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.

 
 
 
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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Forgotten Ones

A year of reconfiguration. 

From when my world was blown open. 

And I’ve done most of my thinking in empty parking lots. 

Perhaps this year, your world was blown apart. Grief. Heartache. Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Addiction. Death. 

There’s a hole in your life, and it’s in the shape of your worst shame, your worst fears, your worst pain. And every good, joyful thing keeps slipping right on through the rend.

And now, it’s at Christmastime when perhaps you feel the most displaced.

You dream of home, but maybe you have never really had one. You dream of home, but maybe in yours there’s a gulf between you, and the ones you love. You dream of home, but the faces of the ones you long for have faded with the fires of time into nothing but ash.

You dream of home, but maybe it’s more that you’re wanting a place to belong, a place to rest, than a place to lay your head. You want a place to set down what ails you behind walls that feel safe. 

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It’s allegedly the most beautiful time of year. Meanwhile, you feel like a sojourner. Like you’re driving down rows of homes slowly and silently on snow covered streets. Headlights illuminating the pavement, your muddied reflection in the window. You’re outside looking in at the joy of families, of people.

And it’s worse than realizing that you don’t have what they have. You’re beyond feeling the ache to have what they have. You feel like maybe, it was never for you. You want a plug for the shame-shaped hole in your life, and it can’t be filled.

You felt forgotten this year.

Others were allowed to carry on, while you just carried pain.

You’ve worn the mantle of hardship this year, and you’ve really just wanted a place to set it down. Maybe it’s been longer than this year that you’ve been carrying the luggage for loneliness. 

You’re in a place where pain feels like the primary nerve, and you forgot what it feels like to belong so much that when your heart beats in your chest, it’s actually thudding hard against hope, and with the reality that you were made for more than this. 

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We think our pain sets us aside and ostracizes us. That it casts us out, like a vagrant flung out into the night to skid across the sidewalk beneath streetlights where no one sees them. That we have to carry our anguish alone. That it discards us.

This is the lie of pain that I have become versed in on dozens of starry nights, in empty parking lots while groceries melted in the backseat, and the streetlights were the only ones who knew.

In the place where I finally breathed. Where I exhaled. Alone. I let it out. My anguish. Where it couldn’t hurt anyone. In between running errands so that I didn’t have to stop. Where I didn’t need to bother anyone. Where no one might miss me for an hour.

This was and is the wall I built tediously. Encased inside the mistruths of pain and grief and hurt and anger. The belief that the only one who should have the burden of what hurts me is…me.

After many days of feeling forgotten and discarded. Like my pain was a hot potato for others that they didn’t want to end up stuck holding. Hardly anyone wants to talk about it. Who could have even said what I needed to hear?

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The lies of pain. The ghosts of failures past that tells you it won’t ever be the same. That it might not even be worth it anymore. That tells you that you are a ship lost as sea, already forgotten and mourned before you’ve even sunk.

It took many internal dialogs with myself and with God while the radio crackled for me to see. To see how many things…never really belonged to me in the first place. That I wasn’t just grieving something lost, I was really grieving what I really am: my humanity. And grieving the reality that I controlled nothing.

I was grieving that thing that left a hole in me, wondering why God wouldn’t just patch it for me. When the truth is that we are actually the patches that belong in HIS tapestry, and have been all along. He doesn’t fill our holes, He makes us a part of his woven glory for all of the tomorrow’s. And each imperfect square tells a story of how He has hemmed us in.

It took me a while to realize that my pain doesn’t shut me out. It is my pain that actually gives me a seat at the table, and a portion beyond words.

Especially at Christmas.

We forget that Christmas was really about saving. About the frailty of humanity. About needing something to fill us and plug our holes.

The peel of the bells pierce through the dark of the night telling all to come close.

A star in the empty skies that shone forth the way.

Angels and heavenly hosts that illuminated the crests of green hills dotted with their flock, and bid strangers, the least amongst them, to not be afraid. Not anymore.

I remember that the shepherd went out to find that one last sheep, and left the other 99 who were safe while he did. And it was His joy to do so.

I remember the father who welcomed back the prodigal son who left, and got lost along the way in his own mistakes and pride. Whose redemption had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with a Father’s unwavering love.

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I remember that no matter where I go, where the wings of the day take me or where my days might eventually end, that there is nowhere hidden I could go. Because I have been seen since before I came to be. And because nothing is hidden from Him. 

I remember Mother Mary of sorrows. At the foot of a rugged cross wondering why, and what it must have felt like for her three days later. 

I see time and time again that being in pain, is never reason enough to not be found. Never a reason to be forgotten. That it is never a reason to be lost entirely.

I see time and time again that pain is actually the reason that God came for us. That the author of all of me must know what it means to hurt. That to taste sorrow is to taste God.

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We find that we weren’t forgotten at all. We had just forgotten who are. 

Or maybe, we had to learn who we have really been all this time. 

And when we arrive at the place we were always been destined to be, we find He has already been there. Before us. Each step measured, each point charted in His map of the stars and eternity.

Every beautiful AND hurting thing named. 

And our heart will not beat so that we can live. 

It will beat because we are named.

Because we belong.

Because we are free.

Because we are home.