Wednesday was my 5th week of Grief Share and I’m really enjoying the program. It’s a 13 week course offered by my church for those who have lost someone. They show a video then we split up into groups of about 10, we stay in our same groups the whole course so you get to know everyone very well, and it comes with a workbook for at home use. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a share you feelings with the world kind of person. In fact I hate drama queens. I try to fix myself on my own and maybe reach out occasionally. When my dad died there was no fixing it but believe me I tried. I felt myself drowning in sorrow and despair and felt the Lord grab me one day in church when they announced the program in the bulletin complete with a personal story from someone who went through the program. I knew I needed to reach out to someone who would understand and to trust in the church. Even through all the pain and anger I never let myself think about leaving the church or more importantly God, I knew that if I entertained that thought even for a brief moment it may consume me and take me to a place I never want to go. Instead I made God a friend, something that is hard to do. I’ve always had a close walk with Christ but this was different, I was hurt and angry with Him and I didn’t hide it (as if I could anyway). I told Him everything I was feeling, cried to Him, yelled at Him, and just talked. I praised him, although it took everything I had to get those words out of my mouth. The one thing I couldn’t do was my typical prayer which included asking him for things such as protection over my family, health, and prosperity. Those things just seemed pointless. Why pray for protection when he obviously allowed my Dad to die, why pray for health, aren’t we all going to die anyway, why pray for possessions when they perish and bring no meaning to life. So no, no prayers for me; instead there was a one way rhetoric that started taking place. I could feel Him reaching out to me, wanting to comfort me and reach me in some way, but no thank you God I want to be alone was my answer. I’ll talk to you but don’t talk back, I’m angry with you can’t you see.
Inside me was a silent battle taking place that I wouldn’t admit to anyone. But it wasn’t just that, I wouldn’t talk to anyone. You see I tried to open up to friends and extended family but they had no idea what to say to me and that hurt more than anything. It takes a lot for me to open up and when the response is less than satisfying or comforting I would recluse again. I got the typical responses “God won’t give you more than you can handle”, “He’s in a better place”, “It will get better with time”, or “I know exactly how your feeling”. No, no, no. These may have made them feel better but not me. More than I can handle, are you crazy I pray for death. He’s in a better place, well that’s just great but what about me. Better with time, well I can’t seem to think past his death in fact I don’t know how the world is still moving. I know how you feel, don’t be stupid you have no idea. Even if you have lost someone, you didn’t lose my someone so there is no way you know exactly how I feel. James being my gracious husband said many of those same things to me until I about killed him, then he explained that people just don’t know what to say so they say the cliche thing. I hope that whoever reads this doesn’t say those things to another hurting person, just be quiet and comfort the person. Listening goes a lot further than talking. But because this is the way my friends behaved it made me push away and almost hate some of them. After a few days the calls and emails stopped, they only wanted to talk about their new houses, cars, weddings, babies, life. But see when your dead you don’t want to talk about life. You want everyone to hurt and stop living like you have and it’s hard to convey that to people. So instead you pretend everything is ok and just stop talking to people so you can stop pretending to be happy for them.
It wasn’t until I started Grief Share that I realized I was not alone or crazy, there were people just like me. Saying the same things I have said and feeling the same way I was feeling. Some had lost a loved ones years before and some like myself only a few months ago. It felt so validating to hear that they were sad, hurting, wanting to talk about but yet they don’t want to talk about it,some days are fine and others are awful, pain and crying come and go, life seems like black and white with no color anymore, life lost it’s meaning, and that they too felt as if the world should have stopped but instead was dragging them listlessly. Wow, real people who got me. Finally. And with real heartfelt understand came healing. All the hate I felt towards friends, extended family, and even James began to surface. Hope was a word I allowed to enter my vocabulary once again. I write this not for sympathy or out of anger, but to allow myself to vent and be heard and let others understand grief. I would describe grief as the biggest secret I have ever had to keep. Most people won’t understand that statement unless you have lost someone or when you lose someone. Grief is something that takes over your body and consumes you from the inside out, like an unwanted parasite. You feel ashamed that it has taken over and you try to hide it. Your family, friends, co-workers all expect that after a few weeks you will return to normal and they stop treating you with the kid gloves they did when it happened. You are expected to move on and quickly and if you don’t then keep it to yourself. They ask “how are you doing” but you quickly learn that is a rhetorical good etiquette question. They want to hear “fine, ok, hanging in there” anything but the truth. If you start to tell the truth you quickly see the uncomfortable look come across their face, the awkward words flying out of their mouth, and then they retreat sorry they asked and knowing they won’t make that mistake again. So you learn to keep your”secret”. To put on that perfect facade and act like you are moving on and everything is fine. In order to keep your secret you pull away from everyone scared it might leak out. And it does, at the most inopportune moments and you become embarrassed or worse you get the pity look. So I’ve been clinging to my secret, grief, not wanting it to be exposed to the world. But by doing this instead of helping me it was hurting me.
Instead I embraced Grief Share and all the messy feeling that came with it. I listened intently to those leading the group, the video, and my peers, searching for answers to why and what now. Although I knew I would never be normal again I began to search for what they call the “new normal”. See life just can’t go back to the way it was like most people think. You life is forever altered by the tragedy that has just transpired. Instead you have to learn to find the new normal in your life and by finding it you can go on. Through my search I began to find myself again and more importantly my life again. I began to let go of the anger and resentment I had for everyone. Now don’t get me wrong I have a long way to go but I’m taking steps and opening my heart to life again which is huge.
What I have learned. They say you can learn from any experience but the painful ones teach you the most. I feel that is true for me. I was always an old soul as you say, feeling and behaving like someone much older than myself. My parent’s were older when I was born and I was practically an only child growing up because I was still in elementary school when the last sister moved out. We went through financial hardships and I was always my Mother’s support. I grew up fast because I had too. Which is my immaturity is so intolerable to me. I thought I was grown and had a good understanding of the world. But when all you know and all you love is ripped out from underneath you, you quickly discover all those answers you had before mean nothing. I learned that you never stop learning. I learned you never stop evolving. I learned the world will constantly change and you will always be looking for a new normal. I learned the world is not a place of hope and dreams. I learned the world is fleeting. I learned that why you are here is only to serve Christ and others. I learned possessions do not matter. I learned the world doesn’t matter. I learned we are in a battle everyday for our souls. I learned to look beyond myself. I learned life is precious and could end at any moment. I learned to be prepared for death. I learned not to be afraid of death. I learned to cherish everyday moments. I learned to cherish people. I learned not to plan your life. And I’m still learning. I know that none of my friends have gotten to this point, understand me, or see life the same way. The sad but hopeful thing is they will. There comes a time for all of us when the rose colored glasses we wear will be ripped off and that will be a sad day. But the hopeful thing is we will see life differently and I think the way God wants us to see it, because after all life isn’t about this world it’s about the next.
So I will leave you today with a verse that have touched me…
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)