Monday, October 21, 2013

Grief Revisited: Grief Anniversaries are Hard

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” Psalms 46:1-2

Last night I shared with the family that today would mark the one year anniversary of my father’s passing; my oldest replied, “it’s been a year already?”  That was my exact sentiments.

The concept of time when grieving is quite interesting.  On the one hand it seems like life has come to a halt where a part of you is living in slow motion; as if your every steps were taken through a sea of molasses. But on the other hand life seems to continue to progress at a pace that is too fast for healing to take place; time doesn’t really wait for your emotions to catch up with the pace of life.  Some days I’d wish for a place to hide in isolation to just grieve and heal but we all know healing doesn’t really occur in a vacuum, isolated from people and living.  The miraculous journey of grieving and healing occurs with and through people while finding moments of isolation to just be in the presence of God.
So here’s a synopsis of what this first year of grieving has looked like:

I remember the day quite vividly, a Sunday afternoon; I dropped off our twins to swimming lessons.  I sat in the car to get some work completed, lap top on my lap, fidgeted around a little bit to get my laptop and the steering wheel at perfect positioning for comfort.  I remember the smell of summer ending and fall entering in the air. 
About 25 minutes into my work I was interrupted by a phone call from my sister which was quite common for a Sunday afternoon.  When you have a terminally ill parent and you live far away, you do different things to soften the blow when you ever receive that daunting phone call to tell you the inevitable has occurred.  One of the ways I’d prepare for that conversation over the years is to engage in small talk before I’d receive the news.  So every conversation started the same way: Hi, sa kap fet? What’s up? How are the children? How’s Jersey? This conversation followed that same script but the answers I received from my sister were a little bit more distant so I knew this phone call was the phone call I’d dreading for many years.   

Of course the response is never as you anticipate.  I prepared myself to be strong and accepting but the emotion that came out was denial, shock, emptiness, loneliness, helplessness and all of the sudden everything came to a halt.

All of my efforts to fly back home were met by one obstacle after another.  One of the biggest obstacles was a hurricane that devastated the East Coast, hurricane Sandy.  So my father passed, now there’s a hurricane, power outages everywhere, freezing weather and all flying was suspended until further notice.  When we were able to get seats to return back home each ticket was over $700 and we have a family of 5; I was enraged over what was happening.  Nothing was going according to plan.

But in the few days held hostage in Texas I was able to write the Eulogy/sermon for my father’s funeral.  God was so gracious in allowing me to use the time to put words together to speak to a community who were in desperate need to hearing from the Lord.  In fact they’d never had a woman stand on their pulpit to deliver a message; they were shocked to hear from God through a woman at her own father’s funeral.  Who else but God could have orchestrated those events?

 After the funeral I returned back to Texas, emotionally spent and broken.  Now I entered into a different side of grief, the side that would last longer than the initial shock.  I went back to work almost right away (which I don’t always recommend) and by the end of the week I found myself furious and agitated mostly at my husband for not knowing that I needed time, poor guy, he couldn’t do anything right. 

I found myself going through cycles of emotions; one moment energized the next lethargic.  One moment excited about new projects, the next overwhelmed by the amount of mental work it would require to get things done. One moment I would miss my dad, the next angry by the mess he had put us through.  Up and down were my emotions.

I found myself visiting depression more than I care for.  My depression kept friends at a distance.  It kept projects on a high shelf.  And I would often find comfort in just being still in the presence of God where I didn’t have to work.  You know it takes a lot of work to maintain relationships and be socially engaged, so my times with God allowed me to be present without the pressure of performing. During my times of mental highs absent of depression, I accomplished many great projects.  And during my times of mental lows I just allowed myself to slowdown. 

Grief and Healing cannot happen in just a vacuum isolated from life, friends and activities; it is moving through the natural rhythms of the cycle without guilt, shame, denial and being stuck that has helped me survive this first year of grieving. 

Throughout the year, I was comforted by the presence of God who has been an ever present help throughout this process and he continues to show up in my times of great need.  Grief is a journey, not a destination so I journey on.

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