Grief And Loss

Feel The Burn

I came across a quote that really sets in play what my heart has been trying to find words for. To paraphrase, grief is like fire, it burns away all that is no longer essential in one’s life.

This personal journey towards scaling away thoughts, philosophies, relationships started some time ago. It may have even started when my mom was first diagnosed with cancer three years ago. When you have to deal with ailing parents (my dad was undergoing prostrate cancer treatment) you tend to minimize things that you once thought important.

Fast forward and my mom is not present with me in THIS life and I feel the burn. Things that captured my attention, no matter how much I want to delve back into it, I just can’t. People I may have wanted to talk to in the past, I just don’t. Call it what you may-depression, regret, misplaced anger, I just don’t care about certain things anymore.

I feel the burn. I don’t care to pretend cause it’s way too much energy to do so. If something is on my heart I’m going to say it; whether it’s telling someone I didn’t like what they said or apologizing for what I said. Either way, I don’t have the luxury of “time” to hold that in. I hear people who argue and say they give 24 hours space. In my mind the next 24 seconds aren’t promised. I get it off my chest and move on.

I feel the burn. Whatever may have mattered before May 30th may not matter next month or next year. And the coolest thing is what may not have mattered before now does. I drop a non-essential for what becomes more essential to me. Temporal living isn’t for a child of God and death of any kind reminds us daily that this all here will pass away.

I feel the burn.

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Grief And Loss

Pieces Of The Puzzle

When I used to have all the time in the world, putting puzzles together was my thing. I’ve done 1000 packaged puzzles and even a three dimensional castle. That was fun! I couldn’t stand to see them dismantled so puzzle glue kept me from going insane. They would be gifts for anyone who appreciated the hard work that went into matching odd shapes that initially made no sense.

Today’s Grief Bite Devotional:
“It is very important that you work out your grief in your own way, in your own time, and feel what you need to feel. You need not worry if someone else approves of how you grieve. Grief is a puzzle that must be completed by you and God together.”

What a truly liberating statement! I’ve got Sinatra in my head singing I will go through this season of loss MY WAY. Another’s approval of how I work through it is a non-issue at this point. God gave me this huge box of puzzle pieces, a first ever in my life, with no instructions but to TRUST HIM in the process.

There are superb moments where I’m happy to mention my mother who would be proud that I didn’t show up at a recent meet and greet in ballet flats. It’s her “best foot forward” lessons that directs my compass. And then there are the “lows” when I look around at friends whose mothers are still with them, giving them the typical “mother-daughter” type headaches but still here nonetheless.

Friends are cool to have around and share bits and pieces in the process. A spouse can sit a while and help with the edges. But this is one of those “you and God” type of puzzles where the box may be left unattended for days or it’s a marathon to finish up one portion. All in due time.

I don’t want to rush God in this or like the Grief Bites mentions “cheapen” what he can do with me, to me, and through me.

Grief And Loss

It’s In The Telling

It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24 NASB)

Thinking of my mom is the first and last thing I do each day. And even with a loving spouse laying right next to me, it is a very lonely feeling to get up with thoughts of loss.

Who else to turn to but God? Man’s comfort is temporal. It’s conditional and although well-meaning it doesn’t meet the need of a creation who needs her Creator instantly. Even as I begin to speak in my heart to Him, he already knows. He knew this season was to come and I know that all roads in my life led to this.

There are times when I don’t want to talk to God about how I feel these days. I figure he should already know how I feel and what my needs are. But it’s moments like these when I know my expressions to him, my honesty isn’t about him hearing it (duh, He knows everything), but rather just His way of helping me confront my fears and my hurt. It’s in the telling that He will help me get through this.

Thank you Jesus for being my friend, thank you Holy Spirit for being my comforter, and thank you God for holding my heart in your hand.

Grief And Loss

Mourning Period

Queen Victoria had the luxury of mourning the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert, for forty years. Black was her dress and seclusion was her choice. It would naturally be a queen’s prerogative to dress in all black, refuse visitors, and spend the rest of your life as a recluse. Ah…the life of the rich and famous!

Mourning period has since been synthesized into “stages” of grief. Bereavement pay is a luxury (not a right) most employees don’t have. Get the funeral over and done with and get back to work is the American way.

There are no longer “norms” of what’s expected of a grieving family member. No one to say well this specific time is what’s spent in recluse, slowly entering back into society, and finally able to go about “normal” activities. It’s pretty much mourn as you go.

I feel like a loss ship at times. Here it is two weeks after my mother’s funeral and I get the eery feeling that I’m “expected” to be done with it. But I’m not and I don’t want to be “over it.” Asking me to be over it means asking me to get over my mom and that’s not happening.

People went back to their life minutes after the repast. Condolence cards stopped coming a week later. And other than the brave souls who, bless their hearts, are ill-prepared to talk to a grieving person, it’s like walking on egg shells here on out.

That loaded question “how are you” needs to be stricken from conversation one has with a grieving person. It’s pointless and insensitive; especially if you aren’t prepared to hear that I cried on my way to work this week or that I ache each time I have to say to a doctor or service provider that my mother is dead.

One’s “mourning period” is a lifetime in the making. It will be expressed through tears, joy, solitude, purpose, and plain old daily living. It is the proverbial black garb to be worn over one’s heart hidden away. It is a shared language among those who have had loved ones go on before us. It alienates us from some and draws us to others. It builds our faith, our truth in life as we now know it. This new normal.

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Grief And Loss

Send In The Clowns

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns…

I’ve always liked that song. Sung by everyone from Barbara to Frank to Judy, it is a poignant song of missed opportunities and love lost.

I turn 40 next year and the realization that my Maman won’t be PRESENT in life is a shocker. She was never much the celebratory type. Birthdays and holidays hadn’t been her thing for many years now. Yet oddly enough this year I got a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

I’m truthfully not the flowers type but it was from her and I was elated. Texting my friends a picture of this huge collection of pungent flowers, never knowing it would be her last birthday gift to me.

“I love you” had become our parting phrase for some time now but expressions of that love were not as overt as this bouquet. This final parting gift of her appreciation and love for me. Her friends tell me of her pride and love for me. Of new achievements she couldn’t wait to share about me, her daughter.

Oh the irony of me shooting up from a deep sleep searching for the photo of this bouquet, the physical evidence of my mother’s love. She’s gone, I’m here. The subtle messages of love once gone unheeded now blaring louder than words ever will.

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Grief And Loss

Don’t Be Misinformed

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NASB)

My meditation these days is surrounding grief and loss. I’m trying to take comfort in what the Bible speaks to my spirit. The “Grief Bites” Plan on YouVersion gives me specific verses that provide encouragement and promise in the season of loss. The one above hit home as I think constantly of my mom in her absence.

There are days when I cry unexpectedly and other days where I don’t. There are days where I’m more sullen and other days when I’m acting silly like today when I did a silly dance for my co-workers. They got a genuine smile from me today. Reading that verse also brings a smile to my heart.

Here’s my urban twist on what it says in my “Sha-Nay-Nay” voice: PUHLEEZE don’t get it twisted. Those who called Jesus, Lord and Savior, ain’t thinking about this life and all the mess it comes with. Gon’ head and cry but trust and believe that those they leave behind need to get with the program.

I sure do miss my mom! It’s part of my mental and verbal litany these days. Sometimes I just text that simple phrase to my brother. It says it all. But Thessalonians reminds me not to be uninformed about where she is and how this thing we call life all turns out.

I have hope. Hope that I will one day see that lady who gave me more headaches than the law allowed. To hear her one day again tell me “I love you” with her Haitian accent. To see those huge expressive eyes that mirror mine.

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 18 NASB)

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Grief And Loss, Uncategorized

Three Piles

It took four sister-friends, great situational satire, and silent prayers to get me through cleaning out my mom’s room. I had contemplated doing it over a period of time. A dresser drawer here, a closet shelf there. But as the clock kept ticking I managed to get three piles together of what’s to keep, what’s to give away, and what’s to throw away.

I thought I would be a basket case sobbing through the whole event–but I wasn’t. I thought I would be numb through it all–yet I wasn’t. Emotions ranged from marvel at how well she kept her things to surprise at finding nuggets of history to regret for realizing some things were forever loss. She still had the doilies from childhood that lay daintily under bric-a-bracs on shelves. She had tons of cassette tapes which I can’t part with just yet. I couldn’t find the VHS of her mother’s funeral. That made me sad. Her bed pads, walkers, wheelchair and unused diapers and wipes are going to people at her church. Even on a fixed income she was buying diapers for another woman in her church who wasn’t blessed to have what she was getting for free. That lady always thought of others first.

I’m so glad I didn’t have to share her with another sister. I used to wear her shirts in middle school when her top size wasn’t that far apart from mine. I realize she loved patterned skirts just like me. She was a blazer junkie and I have the same tendencies. There are some of her dresses I plan to repurpose and make my own.

A couple of brooches will be part of my heirloom. My scarves collection will make room for hers. I’m keeping the Strawberry Shortcake mug that held her toothbrush and the pretty glass mug she drank her tea in. I’m coming back for her fine china (or what’s left of it). My brother and dad won’t know they are even missing. The coat rack, a rarity in modern decor at a friend’s suggestion should go in my office. I’m keeping the DVD player she never opened.

I’m at once relieved and guilty. Relieved that this part of the grieving process is well underway. Guilty because it took four hours and four friends to
make sense of what was left of her earthly belongings. Her full and vibrant life was reduced to three piles–or so I think.

She was more than a pile of clothes and shoes in a basket. And for everything I touched, I knew that her absence, though searing, is what will draw the memories closer to me. I’m not ready to sift through all that I brought home with me just yet. That’s for another day. A private day where I will be left to my tears and sorrow. Where no friends nor chatter will silence the sadness within.