Everyone experiences grief. It’s a natural part of the human experience.
After all, the Bible tells us:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.
If it’s natural then it shouldn’t be weird or taboo, right? I never understood why grief is such a hard thing to talk about until I experienced gut-wrenching loss for myself. Then the silence made sense, on both sides. Those who watch grief from the outside feel inadequate to say the right thing. And we know that although there are mounds of things that are definitely the WRONG thing to say; nothing ever seems like it’s right. So condolences and comfort often come out as hurtful platitudes because that’s what has always been said in these situations.
From inside that grief though, silence often makes sense because we’re just trying to hold it together. Almost like if we open our mouths the noise will never stop. In the early days of intense grief it’s just sound. Moans. Groaning. Screams even, from those innermost places we didn’t even realize were there. Eventually it turns into words, but those are full of questions and demands on God and life that just aren’t going to happen. Silence feels easier than hearing No. No, that loved one won’t come back. No, those dreams will never be real. The past is over and no, the future will never be what we expected. That’s a lot to come to terms with, especially if it happens in a split second.
That’s the crux of grief, isn’t it? The world seems to tip on its axis because the security of what we thought life is is suddenly gone. Even beyond the memories of what has always been, is the mourning for what we thought was still to be. This is how the loss of elderly loved one and the pain of broken dreams can feel remarkably similar.
For many of us Thanksgiving and Christmas are full of grief, yet are a hard season to mourn. Everywhere we look there’s a coffee mug or tea towel reminding us we’re “grateful, thankful, and blessed”. That peace and joy should be oozing from our pores. That love, laughter, and family are supposed to fill this season, with properly-timed snowflakes and all, just like a Hallmark movie. It makes grief feel like it comes with its own spotlight, showing the whole world that we’re somehow broken and doing it all wrong.
My husband and I have three children in our home and lives. Most of the time we think they’re pretty amazing 😉 (Let’s be real – parenting isn’t all rainbows, right?) But this season especially makes me remember the five others we have lost to miscarriage. It’s been long enough now that I don’t think of them every day anymore (and that creates it’s own sense of mom guilt, for sure) but their memories pop up all over the place this time of year. Just Saturday my son and his cousins were playing “brothers”. Just hanging out, being boys, all trying to find ways to fill that desire to be more than cousins. My heart just ached, wondering again if he has a brother or two, and we just never got to meet them. Or would have been the only one in a sea of girls, still looking for “brothers”? My mind wanders to beautiful daydreams, like how precious it would be to see them all stair-stepped down the row at church during the candlelight service on Christmas Eve or their stockings lined up on a the mantle. (No, I don’t have a fireplace or mantle, but if there were eight kids here we’d live in a different house. I’m sure it would have a beautiful fireplace – after all, where else would I put all those stockings?) These thoughts aren’t always full of sadness. The relief steps in now and again too, even though I wish it didn’t. But truthfully I’m not sure how we would have dealt with al the noise, fighting, and logistics of a drastically bigger family. My head aches just thinking about it.
And that’s how grief is. It’s full of all sorts of conflicting emotions and desires that tear at our hearts and threaten to pull us under some days. The good news is Jesus is our perfect Comforter and we can trust in him.
Tomorrow we’ll dive further into what the Bible has to say, but today, I want to leave you with these verses.
We live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all gods. This I declare, that he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him. For he rescues you from every trap and protects you from the fatal plague. He will shield you with his wings! They will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armor. Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark anymore, nor fear the dangers of the day; nor dread the plagues of darkness, nor disasters in the morning….For the Lord says, “Because he loves me, I will rescue him; I will make him great because he trusts in my name. When he calls on me, I will answer; I will be with him in trouble and rescue him…
Psalm 91:1-6, 14, 15a
God loves you. He mourns with you and wants to shelter you. Even when your heart feels broken and the scream inside threatens to tear you apart, His promises are your armor. You are safe and it’s okay to grieve, no matter what those tea towels say.