Maybe it’s time to be alive again.

This might sound morbid. But, I am going to be honest.

In the months following my dad’s death, I waited to die, too

I’m not sure what logical reason I could give for such a morbid concern. I don’t know if I will ever have an explanation. I think it came from seeing my world crack in half like an egg.

I observed it, like I was a spectator. But then I lived it in realtime, over and over again.

Any pain in my chest or shortness of breath or vague ominous feeling creeping up the back of my neck sent me headlong into an inner torrent of worry. 

My husband and I were laying in bed one night, and I revealed this to him as I lay staring upward, eyes never leaving the slant of the ceiling, for fear that I might look at him and his face would betray me as the lunatic I felt like I was. 

“You aren’t going to die,” he reassured me. I didn’t know if I could believe him.

Maybe it's time to be alive again.

It took a while for me to notice the uptick of anxiety in my every day life, and for me to understand why even the simplest tasks suddenly became challenging. 

We live near a gigantic bridge that stretches the width of the Chesapeake Bay, and even now I can barely stand to cross it – even if I travel in the middle lane. For a while, I was certain that someone would slam into us from behind, and we would all careen over the railing into the choppy water below.

Even merging into everyday traffic became an unnerving ordeal.

The fear that my children would somehow end up in the street pervaded my mind every time I let them play out in the yard.

This is the aftermath of what losing someone suddenly can look like. You learn to not automatically trust in certainties and probably not’s.

My mind raced to fill in the negative space left from losing my father. It filled it to the brim with worry and depression, my mind oscillating between the two like an old, rusty fan. 

Each new day, I wondered what burden would I carry around with me today. Untold grief or strangling worry? Door number 1 or door number 2?

Meanwhile, as an avowed middle child used to disguising her feelings, I operated in my day to day life around other people as normally as I could. I smiled, cracked jokes, made light conversation when necessary, then retreated swiftly when I sensed I was running out of the energy to be both sociable and guarded.

I was “functional,” as I described myself numerous times over texts to the people who intermittently checked in with me. 

Meaning, “I can stand here and make dinner and wash dishes and run the washing machine, but don’t ask me how I’m feeling. Don’t ask me for more than this. Don’t you dare ask me to tell you how it’s really going because I can’t stand to tell it.”

Just like I didn’t notice how much grief was controlling my life as it was happening, there was eventually something else I didn’t notice. 

The part where I started living again. 

I waited so long to turn a corner. In fact, I tried to force it many times. I would concede some millimeter of myself to God, when I even wanted to talk to Him, and think I was cured.

I used to be believe grief was something a person sloughed off, like a butterfly from its chrysalis. 

We believe this lie that we can shed off the things that hurt us, the things that damage us, and never feel the weight of those things again. That we never have to return to this dark place again.

But I’m not sure that’s true. 

I think what is true is that this pattern, this journey toward finding peace, isn’t linear. It has high points and low points. And you never see it coming when you round the bend to what lies ahead when life takes hold of you again. 

Joy, loss and hope. I am a keeper of all three.

You never see it when hope seeps back in to your life. When the joy creeps in. I didn’t necessarily make a conscious choice to be over my pain. It’s just that life found me again. And by the time it did, I was unknowingly at a point where I was ready, despite myself.

My wonderful husband assured me many times of how my father would want me to be happy. He would have wanted me to carry on. For so long, those words hurt. I wasn’t ready for them yet.

Maybe I felt guilty for knowing that eventually, life would carry me further away from the memory of him, the sheer existence of him. It would fall prey to the mechanisms of time until it was just a thing that happened long ago. 

I worried one day, Lord willing, I would be in a rocking chair on my porch, gray and weathered, and it might take effort to recall the sound of my father’s voice, and that thought broke me. And, what if my life can’t be spent building a temple to him and his memory?? What if nothing else feels good enough to honor my grief? 

Does it mean I’ll forget if I carry on, that I’m leaving him behind? 

It was eventually I realized that if I carry on, I can carry my father with me. 

And I could start living again when I realized that my sense of loss could coexist with joy if I was brave enough to trust God that the two could abut each other.

I didn’t need to build a temple to my father and my grief. I realized that I was the temple. And between the chasm of joy and loss is hope.

And somehow, with the Lord’s help, I can be a keeper of all three. 

 

 

 

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Yes, I am still grieving.

Yes. Still.

I made it until almost lunch time today before I was forced stop, and conciously think about it. My better half arrived home carrying a bundle of sunflowers, and as I felt the weight of their green stalks in my hand, I looked down at the driveway asphalt, and tried to will myself to hold it together. To hold the line before everything in me succumbed to sadness.

Today would have been my dad’s sixty-eighth birthday.

I didn’t want to make a fuss about it. After all, he’s been gone for working on two years now, – even though that doesn’t quite seem possible – and I always feel guilty because I am still grieving.

It’s been almost two years. Why, on some days, can I still not seem to function the way normal adults do?

On some days, grief just seems to sit there in the back of my throat or like a storm gathered behind my eyes. I don’t let on to this fact. Others can’t see it, but I feel it. This weight of carrying on.

I don’t share how I’m feeling almost as a rule now. I don’t want to talk about it. I simply function, and never have to burden the people around me with how I’m actually feeling after hearing a Beatles song on the radio. Or when I think about how my youngest child probably won’t remember him, and sometimes I even get scared because I worry if I remember the sound of his voice. Or when I see how the weather outside is so incredibly perfect, so perfect he probably would have called to tell me as much, and he would have asked what I planned on doing that day to take advantage of it.

And I hardly ever let myself even think about how I wish I had called him more. How I wish I treated him out to lunch more. How I really hope he knew I was there with him at the end.

This is the kind of behavior you learn when you don’t want to make anybody else feel awkward. When you don’t want to feel like anyone is looking at you thinking, “gee, still?” I plague myself with thoughts like this even though I actually have no idea how anyone else will feel about it. I have decided to not talk about it because I don’t think I could stand to find out.

But yes. Still.

When your world cracks in half as delicately as an egg but as devastatingly as a volcanic eruption. When you fall down so hard it causes you to question everything, even your own existence. It can take a great deal of time to to figure out how you’re going to move ahead, especially when it feels like you are fumbling around for a lightswitch in the pitch dark.

Yes. I am still grieving.

Eighteen months for grief is just the blink of an eye.

It’s taken me quite a while to accept that yes, I will still hurt sometimes. In fact, it almost gave me more peace to understand and be okay with this fact.

Not long after he passed, I kept waiting to turn a corner. To arrive at some new place where I would shrug off everything that hurt, and never have to feel it or relive it all again. But this isn’t how we are hardwired. It isn’t how we are made. That’s not going to happen on this side of eternity.

We were made to never forget. At least, not all the way.

For as long as we love, we will grieve.

And on this side of heaven, grief and love go hand in hand. Grief reminds us that love is worth it all.

When I realized that fact, the load got a little bit lighter. When I grieve, it’s because I still love him. That sensation can still be poured back out into the life I live every day. Into the family and friends I am so fortunate to have.

Sometimes, it hurts because it’s trapped, and what I really want and need to do is give him a call or stop over at his house, and sit on the back porch with him under the ceiling fan.

But I can’t.

Grief is love that’s trapped, and there’s only soothing it, never removing it. It just is what it is.

I let it rupture sometimes. When it overcomes me, it overcomes me, and there is nothing I can do it about it. I just aim to not let it make me bitter. I try to call it for what it is, and understand that yes, it’s still going to happen. I am not an anamoly. I am not the exception.

I am a person who loves and is just doing her best. Because that’s what he would really want anyway.

 
 
 

Good grief – for when you are shaken.

Blackbird, singing in the dead of night,

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see,

All your life…

I remember writing about my grief in the immediate months after my dad passed away.

I sat tapping on a keyboard as I waited to turn a corner.

I was expecting to arrive with fresh introspection at some sort of crossroads where I would stop hurting, and start living again without feeling like every centimeter of me was being swallowed.

I sat waiting to learn something about the consuming hurt my life revolved around. I wanted to feel like I had stood the course so that I could tell my story of how I had held on all by myself.

Mostly, I hoped for the kind of grief I could control.

Eventually, I settled for feeling like it meant something. Anything.

Good grief

It was only recently I realized that the expectation life would only get worse had mostly ceased; the self-loathing I had aggregated over the last year seemed to subside.

It comes and goes on goes on certain days.

One moment I can talk openly about my father. About how much he loved the way that I added extra vowel sounds to words when I was a child, or crinkled my forehead when I pouted. How he taught me how to play gin rummy, and didn’t mind a bit when I eventually started winning more than him.

The next instance, I can barely choke out that he liked to play electric guitar way too loudly while he drank a beer in our family room. Or how on Sundays, he always took an afternoon nap…but it was okay to sneak into his room and try to pry his eye lids open. 

This is grief.

And there is no arrival in grief. 

There is, however, a realization that pain and joy can coexist.

At the end of the runway of grief is a launch pad of rebirth if we have the eyes to see it.

After the shaking and sifting, there are things to be found. 

Every silent prayer I have ever prayed to grow more holy, to have faith that withstands earthquakes and darkness came roaring back to me in the months after. Prayers whispered while in bed staring at the ceiling or from a church pew on a Sunday came to remind me the way the ocean bursts against the rocks. The same way the birds land in the trees. 

Jarring but then gently.

A hard reminder, and a patient one.

For a while, I couldn’t tell if He held me anchored in the harbor while the storm erupted, or if He saved me from its throes while I was lost on the darkest of oceans.

I was, for sure, in some remote place.

Alone, as grief can only be borne.

Was I held or was I rescued while He sifted my life like wheat?

Or was it both?

 

“For the mountains may be removed,
and the hills may shake,
But my lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken…”

 

He tells us of His shaking.

How He will turn every inch of darkness within us into light like we have never seen.

How our lives will be sifted in times of testing. 

He will remove things that have no place within us so that what is eternal and true will remain. And not just that they would remain with us – that they would stand tall within us when all else has been swallowed by the earth that gives way from beneath us.

For the mountains may be removed,and the hills may shake,But my lovingkindness will not be removed from you,And My covenant of peace will not be shaken...

He will shake the shame we carry and comfort ourselves with. The shame that tells us that we could never hope to be anything more than failure wrapped in flesh and bones that turn to dust.

He will shake the darkness that dots our own hearts like black ink dots paper.

The shame that tells us that we aren’t loved when the world is burning down around us.

The belief that we belong to no one. 

He will shake the false sense of superiority and security that we have with a walk down a cold hospital hallway where we see what end awaits us all if we are left to our own devices.

He will sober us with the reminder that we have no promise in tomorrow in our own strength.

He will remove the will in us to pursue our visions and desires.

He will help us see that the glory we had sought was actually our own version of self-aggrandization that fades like applause.

He will remove our ability to compartmentalize Him. 

He will allow us to see ourselves for what we really are.

He will let our face be pressed into the dust, and He will show us how to praise Him even there.

He will remind us that our savior is intimately acquainted with grief and sorrow and death. 

He will have His way with us.

This is good grief.

 

 

“For you have not come to what may be touched,
a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest..
But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem…
and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,
and to God, the judge of all…
and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
 for our God is a consuming fire.”

 

God does not afflict us for His own amusement or out of indifference. Our God uses pain and affliction to spin tales of redemption. Our joy and our failings and sorrow are all connected in a tapestry of sanctification.

Our God allows rebirth in places where the vine was severed. Our God is beside those who suffer, who are in the haze of grief. He is with those who grow faint. Our God says that the world around us may be consumed in fire but we will not be touched.

Singed, but not consumed.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,
that he might sift you like wheat,
but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 21:31-32

And He says press on. Wait for Him to move. Like the watchmen wait for the dawn.

Expect Him. Turn back and look for him.

And ready yourselves for the resurrection.

 

And when you turn again, you will see.