3 years ago I found myself in the most difficult season of my life to date. While I’m not eager to sit down and rehash this season of my life I will use this opportunity to write some hopeful words of encouragement to those of you who may find yourself with the companion of grief. Grief and I used to be well acquainted. 3 years ago, the holiday season was spent praying fervently for 3 very dear people. Praying that God would heal these three men and restore their health and function. Never in my life had a prayed more for three situations or had so much hope that Jesus would do miraculous things in their situations.
On January 10, the first man I prayed for passed away. We grieved. We rejoiced in his absence of pain. We prayed for his wife. I again started praying for the Lord to work in the remaining two situations. January 13th, the second young man passed away. We grieved. We rejoiced in his absence of pain. We sought peace from the things the Lord was doing through his story. I again started praying for the remaining man. A month later, the third man passed away. We grieved. We rejoiced in the end of his long battle. We prayed for his wife. Then during the weekend of the third funeral I received news that my friend’s father had passed away. I made plans to attend the funeral and comfort my friend. Watching the nightly news, I learned a young student I had in a DNOW group had lost her father and step-mother as well. In one day I attended a funeral and 2 visitations. You see, three years ago I experienced a season of death. From January 10 to mid-February I walked through the deaths of 6 people. They were my friends, my chosen family, my friend’s parents. Each person I had a personal connection with or a loved one I cared about deeply.
In all of it, people encouraged me to be angry with God for how He answered my prayers. Truly, I never felt an ounce of anger towards the Lord for all of this. More than anything I felt confused. My prayers had basically been a multiple choice test where I gave God the options He could choose. You see, during that season I learned how hard it is to want to pray to a sovereign God when He answers my multiple choice prayers by writing in an additional option. I had the perfect plan for how He could use all of those situations to bring forth miraculous signs and wonders of His kingdom. Little did I know how great the reward would be for the plan He had instructed.
So there I landed. In a season I had orchestrated. Left to deal with outcomes I hadn’t prayed to receive. In that season grief moved in with me. She watched over me day and night. I’m fairly certain she would have paid the bills and swept the floor if I had been living on my own. There were days I would pass a mirror and grief blocked my view. She was a conceited companion. Begged for my time, my thoughts, my energy. Grief was a life hog that seemed endless. That is the exact word I would use: It seemed Endless.
Dear friend, I’m here to tell you I know it seems endless. It seems like bad will continue to cover you and cloud you. Grief will block out the light from the windows and under the doors. She covers the mirrors so we don’t see who we used to be. She shrouds you in an unmistakable darkness that no light could ever attempt to dampen. It seems as though it will never end. An endless amount of aching sadness that stretches on forever.
But it will end. You’ll see the word ENDLESS break apart. END LESS. Then as it breaks apart the words skip around so all you see at first is LESS. You’ll see less pain and darkness. Less heart ache. The guilt of life will leave you. And maybe that’s the hardest part about it all. When the pain becomes less. When you wake up and the horror of the present season isn’t as terrifying. When you can take a deep breath for the first time in 6 months. LESS will come. You find yourself experiencing less of the bad and more of the good. I’ll never forget a specific moment towards the end of my season of grief. Now, I have always loved to watch the sunrise. I decided one morning that I would go and plant myself in a visible spot to watch the sun pour over the earth. I was convinced it would make me feel grateful and full of life. I made my way outside just moments before sunrise and I waited expectantly. Thirty minutes passed and nothing happened. I checked the expected sunrise time over and over and it was falling further and further behind. Then slowly the entire sky started shifting. The sky starting shifting out of the dark and into the light. The sky changed into a flurry of colors that matched the eyeshadow I wore in junior high. Then I saw a giant orange orb appear from behind a CVS Pharmacy and light up the sky. I laughed for the first time and didn’t feel guilty. I realized that the spot I had chosen was not the ideal place. Yet I felt LESS sadness and more joy.
When LESS wasn’t enough the END comes. The end of the every moment, hour, and minute that grief surges over you when you simply take a breath. That constant companion of grief will stop staying weeks in a row. She’ll stop staying overnight. Then stop visiting with you all together. And that’s a hard part. Figuring out who you are without grief. Who are you when she no longer bars out the light and the joy and the hope of living? You don’t realize how grief fills the absence of the person you lost. Unknowingly, she helps you become a person without the one you lost. Yet, when she leaves you have to change again to figure out who you are. Think back to that sunrise I was so keen on watching. My sunrise had been hidden behind because of the view I chose. Who are you going to be when you have the opportunity to choose the view again? Will you let the CVS block your view? Will you stay planted in a spot that limits you from seeing the most spectacular things? Who are you in the absence of the one you lost? And the absence of grief?
Do me this one small favor: Give yourself permission to find out who you are again. You didn’t die. That did. That season, that person, that relationship, that hope, that dream, maybe even that prayer. It died. Not you. So grieve the heck out of it and then find out who you are. Because you allowed yourself to live, love, invest, open up your arms, have hope, dream, and pursue. You didn’t take that step to live your life or love someone or dream in the first place and not expect to change a little. So, embrace the you that was and is. And keep moving.
Everything that leaves or breaks or moves was either not made to last here forever or was not for you. That person wasn’t made to be here forever. This isn’t home. That season was a season and, hon, it’s time to go. That relationship was meant for then and not now. Prepare for the next thing. Hope is the cheese of life- sprinkle it on everything except ice cream. Never run out of hope. Dare to dream again even if it is something small. Dreaming is our way of pushing forward and accepting change as a positive. Go see a sunrise and pick a place with a good view. Don’t let things get between you and joy. Pray prayers and not to do lists. Pray prayers that leave the Lord space to write an essay of His heart. Pray. Pursue people, pursue love, pursue time, pursue hope, pursue Jesus, pursue others who are going through seasons of grief. Sweet friend, you were made for everlasting in a world crippling and falling apart. It’s painful, baby girl. But it’s worth it.
If you are grieving and need a friend to: pray, scout out a sunrise, sit in the dark with you then please reach out to me. We were never intended to do this life alone.