Posts Tagged With: grief

Walking into Grief’s Emptiness

IMG_3806At the end of the evening of ministry or visiting with friends, I’m eager to get home. When I arrive I turn the key in lock and open the door. All is quiet. Usually a small orange and white cat greets me, with a grey one not far behind. But there is no “How was your day?” along with a readiness to listen. These past months I’ve longed to return home and share my day, my evening, my latest dilemma. However, I find instead an empty space following my mom’s death.

When I encounter these space, I internally cry out that the story can’t end here. I have so much more to share with her and that I want to learn from her. There are so many more places for us to visit and people for her to love.

In a journal I try to record my thoughts and frustrations in this emptiness. Friends and students are also around to listen. But still, who wants to hear endless small, mundane happenings from someone else’s life? A mother wants to hear all these things; at least my mother wanted to hear. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been able to share that the dinner with students went well or that I don’t know how I’m going to make budget. Eleven months since I’ve received her unconditional love and the best hug ever or simply heard that she was listening without being overwhelmed with well-meaning advice.

As the tears flow more readily now, I yearn to get past this season grief. To step into places that are filled instead of empty. Yet, I’m learning that this time is a gift. I’m remembering and holding on to the love of both my mother and father more fully as I recognize the emptiness in my life carved out from their physical absence. I’m also recognizing the solid foundation they left for me. A foundation of faith, education, and love that continues to support me today.

Moreover, during these times I’m more aware of the people in my life and around the world facing their own spaces of emptiness. Holding out empty hands in sorrow I know I am not alone and can maybe help fill the emptiness of others – not with easy solutions, but with companion tears. During such times as these, our eyes don’t have to be dry. In fact, God himself is intimately acquainted with grief in seeing and experiencing emptiness.

He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
– Isaiah 53:3

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[e] in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.
-John 11:33-35

In this new season of grief it’s not time to seek comfort in just any promise of fullness, but to look into the emptiness and reach out. The house remains quiet when I enter. Are there clear answers? A response to the quiet emptiness of home? Not one that I’m hearing now. And I don’t know what it should look like. What I do know is that I can’t manufacture an answer that will satisfy – either for myself or for others – and as I try to manufacture something, the emptiness only increases.

Yet, there is a Companion who will remain with us, tears and all.  A Savior who also wept is ready to accompany each of us along the way.  Through Jesus fullness comes through the emptiness as we learn to rest on him alone and walk with others.

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Is this Grief?

IMG_3050It’s not what I imagined.

With their comments of concern and condolence, some well meaning church ladies imply that I shouldn’t be feeling well now that my mom has passed. Part of me wonders why I’m not in constant desolation, finding it difficult to get on with life. Less than a month since my mom passed away, less than three months since she entered the hospital because they found a new mass, I’ve lost a lot in my life, but through this loss have realized some tremendous graces. I had been afraid that grief would overwhelm me, but it hasn’t. Am I doing something wrong?

Over the eight weeks of hospital and hospice care, I was in a suspended state of disbelief and grief as I responded to changing realities each day. A medical intervention suggested, pain medicine increased, food digested, hope grasped. I wanted to believe that this would be like the other cancer diagnoses. I held on to the fraying thread of life before me. Even so, I had a nagging thought that this time was different. There would be no physical healing. This was the end. Over those days I grieved, fighting the latent fears I’ve held since my mom was first diagnosed with cancer. At times I wept for hours, at others all I could do was sit in the hospital room, waiting. I had known that some day these cells would return, and with a vengeance. This was that time.

I have also had moments of deep sorrow since her death. Crying as I think about going through her clothes. Wondering what to do with unfinished projects around the house. Realizing that I won’t hear a heartfelt thank you after cutting the grass. Sitting at the dinner table set for one.

Yet, since she passed into paradise resting in faith, I feel freer, not gripped by grief. I no longer have to fight to keep her here; instead I can look forward to the work of honoring her life as well as the work of creating a new home for myself. Converting this home that my mom and I have shared for six years into a place for friends and family is a gift she left me. For years I’ve been dreaming about having my own place. Now I do. A place to write. A place to flourish. Small and large renovation work is before me, both to the house and within myself. I’m eager to get going.

Still, I wonder if it’s okay to be excited about a new part of my life so soon. Shouldn’t I be mourning more? Unable to work or go through her things for at least several weeks? Can I already be moving on and have really loved her? Though my mother’s life on earth has stopped, her legacies of joy and faith continue. So, it’s a time to share these stories and to live more deeply into life. For me, I would be dishonoring her memory to stay mired in sorrow and regret.

Upon reflection, I guess I am mourning, but in my own way. I’m living in a mixture of sadness and joy knowing I carry with me the memory of a mother who loved immensely and desired everyone around her to be happy. There’s a bittersweetness about going forward as I hear her commend me for wanting to create a new place and to be excited about new opportunities before me. To live fully until that joyful reunion with her and others in the future. Yet there’s also a renewed energy to wake up and live.

I’m glad grief is not what I imagined. Death has not won – neither by taking my mom, who is in a better place, nor by stopping those who loved her to continue living.

 

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
– John Donne

Categories: Journey Living | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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