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.