It’s messy. It’s wet. Sometimes it’s loud. Sometimes it hits as you drive across town, or as you order coffee. So you try to smile, so that no one notices that you are falling apart.
And when they do ask: Are you okay?
Yes, my Uncle died.
I’m sorry. Did it just happen?
No, two months ago.
So, why am I still crying. I feel like a mess some days. An emotional mess. There was the Sunday that I found myself on the kitchen floor in a puddle of wails and tears, my kids asking what was wrong, wanting to help, but there was nothing for anyone to do. I just needed to cry.
I have a hard time with that. The sound of me crying, makes me stop crying. Now I’ve been crying regularly.
* * *
The above was written 10 months ago. Since then I’ve also lost a Grandma. I cry in the grocery store while trying to visit with family and friends I see. I never know which conversation or question will lead to me feeling the need to quickly say goodbye and walk away.
The pain is real. It is fresh. The pain is sneaky, always present, there, with the joy, walking side by side.
It’s been ten years since my father-in-law’s sudden death, and I think this year was the hardest, after the first and second anniversaries. The memory of that day (because we were at the house when he finally succumbed to the heart attack) came back strong and clear. The moments leading up to his death, the blessing of being there when it happened (even with all the pain, it was far better then having to drive over from Bend with that news on our hearts), the people who came to support us, the grief and the way people grieve, the way people act after a loved one has died.
Sometimes anger is a large part of grieving. Not for me in these 3 deaths, but for those around me. Anger at each other, anger at themselves (often masked in anger at others), the self destruction, the shutting off from others, turning pain inward… Death brings about so much ugly, but also, even in that, out of the ashes we can rise. My vision of rising from the ashes of loss is more like slowly breaking free, one chain at a time, as the dust and muck fall from my back and head, not like a glorious rising of a bird in flight, because grief is not beautiful in itself.
Without healing, without forgiveness, then grief stays ugly, it kills our life, dreams, and future. It isn’t until we welcome healing, let go of the anger and hurt that we can start to see the beauty, feel the release, and move on. I don’t know when (or if) the crying will stop, if I’ll ever be able to talk to people without fearing the onslaught of tears. I have hope, though, through the pain that one day I will be free of the powerful moments that knock me on my knees in breathless tears, that I can see my Uncle’s old truck or my Grandpa without bawling, jut like we have learned to smell the freshly cut hay, that my father-in-law loved so much, without loosing control.
* * *
Guilt, that sneaky bugger, tries to rob us of the chances we take to connect with friends and family, it tried to rob me of the time I spent in the hospital with my grandma over the last week of her life. I fought the thoughts of not having come around much for many years meant that I didn’t have the right to be there, but I refused to let those fears stop me from going. Those hours in the hospital beside her bed allowed me to talk with her, ask for forgiveness and give it to her. In that time something else happened, because I acted instead of waiting, I was not laden with grief from another loss where I felt I should have been there with my loved one in the time leading up to their death.
* * *
I guess all of this is to say, sometimes I’ll say goodbye to you suddenly and it’s not because I don’t like you or because I’m upset with you, it’s because the grief has caught me by surprise again, and it’s the only way I know how to stop myself from melting on the floor in the store or wherever I am when I see you. Even now, as I’m typing, I take breaks to breathe, to get myself under control so I can see what I’m typing. I think sharing will make it easier in the long run.
What’s the saying? Better to have loved and lost then to have not loved at all? I can agree with that. More than that, I can feel it. Also, feeling grief, going through the process, makes us more compassionate people, people who feel with their heart and can see into the hurt and heart of another. At least I hope that surviving grief has made me a more compassionate person. I hope that I show more love. …And because Jesus is the source of my strength, the beginning of my healing, I hope that I show more Jesus in my life. I hope that He shows through me, that as I offer a compassionate ear, a strong shoulder to lean on, even as I cry with a friend, I hope to offer the healing that Jesus has offered me, time and time again.
May you, too, find peace and healing.