Guest blogger Adrienne Meade, www.swallowedinthesea.com
I can’t write about the hole in my chest too big to wrap my arms around. I can’t write about how the pain grows too great, so my body’s reaction is to shut it down, to numb the wound, and refocuses it’s energy on everything else. I can’t write about the “lost cause” in my life.
I wish I could walk you through the timeline of grief, and show you the good, bad, and the completely unimaginable, but the funny thing about grief is it’s a disappearing act. It comes and goes as it pleases without a care for your life. It’s messy, and doesn’t reveal itself when you’re home alone and ready to invite it in. It waits. Festers. And sits just out of sight, waiting for the most inopportune moment to drip back into the forefront of your mind. Grief is fluid. Never dries up, just moves in and out of the shadows. When you’re busy at work with way too many untouched projects on your desk, it whispers a memory just potent enough to paralyze you. When you’re out with friends, it pricks it’s ears for a word to trigger a thought of longing to make you lose focus on the world around you to drown you in the past. It takes many forms from a slow drip in the faucet to a tidal wave, but no matter the strength, it’s always consistent. It manifests itself in tears that come and go, and holds your breath hostage. For the rest of time, it will be your companion. Pulling you in, swallowing you up, and spitting you back out.
And yet. As dark, as mysterious, as terrifying as it is. Grief isn’t good or bad. It just is. Loss is the cause, grief is just the effect. The aftermath that remains and reminds. But it sucks, doesn’t it? It’s an alarm set to wreck your world and leave you longing for the past, and dreading the future. Everyone grieves differently, and there are a million causes. Loss of a relationship, loss of a life style, loss of a job, a home, a pet, a loved one, an ideal. It’s the ache for something no longer there, or something that was never there, but should have been. If grief were an object you could hold in your hands, you could turn it over and over again, and still never understand it.
Grief is still a jerk. Grief pulls you out of happy memories by filling your mind with images of your new future. What tomorrow, next week, next year, the next 50 years will look like with a chunk of your heart missing. No matter how happy and beautiful the occasion, grief stains it by bleeding deep sadness into it. Like red wine on a white table cloth, it just keeps spreading, and can never fully be separated from the thread. It forces you to see everything through a dark lens.
When you lose something, grief moves in and takes up permanent residence. You can never again be free of it’s burden. You just learn how to carry the weight. Your muscles grow stronger, you learn how to walk straight again, you train your legs to just keep moving forward one step at a time. Grief turns you into a soldier. It trains you, but lets you choose which path to take when you reach the inevitable fork in the road.
You can take the path of callousness. Numb out the pain by whatever means necessary, refuse any offer to walk the journey with you, you go at it alone because no one understands your brand of grief. It’s a different language only you can speak, and it wouldn’t be fair to add extra weight to your already impossible load by having to teach it to anyone else. You don’t owe the world anything. You shouldn’t have to share what you feel, only to be let down because no one is strong enough to carry your grief. You’re a survivor, and this world is harsh. You don’t have any spare time, energy, or strength to warrant any added weight, let alone the thought of adding the grief of someone else to your shoulders. No, sir. Adding any more to your grief would consume you! You wouldn’t make it another step before being completely submerged under the weight. And don’t even talk to you about God. God allowed this to happen. He watched it, and do you think He wept with you? Do you really think He felt an ounce of compassion for your suffering? No, God turned His back on the wake He left when HE tore your world apart. God did this to you. And, you hate Him for it.
Or. You can take the path of malleability. Come as close to understanding your grief, but ultimately accepting you can never be friends. You’re no longer enemies, but acquaintances. It’s the nosy, crusty neighbor harboring ill will towards your every move, but you choose to let it be. You ride the wave of it’s unpredictability, and take a deep breath of relief when it finally recedes leaving you just enough time to rest and prepare for the next attack. Because it will be back. You know this, but you don’t run, you don’t retreat, you just take it for what it is. You gladly accept the offer of others to carry the load because although they don’t, and could never, understand, you know you can’t carry it alone. Even if they eventually place it back on your shoulders because it’s just too much, you’re grateful for the reprieve they gave you no matter how short because a break is a break. You also see the beautiful burden you’ve been given in the ability to spot a fellow griever. You welcome them in with loving arms, and try your best to hug them so tight the hole in their chest closes just a little bit more. You’re in the club no one wants to join, and with that means your grief can be put to good use by ushering others in, helping them unpack, and get settled into the rest of their life. This will be the only good thing to come out of this, but it’s still a good thing. And above all else, you are thankful beyond understanding for a Heavenly Father who truly does understand because He felt the same loss. He knows exactly how you’ve suffered, and He just walks beside you, eager to carry you when you grow weak, ready to catch you when you trip, and holding your hand. Because if you needed Him before, and you did, it pales in comparison to how badly you need Him now. You will never again go a day without Him, because if you ever had to, you wouldn’t survive it. You understand God didn’t “do” this to you. You’re not angry with him for allowing it to happen. Your timeline doesn’t end with death, but stretches far into eternity. Only He knows why time was cut short this side of Heaven, but you rest in the peace of knowing He does know. His will is perfect, and He always does abundantly more than we could hope or imagine. And even on the days when the current of grief drags you down to the bottom, He reaches his strong hand down into the deep and rescues you. Every time.
So, I can’t write to you about my grief. I can’t allow it color this part of my life that has so far been kept pure. But, I can write to you about grief. I can write to you about the love of my life I’ve lost, and about how excited I am to hug her again, and run my thumb over the veins in her hands when I hold them again, and listen to her quirky laugh. I long for the moment I hear her say “Oh, precious” and “I love you, babe” again. I can tell you I’m not sure how I will make it through my wedding day, or the day I hold my children for the first time, or the day I say goodbye to another loved one without her, but I know I will.
Grief is a thief, but hope is the hero. Hope is a blinding light to cast away all the shadows. It turns the deep, terrifying waters of grief into a crystal blue ocean. It reveals the goodness in memories, and fills your senses with all the love and beauty of what will be again. It restores and rebuilds what grief tries to tear down.
I pray you have read this with absolutely no idea if any of this is true. That you’ve never had to open your door to grief. That you are peacefully oblivious for as long as possible. This is never a club I want you to join, but you’re still not completely free of the weight of guilt. You know someone who has a lifetime membership. Reach out to them. Ask them how they’re doing and don’t be discouraged if they’re not ready to let you in. Keep trying because it may not be today, but someday you could be the one who changes their life. Don’t let them try to do it alone.
If you have read this with grief colored glasses, I hope you have found hope. I want to tell you you are not ever, not even for a second, alone. And, though I will never, ever be able to understand your pain, I’m so, so sorry it’s there. I pray you will choose the right path, and I call it the right path because it’s your only option for survival. Numbing the pain won’t lead to healing, it will only widen the hole inside you. Emotions are not good or bad, so there is no guilt in being angry or sad. There’s zero shame in feeling as awful as grief is because the ache you feel is too much to hold inside. Just don’t allow your neutral emotion to turn into a negative action. Don’t let grief win. It’s already taken too much from you, and it does not deserve any more.
Remember we’re all in this together, and no one makes it out of this world alive.