Grief is like the ocean;
it comes in waves,
ebbing and flowing.
Sometimes the water is calm,
and sometimes it is overwhelming.
All we can do is learn to swim.
This month marks 19 years since my mother’s passing. And while most would skim past that statement without much thought, it strikes me to the core. It means I’ve lived longer withOUT her than I lived with her.
The thing about grief is it is irrational, analytical and unscheduled. And the worst part is it never grows tired. And once it hits you, it is part of you forever. Sure, most learn to live with it but there is no cure. It is always there just waiting to creep out at the most inopportune time. It can hit at the most random moments like at the gym, driving down the street, waiting in line at the grocery store or during dinner with friends. And everyone reacts in their own way when it hits. Some may keeps smiling, never letting you know anything is wrong. Some may blurt out something in anger that seems irrational. And some may just not be capable of hiding the sadness.
And when you read about the stages of grief, while they are true there is no timeline everyone follows. I went through the “shock & disbelief” phase for almost a full year or two. I was just going through the motions – graduated high school, went to college, etc. But when the “anger & depression” phase hit, it hit hard. And to be at a new school surrounded by all new friends all of whom had no clue what I had just endured, it was so difficult. And to make things worse, my grandmother passed just 10 short months after my mother.
I am beyond blessed to have met Jason. He was the most consistent, unconditional, nonjudgemental support system. I went to a few therapists, talked about everything going on with my emotions but everyone just wanted to medicate me. I had been in a very traumatic car accident the summer before my mother passed and they put me on a mild antidepressant just so I could function and get back in a car but the numb feeling it gave me made me hate taking those pills. I refused medication but would read books, lean on my family and Jason.
During this “anger & depression” phase I found myself having longer periods of time without any “episodes” but I still fought the negative emotions constantly. I was in and out of therapy, reading books and just trying the best I could for years. Jason and I married the month after I graduated college and then at our one year wedding anniversary we found out I was pregnant. And then 9 weeks later…….
we lost the baby.
Back to stage one of grief. Except, this time I jumped almost straight to the anger phase.
And a few years after that we discovered it would be extremely difficult to get pregnant. We were handed a sheet of paper with a large 5-digit dollar amount with what it would cost to have a baby. Another blow to my emotions.
Through all these roller coasters I never really questioned God or denied Him. I know a lot of people around me would say, “if there were a God, how could he take the one person from you that you needed most?” or “how could He let you lose a baby?” I was far from dedicated to church, we rarely attended. I had a Bible but never really opened it. Yet, there was always a tug at my heart to go to HIM. Lean on HIM. Pray to HIM. TRUST IN HIM. When we were trying for a baby all those years I had a piece of paper with some of my favorite scriptures next to my bathroom sink. I would read them in the morning, throughout the day and before bed each night. My favorite was Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.”
I didn’t know why and was okay with never knowing WHY these things happened. I always had a strong sense of FAITH IN HIS PLAN. Even though the grief would try attack that faith and make me angry at everyone, including God, in my gut and in my soul I knew HIS PLAN WAS IN PLACE. I could sit back and stay angry and demand retailiation against certain people but where would that get me? What would that achieve? Would I be happy again? No. Would it make the pain go away? No. You have to let it go to release the anger and live in a healthy mindset.
There wasn’t a distinct moment where I remember moving into the next phase of grief but slowly but surely the anger and depression were far less prevelant and a sense of peace and happiness were more common. I felt lighter. Happier. Calmer. Optimistic. Stronger.
And even though grief is forever with you in some way, things happen that help heal those wounds as much as they can be healed. Having children, giving my life to Christ, growing as a wife, mom, friend and Christian are all healing in their own ways. Having that strong foundation in Christ has allowed me to feel the sadness that comes when my child is born and my mother isn’t there but it doesn’t overtake my life. I’m able to bounce back quickly knowing and trusting HIS plan.
I see so many being struck with horrible grief. Too often, it seems, I see someone I know and care about losing someone and experiencing grief. And so many people, understandably, don’t know the right words to say. My advice is always the same: just show up and don’t stop talking about that person. I don’t remember much within the days of my mom’s passing but I remember my friend, Katie, showing up to the hospital to sleep on the horribly uncomfortable couch next to me, taking me to get coffee at 11:00 p.m. and just sitting in silence, being there with me.
Even 19 years later anytime someone speaks of my mother I get a flutter of excitement in my heart because it means someone else remembers her. But, I tell people who are new to this raw emotion the truth. I tell them how it will suck and be hard for a really, really long time. There will be triggers forever! My triggers were my high school graduation, my college graduation, my wedding day, being pregnant, having kids and every single birthday party I look around and am reminded SHE isn’t there. I explain the phases of grief and their realness as well as importance. Too many time people want to rush someone to get to the place where THEY feel comfortable around the grieving but that sadness, that anger is important. Getting through those phases builds your strength to get through the day-to-day eventually with more smiles than tears. Don’t rush it. Everyone feels differently and grief is personal to each one of us.
The stages of grief are incredibly accurate and real. But, as I said before, there’s no timeline or deadline for when you reach the last phase. I know people who can’t get past the anger or can’t forgive people to move on. Everyone is different. And while it can be frustrating to watch, no one can force the progress. I was so lucky to have someone who supported me, encouraged me and did what he could to help me get where I am today. Meeting him just months after my mom died was definitely what God had planned for me.
When you give your life to Christ and follow his word and his plan for you, the sense of peace is overwhelming at times. I know I am not guaranteed another day here on earth but I know where I will be after I take my last breath. I know my husband and kids will be there. That is the peace and comfort that gets me through the unknown of each day. And when you make it through those phases of grief leaning on HIM, it takes your faith and love for our savior to an incredibly amazing level.
19 years without my mom.
It has been 19 years of major ups and downs but looking back I know I am right where I need to be, I am exactly WHO I should be and God’s plan is in place and I’ve thrown my hands in the air and said, “Jesus take the wheel” because I trust where you are taking me.