find your own way to know he is still with you even though he is not…with you.”
We talked about that for awhile; I told her about the Great Cloud of Witnesses. She told me how she felt his presence.
Most of my emotions concerning my dad are sadness, confusion, loss, hopelessness, wrenching sorrow, tinges of undirected anger, fear. There are moments of loss of equilibrium; my head seems to shift without moving, under my feet the concrete moves just a bit. My temples feel hollow; my eyes feel like giant orbs attempting to open far enough to take in all that is now true that wasn’t true before. If my pupils can dilate to the size of quarters, maybe enough light will get inside my eyes so I can see everything properly, and put it in its place.
But even with these discussions and these crowding emotions–and the oppressive knowledge that It Is Still True. it is still true. it IS still true. still true, again, today! Even with this, I try not to force myself to feel a certain way or cover the ground of grief immediately. We agreed, in January chatting on WhatsApp, that we would know when that time came to choose our thought processes and emotions.
“I have barely cried,” I told another friend in the beginning of February. “And I’m a crier. I cry a lot.”
“Be prepared,” she told me, “to make room for grief.” And then she told me the story of how her own grief was pushed down because of family circumstances and pressing needs. Everything seemed okay; it wasn’t that she didn’t care, but it all seemed sadly settled. One night she startled herself awake, screaming for her husband, shaking and sobbing. Six months had passed since her loss, a baby who didn’t live to viability, but grief had come calling in its own time. “You will have to forget work, the children, everything, when that happens, and just let it take over you until it passes.”
Will that happen, I asked myself? How can you forget everything? What about responsibility? Is this a luxury or a need?
So even now, grief is pushed down for work, for children, for normalcy.
And I try, despite the knowledge of peace and joy and thankfulness, not to force expectations on myself. I am thankful. There are probably 100 things to be thankful for in all this, and that’s not even naming individuals separately. One hundred good instances and events and circumstance between December 15 and January 18, and then one hundred more after that until now.
But I can’t look too hard at that. When a person has been gashed open, broken, ran over, suffocated, there is a recovery time. During the recovery, they strive to do all they can to get well, but it’s a process.
After giving birth I came home on narcotics. Each one of my children’s entrance into the cold world warranted prescription pain killers upon discharge. Each time I took the medication as needed, keeping ahead of the pain as much as possible, but not lying in bed sedated. It hurt to move, to use the bathroom, to cough, to sit, to lie down. With Josiah, I developed a weird catch in my side, and for a few days I couldn’t sit up without help. So I took the pain medicine.
Until I realized, with each new baby, how much I did not need it anymore.
I remember distinctly one evening when Joshua was about two weeks old, I thought, “I’m not really hurting badly anymore, but it will help me sleep if I take a pain pill.”
Newborn babies are exhausting, and there’s nothing wrong with a good night’s sleep. But as soon as I realized I was about to take narcotics for sleep instead of pain, I put them away and didn’t take another pill. I know myself and didn’t want to hold the door open for addiction.
That is how I anticipate the shift in grief to be. I don’t want to be addicted to and crippled by pain.
Yes it hurts, and there is nothing wrong with tears, and sadness. There’s nothing wrong with dreading moving away from him psychologically because of the growing time period between when he was alive and now. There’s nothing wrong with daily, random tears. There’s nothing wrong with pulling my pain around me, a protective blanket against goodbye. There’s nothing wrong with struggling to believe he is really gone forever, not off at camp having time alone. A little denial please, I’ll take it.
As time goes on, I will know when to give up the pain pill of disbelief, the pain pill of not embracing the distance, the pain pill of avoiding looking at the sky. Coping with these–while continuing to live, enjoy living, Looking Unto Jesus—it is okay at this stage. Taking pain pills, but not lying in bed sedated.
One friend released his daughter’s spirit and encouraged her friends and family to embrace joy, forgetting sorrow. This was one year after her passing. He gave up the pain pill of holding onto her spirit in his heart; he made a conscious choice to see her happy and whole in Heaven as well choosing joy for himself. He will still grieve, but he has released some of the hold grief has.
My dad isn’t coming back. Admitting it to myself and writing it on this white screen causes a lump in my throat, a tiny rise of panic.
I have my whole life to process this awful truth. Every anniversary of everything, milestone, holiday, major event and probably most of the minor events will remind me he is not here.
I don’t intend to rush it, but I plan to listen for the cues, the Truth he loved so much, the signals, and move forward in it.
Isaiah 57:15 “For thus sayeth the High and Lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy;
I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite one.”
Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4 “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,…
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”
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2 thoughts on “A Time to Mourn”
That is how I anticipate the shift in grief to be. I don’t want to be addicted to and crippled by pain.
Oh Gina, you have captured the core of grief, where we turn from being the victim to being the victor. It’s just not when someone we love dies either, it’s the changes that affects our whole life, like for us coming home from PNG, I do believe my husband still grieves over it. I have to say I have shifted and in my heart I can say without grief or sorrow , I am done. God has been so gracious to us by giving us another ministry in the states that fits us to a tee. I think of those who lose everything in fires, or those who dream of a career in a field that is closed due to health, money or just plain life. When my Mom was dying I had a distance cousin who tried to invade my grief by being there everyday to help me. I did not want her there but she had lost her husband and a grandson two years before and ever since then she wore her grief on her face, it became her life. Everyday she would say to me, I can stay all night with , call me anytime, anytime, I will come. Well I had family there so honestly I did not need her. In fact her telling me countless times about her husband and grandson only made it worst for me. I want to concentrate on my Mother not her. Until I read that sentence in your post I could not put a name to her grief, but I can now, addicted. I come from a very small town so everyone knows everyone and everyone would say to me, she has not been the same since they died, when she talks its like they just died that day. Oh yes, you have captured it with your words. It’s been two years since my Mom died and my life has went on and so has hers. We just live in different place just like we did when we live overseas. We have seen some beautiful place and known joy in ministry but I believe with all my heart she is seeing the best and is peaceful, joyful, cared for, loved on beyond anything her earthly family could ever give her. Your friend is so right, your grief is fresh, in it’s baby stage but God is using it to pour out help for many who will read your writing. You have given us understanding with words to match. After Mom died for a year I could not visit the grave site, I did not want to feel that pain of her physical body being under all that dirt., my grief was earthly. It has moved from that grave site to heavenly. The other day, I said to myself , Mom has been in heaven two years this month, two years glorious years for her and I have begun to feel that glory inside my heart, God healing me and you and all of us who trust Him to do His part. The best part is, He has healed my Mom…she is whole, painless, she has a beautiful color to her face, her body is strong and can move, needs no wheelchair or anyone to dress her or feed her, or bath her, she can do all herself, she is like Him or precious Savior who died to give us that glory that heals. Bless you my sweet sister in the Lord. Take a deep breathe and thank the Lord for pouring such wonderful thoughts into your spirit. You are a blessing.
Ah you give me courage to go on. In this grief journey and in writing about it. Tears, tears reading your words. I’m sorry for your cousin; it seems she has made the easy choice that turns and binds her in like a slave in the end. I think often of a friend whose brother passed when she herself had young children. She said she was devastated, but she thought to herself, “I don’t want my children to be able to look and back at this time and say, ‘our mother was never the same again.'” I read her statement many years ago on FB and I thought how profound and giving of herself that was, to sacrifice the indulgence of grief so her children would not see her as a broken and sad woman from that day forward.
I can’t say that I have purposed that in my heart; I cannot look too hard at my reason for grieving or I feel like I’ll lose my mind. But I hear my Dad, his last words of advice to me, “Gina, take care of your little tribe.” And to this end, I get up every day and do. Do the work. Dress, show up, make the breakfast, hugs, kisses, reminders of the man they barely knew—“Do you know what Grandpa would say about this?” I ask them. “No,” they say and look at me, waiting. “Grandpa is in Heaven. Grandpa DIED.” Josiah’s innocent honesty cuts me to the core, but in its innocence, it’s like God saying “I’ve got you Gina, I’ve got you. What you cannot say I will make okay to speak of through your little innocent son.”
Thank you for your words, for taking the time to write it out. You hold me up by your loving care.