What grief is not
This from an unknown author:
Grief never ends. But it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.
When I read the first part — about grief never ending — I thought, That’s not true. Because it feels as if my grief over losing Hubby to cancer has ended.
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When I thought about it further, though, I realized what has ended is the deep sorrow and jagged tears, and the sense of hopelessness and depression that bullied me occasionally.
But missing Hubby and wishing he were here on this mountain summer day so we could lace up hiking boots and conquer one of the nearby Cascade trails, that missing-ness has not ended.
So let’s take a look at what grief is not:
Grief is not a place to stay.
In our season of losses and grief, Hubby and I went through four passages:
1) Financial reversals. There was the season where Hubby was out of work for two years, which greatly affected our financial picture. We ended up losing everything we had worked all our married life for as a cushion against retirement. Grief.
2) Cancer. And then these jarring words: You’ve got cancer. Oh, and you’re probably going to die from it. This passage lasted longer than it should have because we didn’t do a good job of talking things through. My aging mother was living with us, and we were both working full-time after financial reversals. We’d come home from work, make dinner and eat together — the three of us. By the time Hubby and I fell into bed at night, I wasn’t going to burden him with my concerns. We knew better, but it took a full year to finally talk about what we were both grieving.
3) Living and dying well. After that first dreadful year, there were eight amazing years of living well with terminal disease. I don’t remember much grieving during those long, good months of holding down jobs, establishing a non-profit, speaking across the country, taking more road trips and generally having more fun. But then, bad news heaped upon bad news. And this time, the grief was sweet — slowing down with my husband, just being with him, not checking anything off to-do lists; saying everything that needed to be said; enjoying every moment; every visit from family and friends; every kindness shown in so many creative ways. This sacred season was the long slow sweet good-bye.
4) Widowhood. The stepping-into-widowhood phase involved adjusting to life alone and grieving the loss of all the things that go with losing a spouse — like, someone to do the taxes, unclog the sink, take the garbage out, resolve my computer issues; the loss of a Friday night date partner; someone to hike with on the spur of the moment; someone to cook with, sit with in church, share road trips and grandkids and holidays with. Huge loss.
We’ve all lost something precious. And we’ve all grieved (are grieving) in our own ways. My hope is that none of us are planning to camp out there a long time. Grief is not a place to stay.
Grief is not weakness.
This is an easy trap to fall into, isn’t it? We tell ourselves we need to be strong. Brave. Keep a stiff upper lip and all that. But there’s nothing brave and strong about not allowing ourselves to grieve. So go ahead. Cry. Talk about the pain with someone who *gets* your journey. Commit to a support community. These are not signs of weakness, but rather signs of strength and courage, of opening your heart again.
Grief is not lack of faith.
I think the place where my faith was upset—or I should more accurately say, where I was angry at God—was at the beginning. Back when the company Hubby worked for was sold and he went without work for two years. Back when we sold our home. And cashed out our 401(k). Thanks, God (this said with bitterness). But as bad news piled on top of the unemployment and financial reversals, there was a sense of, This is not random. There is purpose here. And over the long haul, our faith was strengthened.
Grief is not of little worth.
If you knew you would experience pain and grief in relationships — and you will — does that mean love isn’t worth it? If you knew your child at some point could break your heart, would you never have children? If you knew there was a possibility you could lose your spouse to cancer, would you never marry?
The thing is, we do know those things. We know that our mates, our children, our family, our friends will all hurt and disappointment us. Just as we’ll unwittingly hurt and disappointment them. We know they’ll eventually leave us in death. If we don’t leave them first.
And yet we step into relationships all the time. Good for us for being this courageous.
* * *
So here’s the weird thing: I’m grateful now (not necessarily while it was unfolding) for every painful, hope-killing, devastating, heart-rending step with Hubby through these passages.
It’s not that I’m grateful for losing my husband. But what I’m grateful for is that I had Hubby, and he had me, and this story was ours. This story strengthened our love for each other and our faith in God; and much good has come of those challenging years.
From my vantage point, sorrow and grief are not to be feared; they are merely the price we pay for love.
What about you? Are you being kind to yourself in grief — allowing yourself all the time you need, but determined not to camp out there? And what about love? Is love worth the cost of loss and sorrow to you?
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