My story is this. I lost half my family in the span of two days. My mom and brother died instantly. My sister was on life support for two days, before she died.
It was nearly thirty years ago. But like yesterday in so many ways.
For those who have never experienced it, it’s hard to understand how time passes quickly and stands still all at the same time.
Grief, from what I’ve learned is strange. It hits you like a brick wall initially. Then it subsides. Time heals, but it doesn’t erase. It comes in strong like the waves in the ocean. Then it retreats again and the water is still and calm.
It doesn’t end when the tears stop. It just eases. I don’t believe it ever really goes away because the people we love are never far from our minds.
We avoided our pain for as long as we could. I look back and think it was probably better that way. Sometimes the trauma is too great, our bodies can’t process. We shut down to protect ourselves.
Nobody can grieve for you. Nobody can walk the path that will take you to healing. Nobody knows your heart. It’s your journey. Your road to walk alone. It takes strength and courage. And it takes the rest of our lives to learn to live with it.
The sadness leaves. The tears stop, but the emptiness is always there.
But, here’s the wonderful thing. Grief isn’t always shown in tears or emotional breakdowns. Grief is a split second on a Saturday afternoon, hearing a song, or seeing someone who reminds you of your loved one. It takes your breath for a minute, and then it’s gone. Grief can be a scent. A recipe. A whisper in the trees. A feeling.
Grief can be a roller coaster. Highs and lows. Twists and turns. Wondering when the ride is going to be over only to realize you’re going around again.
But eventually, what brought you to tears, is a beautiful memory of what was. It can still hurt deep down, but you know that you’re ok.
I tried to defend myself recently “I don’t live broken. I’m NOT broken”. And a friend corrected me and said “Yes, you are broken. We are all broken. And we would all be better off if we shared our broken. It’s OK”
Our pain only has power over us if we hide it, or try to run away from it. By sharing it, we free ourselves from the hurt and maybe even help others who are suffering along the way.
I get questioned “why are you still bothered” it’s been nearly 30 years. I’m not bothered. I just miss what should have been. I just miss what I lost.
I am not sad. I just miss having my mom. My brother. My sister. My family unit.
I have had a number of people cross my path in the last few months that have all directed me back to my family, so maybe it’s a gentle nudge from the Big Guy above.
The next level in healing. The next step in letting go. The next step in releasing that deep hurt. I know that God has done amazing healing in my heart over the years.
It wasn’t that long ago, as I stepped into church for the first time, I was living broken and holding on to the hurts of the past, and desperately trying to be just like my mom. It was my way of holding on to what I remembered of her. I was so afraid I would forget her.
But God put’s people in your life, that help you on your journey and it is amazing.
Losing people you love is never going to be easy and the missing them is never going to be over. If I can suggest anything – don’t bottle it up. Don’t ignore it. Don’t bury the pain so deep you forget how to live.
We need to celebrate those lives we’ve lost. We need to be able to share the memories and tell the stories and keep them alive in our hearts. It may seem easier to ignore the pain. It may get uncomfortable to be around someone you know who has suffered great loss. You don’t know what to say or do.
Just be there.
Don’t be afraid to say “remember when….” and share some silly story. The greatest gift you can give someone is to remind them of that person, and let them know you remember too.