Grieving is a word that unfortunately carries with it a fearful concept of “How can I avoid that?” Admittedly, the promise of having to face a period of mourning and/or grieving do sound somewhat morbid to me. But as I research the experts on death and dying and those who have made their way through such periods, the end result resounds positive. We discussed last week that sorrow, crying, remembering are actually healing to the heart and soul. Friends don’t want to broach the subject of your loss and make you cry. The griever feels apologetic if they cry. But unless we share our stories which make us sad or cry, we will not receive the healing that follows. Remember your loved one and enjoy sharing your memories with whomever is willing to listen. So, weep on! And on that note, listeners you are extremely important in others’ healing.
As promised, I’m sharing a few experiences from readers on how they have dealt with grief. As you will surmise, they are all very different. Their letters are in italics. I want to reiterate that remembering is grieving and grieving is healing. Crying, sharing, writing, playing or listening to music, working, weeding, planting, painting, running—whatever allows you to express your sorrow contributes to healing whenever that is completed. I am eager to learn first-hand the healing benefits of sorrowing.
The following examples commemorate a baby, a mother, a grandmother, a father, an aunt, grandfather and a husband. The expressed sorrows involve loss of life but also loss of grandma’s house. They illustrate the possibility and various ways of treating the pop-up reminders of loss.
“When I saw a tree near a road intersection with maintained decorations, I learned that a woman’s teenaged son was killed there years ago. I thought that was very strange. I now have far more compassion for her. At our baby’s cemetery my wife and I checked on all the children who preceded him and those who have joined him. Some sites are well maintained; others are not. Some children died several decades ago and fresh toddler toys are still found there from time to time. The way we grieve seems appropriate to us and so I am unconcerned if others think it weird or unnecessary. I also don't judge others for the way they choose to grieve. The only way it is wrong is if it is suppressed and ignored. All strong feelings that are ignored or suppressed lead to bad consequences.”
“I'm not sure it is possible to prepare for a loved one's passing. I had time when my Grandfather passed but still even with the warning it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no time when my Aunt died in a car accident and still, shock and ton of bricks. I found it interesting that holding back grief can lead to more problems down the road. Even though I shed a lot of tears and shared a lot of powerful emotions with people who could help, Dad's death still surfaces at times and now I push it back because I think, well I should be over this by now, time to move on, my time of mourning is up, no more crying! “
The experts on death and dying assure us that there is no time-frame for mourning to begin or end. And as we will see later on, one might think it’s over only to have it pop up again. When we assume a positive attitude about tears and sadness, we will avoid judging ourselves unfairly.
“This pandemic stay-at-home-time is the perfect time to work on a grieving project which has been on my “to do” list for a couple years. When my Dad passed away in 2015, I found a box of letters my Grandma wrote to him when he was in basic training in the service 1943 and 1944. Dad kept lots of things and I know there was a reason he kept these. So, I am slowly typing all the letters and when finished will have them copied for my children and relatives to have for their families. Grandma gave us a look at what life was like in a small town in PA during WWII when she was raising a family of 9 children (there would be 2 more in 1946 and 1948!) My goal is two letters a day. This project has been very comforting!”
Reading old letters is an excellent way to remember. Unfortunately, letter writing like this lady describes is becoming a lost art. Through the years, I have been comforted and entertained reading my mother’s letters. It makes her seem close by. Which reminds me, I have a box of Jim’s daily college notes that I will read again. When I used to say, “I haven’t heard you call me sweetheart for a while.” He’d respond with a smile, “Go read my old letters.”
“My husband died 29 years ago in May but since I had to take over his business, I didn’t begin grieving until November. The other day I was going through books and found his Bible. He had written a prayer on a piece of paper stuck inside. I cried. You do have to cry. My work in my shop helps me feel needed and has kept me on schedule. Thanks for your blogs.”
Thanks for writing. What a good story. Finding a written prayer was certainly a gift.
“A year after my grandmother passed away, I opened my linen closet and a quilt I had gotten from her fell from the top shelf and landed on me. It smelled like her house, and I cried knowing I wouldn't go into that house again. Not long ago, I was sitting at home and thought to myself that I needed to give my mom a call. She's been gone for six years and it was suddenly a very lonely moment. These moments are brief and unexpected. I look at them as proof that the love and the relationship didn't die”
This is the first mention of “lonely” but it certainly plays a part in our emotional adjustment. I am lonely for Jim when I attempt the jobs that he insisted on doing; when I sit alone at meals; his mealtime prayers and our bedtime intercessory prayer time; when I need to consult him; when I hear him say “I’ll get it when I’m trying to open a jar or reach for something.” I miss him when I’m searching for something only he knows where he put it. I miss him on the other line when our children and grandchildren call. I’m lonely for his presence and our ongoing daily badinage. Because of the pandemic I haven’t been in a car without him, but I know that is coming--no more trips together. No more mini DQ blizzards to share. Yes, I am an Intuitive Feeler. But, by the same token I am very thankful and grateful for these wonderful, pleasant, enjoyable memories and I thank the Lord for our 65 years of ministry and teammanship, if I can coin a word. But back to the grandmother account.
I thought how universal it was for grandchildren to grieve the loss of going to grandparents’ home, especially at this pandemic time. Moves across the country create many griefs along this line as well. They are real and significant. During the Covid-19 restrictions we know children as well as adults are grieving not getting to socialize with friends. But we also know that this will not last forever, which is a comfort in itself. But to a kid, a couple of weeks is an eternity. Remember to treat their tears and sadness with respect, tenderness and understanding.
The accompanying photo of the Remembrance Table set up as a memorial a little over a month ago, is covered with the prayer quilt with ties representing prayers given by Faith Baptist church in Georgetown, KY. Jim's bible was my gift his last birthday and the photo is our favorite. The memorial gardenia plant is from a nephew and niece in Florida (our favorite flower). The Remembrance Table has provided comfort.
My daughter and her husband brought a pink azalea bush for an early birthday gift. Her husband dug out the dying bush and carefully set the new one in. Jim and I had planned to replace the azalea this spring. Since its placement claims a cherished view many times a day from three windows from which I admire flowers, humming birds, goldfinch and cardinals as they munch on their-day-long feeder meals, I decided to dedicate the beautiful azalea bush to the memory and honor of Jim. Now, I have indoor and outdoor memory makers.
God understands all griefs and he comforts us through loneliness and the healing process.
A prayer: God, you are bigger than the universe yet closer than a breath or a touch of the skin. Thank you for being so interested in us, attending to every need. Thank you for your presence.
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love-but the greatest of these is love. I Cor. 13:13 CSB