Grief is a riddle. What is invisible to everyone else, but you can’t escape? Grief. It is awkward to be a mourner disguised in normalcy. I think that maybe our culture shouldn’t have discarded the tradition of wearing black during the first few months of mourning. I wouldn’t have minded it because it would have made my pain visible. In the first few months after John died, I thought, “I should be in torn clothing with ashes all over me, maybe even my head shaved so that everyone knows.” For those who are grieving, there is no outward expression of inner pain. Honestly, it would have been a gift and a relief.
So, you shop at Target and go to Lowe’s and push your cart through Kroger, but you feel awkward, dishonest, and hypocritical. “I am not what I appear.” And, then there is the awkwardness of seeing people who don’t know yet or people who stumble onto your loss because they’ve asked the right combination of questions. It isn’t their fault. There is no way to know. No physical sign of distress.
I went through a stage of nervously laughing- painfully inappropriate laughter- because I knew that I was going to drop the Death-bomb on the conversation. “Um…our family has been through a very…uh… painful time recently…” I would stammer, trying to give gentle cues to the person who stumbled into the most. painful. place.
And, for the truest of my confessions: I have hidden from people who might ask. Pretended I didn’t see them. Turned and walked away or out. Some days I just couldn’t say those awful words out loud. Frankly, I didn’t want to burden them either. I was sparing all of us pain.
In the early days of grief it is all so exhausting.
I wondered if I would ever feel whole again. I couldn’t imagine that I ever would. And, I had no idea how to get there.
But, what I have learned is that healing from grief is similar to the body’s healing process. After each of our children were born I was doubtful that I would ever feel normal again. But, it happened. Hour by hour, day by day. Slowly, but surely, tissues were mending, muscles were repairing, strength was regaining. And, one unassuming day, months after the baby was born, I marveled that my body felt like it had recovered. Was it fully restored to its pre-pregnancy state? Nope. Things were never the same, but, everything was healed.
That is what I feel like now. I think back to how I felt in the first few months after John died or even how I felt a year ago, and I know that healing has happened. I don’t know what day. There wasn’t a turning point. I will never be the same, but I am not in pain like I was. Gradually, my mind has settled into this new normal. My body doesn’t feel raw inside. My soul feels strong and resilient. Love for John hasn’t lessened, but the shock and reality of his death have stopped reverberating in my mind, body, and soul.
I really want to encourage people that the pain, shock and sorrow they may feel today will soften in time. The jagged edges of grief do smooth. You will smile again and you won’t feel guilty. You will notice beauty and enjoy simple pleasures. You will have hope in your heart. It is a journey, but you will get there.
Hope has been the biggest gamechanger for my grief. Jesus gave me hope when He bought it for me with His life. He tells me: John is safe with Him, and we are safe with Him. For now we are living in two different places, but God is with us all, and one day we will be reunited. This hope is like the whisper a child longs to hear in a dark place, “Don’t be afraid. I am here. I have a bright light.” God is our brightest light in this dark place, and it is taming and calming grief.
Many of you may live with invisible pain. I understand that the grief of death isn’t the only grief people carry. If you are carrying the burden of grief-visible or invisible- Jesus sees it all, and He wants to give you rest. “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
May He continually whisper peace and hope to your heart.
loving Him for walking with me through grief,