Grief is a wild beast that’s hard to tame. Sometimes, when you think you have it all under control and sweetly lying down, it opens its claws and rears up again. We want it to stay as far away from us as possible; thank you very much. Yet, each one of us comes face to face with our own beast at some point.
Grief looks different and it shows up in a variety of ways. Too often, despite our greatest attempts, it stays. It lingers longer than we wish it would.
We can run and hide and pretend grief isn’t there, which doesn’t work too well. Does it?
Or, we can face it, learn from it, and find our peace with it. Wherever grief is, so is the mighty tamer.
When our friend’s daughter died of cancer this year, my heart sobbed for their loss. I cannot fathom watching your daughter suffer through years of cancer and then having to say good-bye. I cannot fathom mourning the loss of a child who is suddenly whisked away either, for cancer or for any other reason.
In empathizing with them, grief’s claws dug in and my own feelings were triggered, again. To be honest, watching a movie like Courageous or Tomas and the Rainbow or Pay it Forward, pretty much wreaks havoc on my heart to some degree as well. I feel for those who’ve experienced deep loss because in some ways I know it and because, in other ways, I’m desperate not to know it.
But my beast is different than theirs. And sometimes it makes me think my beast should be smaller, calmer and less present. Sometimes, it makes me think that my beast shouldn’t matter and shouldn’t even be there.
I’ve mourned the loss of two children never carried full-term, the loss of dreams, the loss of friends and relationships, the loss of virginity to someone whom I was too afraid to verbalize the word “no” to, and the list goes on. Even so, I haven’t experienced the loss of a full-term child or the loss of a spouse. That kind of grief seems off the charts. I don’t want to know it. Not at all. Never. Not. Ever.
Today, I’m still surprised and sometimes caught off guard by how deeply recent losses affected my heart. I struggle to be OK with these feelings.
My friends lost a naturally born child, raised from birth. My loss came in the form of children who felt like mine, but never really were. I cared for them, nurtured them, corrected them, hugged them, provided for them. Then, after weeks or months, I handed them over.
As painful as it was, I wonder, how does my grief stack next to the mother who lost her naturally born child forever? Or the dad whose wife and two children were swept away in recent floods here in TX?
I’m all choked up. I ask God to let me cry and feel my way through the pain. I ask Him to show me that my grief is valid so we can deal with it. Together. I ask him to bring it out into the open when the time is right.
It’s hard to deal with a beast when it hides in the shadows.
We had moved to foster. We had up to twelve children at one time. In a span of fifteen months we cared for 13 foster children, one take-in teen and three of our five biological children. When it was time for the last five children to leave our care, the ones who stayed with us from day five on the ranch to one month after wards, I thought my heart was being ripped apart. Deep sighs of relief and heavy hearted tears of longing mixed together and fed the beast who had stayed dormant for many years.
See, even now, I can talk about grief, but not so much about the moments in my mind that bring the tears. Like waving good-bye to children as they left, or the smiles, the hugs, the tantrums, the lice, the “I love you mom’s, the isolation, the craziness, and the dreams of seeing them again.
Or about the boy who wanted a mom, needed a loving mom and I wanted to be his mom. Yeah, that. Tears.
Somehow, it all melds together because they form one huge story. One I can’t tell the way I want to because the pieces aren’t only mine to share.
I’ve also held back talking about it much, in part because the words are hard to come by. And in part, because I wonder who would care to know how much this mama’s heart pined over crazy, wild, loud, children even though she desperately longed for quiet, order, and alone time. I wonder what to think about how deep I’ve felt this emptiness even though we didn’t intended to adopt.
Allowing grief to be dealt with again means acknowledging what God is whispering to my heart. He has already told me that my reason for grieving is valid. Just as valid as others, even if it looks different.
At first it came at me wildly and unruly. For now, it’s milder but it still lurks.
My grief is real. All grief is real.
So what do I do with this beast of grief? We’ve already tousled a lot over the last two years. Do we keep going?
A few months ago, God revealed a special grace in my life in another area where I felt similarly. A place where I felt that my emotional experience was invalid because it didn’t line up with those of others. I needed to know that what I felt was not only valid but God-given and allowed in my life for purposes only He fully knows and in which I am to fully trust. He showed me that.
So too I think it must be with my grace beast. Oops, typo. That was supposed to be “grief beast”.
Grace beast? Hmmm…
Come to think of it, both grace and grief are experienced in different ways by each of us, aren’t they? I accept the differences of grace experiences; so may I also be OK with grief differences.
I’m reminded that where grief is, God is there too. And where God is, there is grace.
Maybe it really is less of a grief beast and more of grace. When grief is a form of grace in your life, it looks a whole lot less scary.
I’m also reminded to face grief and give it to God. That’s hard to do, isnt’ it? As we hand it over it seems to claw and bite along the way. But then, all that clawing seems like the nipping of a young pup; it’s not so harmless after all. Because that what God does with grief. In the presence of God grief is not only tamed, but made smaller.
Grief doesn’t always go away, but by His grace, grief is not so beastly after all.
“Envy, after all comes from wanting something that isn’t yours. But grief comes from losing something you’ve already had.” ~ Jodi Piccoult
Jolene Underwood passionately pursues a life filled with grace & freedom. She writes about real life in need of real faith by inspiring an authentic pursuit of hope beyond the challenges of life. She is a lifter heads and a facilitator of encouragement. Jolene founded the Acts 15 Team which links arms with those serving in the front lines of ministry through words & art. She also founded the Rise Up Writers uplifting newsletter & community. When she’s not writing at her blog, for Rise Up Writers , or as a contributor for the Grace Table, you’ll find her enjoying time with friends, gardening, or obsessing over colored glass & mason jars. Join her conversations of encouragement & faith via Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest as @faith_eyes.