“Good grief.”

If you’ve ever seen “A Charlie Brown (insert holidays)” anything then you’ve probably heard this phrase before. In the last 19 months I’ve learned a lot about what I call “good grief”. I’m talking about the times when you’ve moved past the stages of grief. When others stop grieving the loss of that fellow friend of yours. When life finds a new normal and the ache and tears come to a halt. I’m talking about months- or even a year and some time- later when you no longer find your every day rattled with thoughts of the person you lost.

Good grief is that time you hit when life resumes and bringing up memories of those people no longer bring you to tears, but cause you to laugh and find joy in remembering who they were and the place they held in your life.That is the place I’d call home right now. Good grief.

For me, good grief sneaks up on me. It finds its way into a normal week and may linger around for a day or two. Its been 19 months since I went through two months of losing people and funeral after funeral. 6 deaths in all over 60 days. I lost people I had been praying for, and people I knew personally. There were people I had never even met, but their loved ones were ones I loved. There were people I’d grown up knowing and people who had crashed into my world just months before. Each person meant something to me because of a connection, a prayer, a memory, an influence- something brought us together. I watched a young girl bury her parents, a friend bury her dad, my dad lose a best friend to cancer, a wife lose her husband, parents bury a child- my friend. I watched as people felt like their prayers went unanswered. It was a dark and challenging season of life. I genuinely thought I’d never see life again, but continue to be shrouded in death. Thankfully, the Lord held more for me, and believed in better seasons ahead.

So months pass by and all of the anniversaries are celebrated. The first few months, 6 months, a year, and now a year and a half. Time has worked to heal together some wounds that remained. Memories fade and details become less clear. We all move on. Except sometimes grief slips in through the cracks on days you can’t explain. Like today. Today I was busy with a service day and a list full of tasks to cross off. I was present in every moment, but I found myself reaching for and needing comfort. I needed my family, and extra affirmation today. At first, I believed that it was simply because it was the transition to school and that always leaves me missing home just a bit more. I’m adapting to the new schedule and environment and I always ache for the familiar corners of my house and the conversations with the people that live there. However, this was something so much more. I needed to be reminded i was surrounded by people who loved me.

I was listening to “River” by Emeli Sandé when I realized why today was so special. Two years ago today, I met the best friend I ended up losing just four months later.  It was my mom’s birthday, but somehow I had forgotten that this was the exact day my friend entered my world. I knew the moment I met him that he was going to be someone special to me, but I had no idea how brief that special time would be.

I realize that Emeli Sandé wasn’t writing from the Lord’s perspective, but in that moment the words couldn’t have possibly given me any more comfort than if Christ himself had painted them in the sky for me to read.

See, maybe I’m too quiet for you
you probably never noticed me
but if you’re too big to follow rivers
how you ever gonna find the sea?

so follow me i’ll be your river, river
I’ll do the running for you
follow me i’ll be your river, river
i’ll move the mountains for you
follow me, i’ll be your river, river
i’m here to keep you floating
follow me
i’ll be your river river. River, river, yeah

If all you want are answers to your questions
And you can’t seem to find no love for free
If you’re looking for the right direction
Then darling, look for me

See, I can make the load much lighter
I just need you to confide in me
but if you’re too proud to follow rivers
how you ever gonna find the sea?

Wherever you’re standing, I will be by your side
through the good, through the bad, i’ll never be hard to find
so wherever you’re standing I will be by your side
through the good, through the bad, i’ll never be hard to find

In the last 19 months the Lord taught me to follow Rivers when the land of the season I was walking through seemed barren and dried up. He taught me to trust Him in the small things and the day-to-day tasks, and brought me to a sea of healing. He answered all of my questions of “Why?” and “Is this every going to get better?” or “Do you even have a plan in all of this?!” He loved me and used others to love me even when I struggled trusting people. He gave me the right directions, carried my burdens when I could allow myself to cast them upon His shoulders, and never failed to humble me when I realized that I was following my own directions and plans instead of His.

The Lord stands beside us and walks through every hard season and every easy season, too. He’s present in small ways if you are looking for Him.

So I cried and let those words captivate me and heal me tonight. I thought about that first meeting with my friend and how good the Lord was in the brief time we knew each other. I thought about his family and all the memories they have of him, and how good the Lord has been in repairing the broken hearts involved. I cried because I missed my friend and all the other people I lost in that season, but also because I’m so thankful for a chance encounter that led me to a life-changing friendship.

And that is my own good grief.


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