Some things I’ve learned about grief
I’ve read a lot of books on grief. I’ve studied and researched it, but mostly, I’ve lived it. On July 19, 2015, my sister Holly was killed instantly in a car accident. It was the same day my oldest son was baptized. My world changed forever that day. The first weeks and days were surreal. I felt dazed, confused, bewildered, panicked, sick, disoriented, paralyzed, suffocated.

You cannot see in the darkness, and waves of water cover you.
(Job 22:11)

Death takes. It births brokenness — broken homes, broken hearts, broken lives, broken families. Grief isolates. Shared grief isolates the sharers from each other. We all grieve differently. Grief is messy and unpredictable. Grief’s unexpected turns will throw you again and again. Those are the waves pulling you under, knocking you down. Grief affects your entire self. It is all encompassing. Grief is like a fog rolling into our lives that affects our ability to think, or concentrate. The fog can linger or come and go for a long time. Normal will never be the same again.

Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away. I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness…I am wasting away from within.
(Psalm 31:9-10)

Grief is a journey. Larry Crabb said, “The grieving process…is not…getting rid of the pain, but not being controlled by the pain.” Feelings run deeper and change more slowly than knowledge, said Rick Taylor. You will always bear the scars. The wounds of Christ are his identity…He who broke the bonds of death kept his wounds, wrote Ann Voskamp. You are never alone in your grief – God is with you in “the dark night of your soul.” …nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, “I know. I know.” (A.V.)

I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night – but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
(Psalm 139:11)

God doesn’t take away our pain, but shares it. That’s the way God’s love works. Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it. In order to heal you must move. Give voice to the pain. Feel the feelings, no matter how difficult they may be.

Search for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him.
(Psalm 105:4)

The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters … I was in distress, but the LORD supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.
(Psalm 18)

Healing will come, but the scars will remain.
It’s been two years and there is still healing taking place in me. There are also still waves. Summertime is a time of healing— the warmth of the sun on my skin makes me feel alive. The slower pace gives me time to process and reflect. Time spent in the beauty of the outdoors is calming. Familiar places bring peace – the pool for swimming lessons, family beach trips and gatherings.

Summer is also full of triggers. The shift in weather weighed heavily on me this year. My chest feels tight as I am transported back to that moment. My senses are triggered by sights, smells, sounds, emotions, places, people. There is a fear and anticipation of the anniversary… an unsurety whether to plan to remember on that day or keep busy. But I’ve learned that there is life after death on this earth and into eternity. And that life is more abundant and more meaningful than ever.

This is a journal entry a few weeks after losing my sister. A point in time at which I felt alive again—life after death.

God, your presence is overwhelming right now. It hits me –slams me in the face as I sit facing your beauty—the oceans in all its glory, the trees, the air, the birds—I am in your presence. I feel thankful, I feel small in your bigness, yet enveloped by this salt air—it is heavy but breathable. (I am alive). It permeates my every cell – every pore, my nose, my mouth, my lungs, my chest breathes you in. It is a healing air—soothing, touching every part. I sought the Lord and found Him! The JOY in Your presence. Thank you, God. I never want to leave. It’s taken 3 ½ weeks—26 days to find you – to feel you. I feel you. Thank you, Father God. I am held. I am squeezed, cradled, rubbing my back. Smoothing my hairs back. Kissing my forehead. Nothing else matters now, you are my COMFORTER – the comforter – my Father – My all. I LOVE you. I feel loved by You. I AM loved by You, God—ABBA. You are good. You are GREAT. You care for me. I am your precious daughter- God’s girl. You love every piece and part of me. You soothe my troubled mind and heart. You strengthen my broken and weary flesh – my body. I am WHOLE in You. You hold me together. You are the light breaking through to my SOUL. I see you in the horizon – piercing through the clouds of doom and darkness – the night that is coming, surrounding. My heart beats with yours – I feel as though I am one with you – my breath, my pulse – in tune, in sync with you – in time. The refreshing Your presence brings is like none other. My soul, my heart LEAPS inside me. Your breath fills me – fills my lungs. Your strong hands and arms hold me up. I lift my head, I raise my eyes UP – to You – above the darkness, the chains of death and darkness – shackles of grief and pain. God – You are MAGNIFIED – you are so big to me right now. I see You. In the midst of all this life around me, these distractions – I SEE You magnified.

RESURRECTING

The fear that held us now gives way to Him who is our PEACE.
His final breath upon the cross is now ALIVE in me. Your name is VICTORY.
All praise will rise to Christ our King.
By Your Spirit I will rise from the ashes of defeat.
The resurrecting King is resurrecting me.
In Your name I come ALIVE to declare Your victory.
The resurrected King is resurrecting me.
(Elevation Worship)

I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning… he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love… But I called on your name, LORD, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried…Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.” Lord, you have come to my defense; you have redeemed my life. Lamentations 3:20-23, 32, 55-58

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