I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve been following along with the Green in 365 series at all, that I’ve missed posting the last several weekends, missing posts on both Friday and Saturday. For those of you who’ve been reading along with me here for a while, you may remember that last year at this time, my father passed away. We gathered as a family up in Michigan this past weekend for the one year anniversary of his death.
The experience and process of grieving over this past year has been more than I ever expected. More what? You might ask. And I don’t really know the answer to that. Just more.
More painful. More emotional. More angry. More depressing. More overwhelming. More life-altering. More than I know what to do with.
I don’t know how to live with it, while also keeping on with the day-to-day reality of my life. Kids to take care of, diapers to change, laundry to wash, house to clean, posts to write, husband to love, friends to hang out with, church to serve. And then there’s me. In the center of it all. My life is swirling around me and I go on with all of these things like nothing happened, and I’m okay. Life goes on like nothing changed.
But I’m not okay, and my life has changed.
As a wife and mother, I feel like I am supposed to be the strong one holding my family together. And yet, I have been falling apart on the inside. And slowly, almost imperceptibly to most people around me, I have been breaking. The grief has been breaking me, and threatening to overtake me.
I realized last week that my processing of grief has been like a tidal wave. The grief is like the wave under the surface, building, growing, getting stronger. On the surface things are calm, and peaceful, and look pulled together, like nothing is wrong. But then the wave under the surface crashes against the shore, beating it with power and force and destruction that is unimaginable. And completely unexpected for those on the shore.
And I realized that I have been rocked by these waves of grief for the past few months. And the waves usually follow a weekly cycle. I start off on Monday, looking forward to a new week. I begin my mornings with God and in the Word. My faith feels strong and solid. And I feel hopeful that this week I’m going to do better. This week I’m going to get everything together.
And so I do, for the first few days. I take care of my kids, my family, my work. I keep myself super busy so that I barely have time to think. Especially to think about the grief that is bubbling right below the surface. I just push it down. Pretend it’s not there. Go on with life with a smooth and calm and peaceful surface. Just like the water above the wave.
And I keep myself too busy for God too. The mornings start out with Him, but as the day moves on, there’s no space for His quiet voice, His loving comfort, His peace that passes all understanding. And by the end of the week my mornings also become too busy for Him.
And of course, I can’t push the grief down for too long. And the stress and pressure of trying to hold it back builds as the week goes on, until I get to Friday, and I break. I can’t hold the wave back any longer and it breaks through and overtakes me. My faith is shaken, my confidence shattered. I am overcome with grief, and the force of it is so strong that I feel paralyzed to do anything about it.
I haven’t talked much about my grief here because it’s hard and scary. It’s hard to be real and vulnerable. And in many ways, I’m most scared of admitting to myself that this is my experience, this is my journey. I’d rather keep stuffing it down, pretending it’s not there, pretending everything is just fine. I’m calm, peaceful and put-together.
But I can’t do that anymore. I realize how destructive these waves of grief are for me, for my kids, for my husband, for our family. And so I have to face the grief. I have to stand in the path of the waves, and instead of letting them overtake me, I will face them head on. The water will pound me, and pour down over me, like the tears that pour down my face and the sobs that wrack my body.
But I will face the waves, and I will not face them alone. As I cling to Jesus and to His faithfulness, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.
Of course, writing about this is therapeutic for me. The movement of typing, the motion of pressing the keys, the words on the screen, in this place that I have established. A place of comfort, a place of meaning. And so while I share these words here, in many ways they are just for me. Just for the act of getting the words out of my head and my heart, and onto a place that I have kept guarded from this for so long.
And this weekend as we marked the one year anniversary, I know that it’s time. It’s time to let myself fully experience the grief. And in experiencing it, I can find healing.
It’s time to move forward.
*The pictures in the post are from this past weekend as we honored my dad, and remembered the day of his passing. We wrote messages on balloons and let them go on the beach at sunset. It was meaningful and so very bittersweet. Then my husband and kids flew kites, and my son said that the kites were so high they were touching the moon so that Papa could see them up in Heaven. We miss him so much.
Thank you for sharing that with all of us. I pray that you will continue to hold on to God and your faith during this time. I pray that as you walk through this process with Him, He brings you to a place of comfort and peace.
Grieving when you have young ones is tow is so hard. I lost my mother several years ago to cancer. I pray that God will comfort you. I agree it comes in waves, for me the best thing I ever did was take up running. It was time away from the kids, where I could talk to God for miles, just He and I . During those miles I cried so hard I often said “God could I please just run one mile without tears these cars passing by must think I am crazy”. He never let up though until one day during my first 13.1 mile race a whole year after I started running, He whispered in my ear “you have been rebuilt” and after that my sorrow shifted. I still miss my mother, but the emotions are not so overwhelming.
Oh, Emily, I’m so sorry you’re having such a hard time, and yet I know this is important work you’re doing and it’s building you into a stronger and more compassionate person. I’ve also been struggling at this time of year (and off and on all year long) because I had a miscarriage last April. On Easter Sunday, in the midst of all the joy about life and rebirth, I started crying on my way up to Communion, thinking about how last Easter that joy and hope helped sustain me through waiting to see if the embryo was really dead–but then it was, and I’m still sad about that–but because that happened to me I have experienced God’s love and my church family’s love for me in new and deeper ways than ever before. Grieving and continuing to live is such a mixed bag.
Thanks for resisting the urge to keep up the chipper blogging as if nothing is wrong. It’s okay to take this time away from the screen. Plenty of people are talking about environmental sustainability this week! Let them wave the green banners for you now, and rest. In the long run, you’ll get plenty of writing done.
This was very touching. Thank you for sharing your heart!
Thank you for sharing these moments of pain, healing and rebuilding with us. I pray for your continued healing in Jesus name.
Melinda J. says
Wow. Grief is so hard. I have lost both of my parents within the last 3 years. April 29th of this year will be the 3rd year anniversary of my mom’s death at age 60 and my Dad followed her 17 months later at age 61. I was the one in charge of making all the arrangements for their care before and after death. I drew closer to them than I ever had been. I didn’t read your post word for word, but my advice is always to just give yourself time and space. Every emotion is ok, even anger at God. It will take years to process and the roller coaster of emotions is long and hard. But you will find joy again, especially in the little ones at home. At least that’s what has kept me going. My counselor suggested that if I need to spend 10-15 minutes for grieving, then do it, and then put it away and do the next thing for the kids and home. But definitely deal with it. I am a keeper of “stuff” and I still can’t bring myself to get rid of what I have left of my parents. I brought it 1600 miles with me from Indiana to Canada and it fills a small room in my basement. I don’t even want to look in those boxes yet because I am not ready to deal with those scary feelings. It takes time and don’t let anyone push you into feeling or doing anything that you and God haven’t deemed you’re ready to tackle. There is a program/group study that I was introduced to at my church in Indiana called Griefshare, that has DVD’s and a great study guide to go with it. I’m still trying to finish up mine on my own. It’s always helpful to talk to someone else who has lost a parent (specifically). A few of us lost our moms within 6 months of each other and we formed a little support group where we went out once a month or so to talk, not always about our moms, but just to know someone else is grieving, too. Hang in there, and don’t try to hide it. Talk about him when you can to your kids and pass on what memories you have. My almost 5 year old daughter constantly talks about “my grandma and grandpa in heaven” although she really only remembers my Dad. Again, hang in there and when I read your blog posts, I will try to remember to continue to pray for you and your family’s grief JOURNIES. God bless!!
Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing. Thinking and praying for you as you grieve and heal.
What a beautiful description of the toll grief takes on us. My grandparents were killed in a car accident at ages 64 and 66. Previously I had thought, “grandparents are old, I’ll be ok when they pass.” But I wasn’t. And still am not, 3 years later. Over time I have learned that it is impossible to get over it, and that’s ok. It’s not something to “get over”. You just re-learn to live life, without that element. It’s so very hard, and painful. I am praying for you and your family as you go through this difficult time. Which will always be, in some sense. It is healing to let others into your life – either those you already know, or ones you may meet – who can help to fill that void. Not to replace the person you lost, but to be a similar figure in your life, who means so much to you. Thank you for sharing your story.
Hang in there! Grief is surprising in the ways it chips away at you and makes living life normally just that much harder. I don’t have any words of wisdom, but I have felt the way you feel and I’m so sorry about your dad. I am sending sunshine, smiles, and hopes for peace your way.
Heather Anderson says
Thank you for sharing your pain in such a real way. Last year was very similar for me, though my grief was for very different reasons. Grief, whatever the source, can be so gripping that it is hard to function, hard to know where to turn. I am sorry that your have had to walk through this and yet, I can say with all confidence that God will bring you out with a new depth, a new understanding, and even a new glory. Each new day brings you a step closer to healing. May the grace of God wash you and refresh you for the moving on in the journey.
Sharon Rose Gibson says
I can so relate to this and my heart goes out to you. I think grieving is one of the most important things we need to learn how to do and so important for our emotional and physical health. I did not know how to grieve well until later in life.
I wrote a blog post about what I’ve learned that helped me. Maybe some of the insights will help you too. http://budurl.com/5tipshealthygrief