The Grove – Grief

“We’re in trouble,” I whispered to the blank expression staring back numbly in the airplane bathroom mirror.  Ten months with a vibrant, enthusiastic team had just come to an end.  We’d shared life, work, meals, prayer, fun together.  We’d hugged goodbye and promised to write.

And I felt… nothing.

No sadness.  No tears. No sorrow.  Not even relief.  Nothing.

Too many heart wrenching goodbyes on this side of the ocean and on the other.  Too many relational  changes stacked up on top of each other.  Too many transitions with no time to catch my breath in between. And way too many “small” losses barely given a nod in the busyness of this life of serving and giving.

It all added up to the sum total of numb.

Numbness seems safer than the pain of accumulative loss.  But along with the moratorium on sadness, joy and compassion and a host of other feelings go on lock down as well.

And emotions unfelt become suffocating loads to bear. 

So, yes, grief is hard.  The sadness can be excruciating.  It blindsides you with its intensity and rawness.  It confuses you with its dormancy.  It surprises you by bringing along its companions of anger, rage, guilt, doubt, fear.  But experiencing the ache of grief is a gift.

Grief is a herald, proclaiming someone or something mattered to you.  You experienced fullness and life.  You invested, you dreamed, you loved.

Grief is an anchor, rooting you into an understanding of and centering on what you value.

Grief is a pathway, guiding you to a new normal and new invitations to invest, dream, love.

My way out of numbness was dependent on a willingness to be led down this unfamiliar path of grief.  A willingness to make room for messy emotions I don’t like and would rather shove into the ditch than let join me on the journey, spilling out unfiltered and uncertain.

But I clung to this vow, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do.  I will not forsake them.”  (Isaiah 42:16)  And it was true.

Today on my morning walk a feeling of dread slowly washed over me as I saw only three ducklings waddling with their mama.  Yesterday there were eight.   I wondered how that mama duck was experiencing life this morning, weaving through the grass with those who were left.

And then a little smile, “I am sad about the loss of five little ducklings and feeling compassion for a duck.”  This is a very good thing.

*****

What’s been your experience with grieving?   What has grief taught you?  

 *****

Share with us your heart, your words, your art on the prompt “Grief.”

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Photo Credit: ☺ Lee J Haywood via Compfight cc

 

17 Comments

  1. Patty Stallings June 26, 2014

    An Addendum:  Family and friends who see I’ve written on the topic of grief might wonder why I didn’t write about losing my mom in March or the empty nest we’ll soon be experiencing.  I tried.  But it’s hard to get internal processors to articulate the inner swirl until the dust settles a bit.  Anyone relate?

    But I am so thankful to be overcome with emotion, to be sad, to have tears appear at the weirdest times, to be all sentimental and mushy.  To be in need of our Friend who named Himself the Comforter.

    1. Beth June 26, 2014

      Patty, I do relate! It’s been 5 years since I lost my dad. This is the first time I am commenting/writing about it in a public forum.

      1. Patty Stallings June 27, 2014

        We’re honored, Beth, that you’ve chosen Velvet Ashes as the place to begin sharing about your dad.

  2. Beth June 26, 2014

    I first lost my dad to depression. I grieved for the man that had become only a shell of himself. I grieved deeply and wrestled long and hard with God. By His grace God won the battle for my heart and my faith, and brought me into a new and deeper understanding of suffering and the sovereignty of God – something I continue to grow in understanding. After eight longs years my father was restored from his depression. A miracle we all rejoiced in. Not long after returning to us with great vigor for life, he battled cancer and God chose to take him home to heaven. I lost him a second time. It would be easy to ask “why?” … and I did. “Why restore him Lord, to take him again!?” Some questions, many questions, will remain unanswered this side of heaven.

    “Grief is an anchor, rooting you into an understanding of and centering on what you value.”
    Patty, this reminded me of that old hymn:

    My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
    But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

    When darkness veils His lovely face,
    I rest on His unchanging grace;
    In every high and stormy gale,
    My anchor holds within the veil.

    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.

    My grief anchor has found its hook in God Himself. Questions may remain unanswered. But God remains faithful and good. I hold on to this. I must. I do.

    1. Patty Stallings June 27, 2014

      Thank you, Beth, for sharing your experience.  You’ve traveled a long path of sorrow, and I am inspired to know your “grief anchor has found its hook in God Himself.”

  3. Jennifer June 27, 2014

     
    Losing, whether it be a family member, a friend, a dream, a home, health or acceptance, hurts. Nothing can take away, or should take away, from the simple reality of that. All too often our focus is upon stopping the pain, on not feeling or thinking about what hurts. Sometimes that means when we stop feeling it and feel “better”, or simply goes away, we feel a sense of victory or success, but to me now, it is important to recognize when this is simply denial rather than reality. Sometimes, as tough and challenging as it in reality is, feeling the pain, and being honest about what you are feeling is an essential step in the healing process, in not simply becoming stuck in the middle. That is way more than words to me. I have lived the reality of it. I live the reality of it. I have many moments when I would like to simply walk away, and do not want to feel the hurt anymore, do not want to lose anymore, and yet I can also see how God has truly been working in and through it all. While I may not have had the support I would like to have where I live, and have had moments when I would have given anything just to sit down and have an open and honest conversation with someone, but never could find someone within country I live, I do know that God has been with me in the midst of it all, and that the prayers of some people who could not speak to me has been a priceless gift. On the one hand my gut level reaction, is to say, go and find someone you can talk to, allow them to give you the support they want to give, don’t shut them out, and yet I know the reality of trying to do that, and finding rejection and misunderstanding, and no willingness even to pray and make peace, in place of support and acceptance. That has hurt deeply. Part of me still doesn’t know what to do about that, and yet I know I have learnt that denying the reality of the loss simply does not make it go away, or allow it to go away, and is learning that it is far more important to be honest with yourself and with God about where you are at, and what you are feeling, even when or perhaps especially when it is simply overwhelming. Many times I have learnt that when I open my hurt and my pain to God, he is able to come in, and bring what only he can bring and that when I am open and honest with myself and with God about my feelings in this area, then I am actually also simply more open to being prepared to accept and support other people in the midst of their own losses. My we never lost sight of the reality of God with us, in the midst of it all, and never reject someone who reaches out to us, in the midst of their own loss.
     

    1. Patty Stallings June 27, 2014

      Jennifer, you are so right that there are many kinds of losses.   Thank you for the reminder how important it is to “never lose sight of the reality of God with us…”  and His willingness to “bring what only God can bring”.

  4. Debbie June 27, 2014

    If we never experience grief we will never be able to adequately comfort those who are grieving. Yes, grief has purpose though we may not see it in the beginning but as we are comforted so we will comfort others.

    1. Patty Stallings June 27, 2014

      So true, Debbie.  Experiencing grief allows us to enter into the grief of others as well as grow to know the “Man of Sorrows who was well acquainted with grief” in deeper and richer ways.

  5. Jennifer June 27, 2014

    Patti, I appreciate very much the way in which you have recognized that simply beginning to feel again is a good thing… and a sign of progress. It is also simply important recognize as you have done that working through grief regardless of the cause, is more than anything a journey. It is not just a journey we take once, and never remember again. It is not a journey we take in isolation. It is a journey we take which is influenced by every other journey we have ever taken. What we see, what we experience, even where we go, and how we respond to it, is influenced by our other journeys. Perhaps it is that, more than anything else which helps to make our own grief journey’s so unique. We can learn from others, and can and should where we can or where it is an option, share with others, and indeed support each other, and yet at the same time, only we can walk our own journey through it.

    1. Patty Stallings June 27, 2014

      Jennifer, I really like your description of grief as a journey woven throughout life, influenced by others but so uniquely personal.

  6. Linda June 27, 2014

    Grief…so many reactions and sources.  The numbness of good bye and loss of a treasured lifestyle coupled with a very difficult situation did not give way for months after we returned for home assignment. I thought I was okay. None of us were but time would show us that.  Who can really tell how you are when you are overwhelmed and numb? Embracing the grief came after I embrace and identified the disappointments, the hurts, confusion and betrayals. Going back to close our home down and say yet another good bye was confusing as I felt like an intruder especially from one person.  We did have a good closure over the weeks as we packed but let me tell you, do not watch Toy Story 3 while sitting in your mostly empty living room.  It did break the dam of tears. Tears are cleansing. It took months and even years to come to grips with the grief.  It still comes over me sometimes.  We all feel the loss of a life well lived with people we consider family especially our youngest one. Another child struggles with typical TCK issues.  Fortunately relationships that are dear continue though long distance. An older child regularly sees other friends from “home” since they live in driving distance.

    Trusting Him his character and  sovereignty was and is an anchor that continues to grow as I continue to be transformed by Him and His glorious love that never diminishes even as I ache and mourn.

    1. Patty Stallings June 27, 2014

      Linda, I so identify with the idea that numbness can be confused with being okay – for a while.  But eventually, grief will have her say!  And how faithful God is to use the most unexpected things to “break the dam”.

      “Trusting Him his character and  sovereignty was and is an anchor that continues to grow as I continue to be transformed by Him and His glorious love that never diminishes even as I ache and mourn.” sounds like a life message that was born out of that hard, hard experience.

  7. Ruth June 27, 2014

    Patty, I always appreciate what you write!  I sometimes feel like I shouldn’t grieve about this or that because it doesn’t seem big enough.  “It’s not like someone died.  It’s just that friends are moving, or we are moving, or we are leaving family behind again.  I’ve done this enough times it shouldn’t still be a big deal.”  Like not acknowledging the grief will make it go away.  But these are the things that don’t get easier “just because it has happened before” – sometimes they only get harder because you realize it’s not just a one time thing but a state of life, because you recognize more of what you have lost, because you are experiencing grief for children, for grandparents, for friends as well as for yourself.  I’m trying to remind myself I should grieve because these are things, these are people who matter.

    1. Patty Stallings June 28, 2014

      Thank you, Ruth.

      I appreciate your insights.  Those “little” losses can accumulate over time when we don’t give ourselves permission to acknowledge them.  I’ve found if I take time to pay attention to a loss, I move much more quickly to gratitude for the blessing of the time I did have.  Experiencing grief for others’ losses adds another layer, huh?

      I’ve been thinking today of how the God of all comfort truly wants to bring us comfort.  We make it harder for Him to do so when we don’t acknowledge our need for His comfort!

  8. Coming out of Grief | raisingTCKs June 28, 2014

    […] I’m joining in today with Velvet Ashes in their Friday “The Grove” linkup. This week the topic is on what every expat knows well – GRIEF. […]

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