The Survival of Grief
September 6, 2018 0 comments
The Survival of Grief
It’s been nearly 5 weeks since my brother died. Not a long time, really. But when you’re sad and disoriented and have trouble sleeping, it feels like much longer.
Death is something our culture doesn’t like to deal with. I get it. Death is hard for many reasons, not the least of which is it forces us to face our own mortality. Mostly, though, it makes us face the deep sadness of loss. Whether it’s the loss of someone with whom we shared a deep and warm connection, or the realization that a desired closeness never existed, something cherished was lost.
One thing I’ve learned about grief through the deaths of many beloved family and friends is that grief is a survivor. It never forgets. It lingers. In a culture that idolizes youth and distances itself from the aging, the grief of death has a shelf life. I met a woman recently who lost her dad to cancer. When I asked how she was doing she said, “Oh, I’m fine. We had a complicated relationship, so it didn’t really affect me that much. Hey, everyone’s parents die. You just gotta move on.” My heart sank. If she was so unaffected by her father’s death, then there’s nothing to move on from.
Yet a part of me is jealous of her belief, however unrealistic it may be. I wish I could “just move on” from my Jon’s death. But the truth is, I haven’t even moved on from losing Daddy and my older brother 40 years ago. Or Mom in 2000. In fact, this spring it hit me again hard: I’m an orphan. Daddy and Mom are both gone. And I had no one to buy Mother’s and Father’s Day cards for yet another year.
So, yes, something in me wishes I could move past grief. Like last Sunday when I saw a group of motorcyclists on their Harley’s wearing leather vests in the Wawa parking lot. My stomach quickly clenched as tears popped. I wondered why – why did they have to be there that morning at that convenience store at that time? I didn’t want to face my grief. Yet a part of me wished one of the guys had a long grey beard and a beer belly. I may have embarrassed my grandchildren by getting out of the car and asking if I could give him a hug. Honestly, I may have done that. Seeing them and hearing the bubbly roar of their bikes reminded me that my Harley-loving brother was gone.
However, another part of me welcomes the survival of grief, especially when God sends someone to join me in it. Yesterday I got a text from an out-of-town friend: “Hi Sheree. Just been thinking about you the past few days and wanted to say hi. I’ve been praying for you every time I think of you. Love u!” 5 weeks after I lost Jon she’s thinking of and praying for me! Then she actually took the time to tell me?! That’s when grief’s survival puts the Man of Sorrows on display in all His compassionate glory. My friend’s thoughtfulness invited me to know Him more deeply as I sat in my room crying…grieving…and experiencing His love through a caring vessel. Unlike cultural beliefs, grief is like that can of green beans that’s been in our pantries for years, way back on the top shelf behind things we use regularly. Only when we dig through what stands in it’s way do we know it’s still there.
Do you know someone who lost someone dear last month or last year or two decades ago? A woman who lost a baby to miscarriage or still birth? A friend whose spouse is long gone but still likely experiences the loss on a daily basis? A co-worker whose parent died recently or awhile back? Perhaps God wants to use you to keep the grace and beauty and tenderness of grief alive by saying, “I’m so sorry” again.
And what about you? Have you, like me at times, sought to snuff grief out by “moving on” (to busyness, substances, entertainment, anger, achievement, food or porn)? Perhaps it’s time to revisit your grief and glean whatever is left to gain from its sometimes pesky survival. Today, what I’m gaining from grief is the reminder that my brother is not already forgotten. A friend thought of him and me and said, “…just been thinking about you.” That must mean God is thinking about me, because why else would I invaded the thoughts of a young, busy mom on a random Tuesday morning unless God made that happen?
If He has brought someone to your mind today, please reach out. Don’t be afraid your contact will bring something to mind that isn’t already be there. Believe me, his or her grief is still on the shelf.