I John 3:18

All original content copyright Jessica Nicole Schafer, 2007-2016.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I Remember Now.

It's been a while.

For a long time, I've wondered if telling my story in this life with grief is important, if it's necessary, if it's needed.  Honestly, I wonder sometimes because of the things I'm told (or not told) by others.  Other people have a lot to say (not say) about my grief.  Such is life, we all have opinions. Yet sometimes, it is because of what I tell myself.  So I intentionally didn't write for a season.  Because of other voices, because of frustration, because of many things.

It is difficult to walk this life with heavy grief.  It is difficult in ways that I can't truly describe.  It's often lonely, as I know others have felt the same way, we wonder if we are alone in our deep hurt.  We wonder if it's "time" to stop feeling this heaviness.  We wonder when it's time to stop talking about it.  Often, we have people in our lives who will flat out say or hint that they've had enough.  And that is their choice, I've learned to read between the lines and when to stop sharing that piece of myself with those who don't care to hear anymore. But the hard truth for the ones that live with grief is that it's never "time" to stop carrying it, it's just time to keep going and coping and finding new ways to navigate through life with the pieces of ourselves that are still missing.

As I sat through Church the other day, My Love said something that I cannot get out of my heart or head.  While speaking about those words from Psalm 13 (NASB) "How long, O LORD?  Will you forget me forever?", he said the following:

 "Sometimes I wonder if  God doesn't respond with the same refrain, 'How long are you going to forget?'  I don't believe God's response to us would be, 'How long will you forget me?'  I believe God's response would be 'How long will you forget yourselves? How long will you neglect to remember continually that you are children of God? How long will you forget that you are not powerless? How long?  You have a voice, you have strength, you have stories, you have experiences, you have the capacity to bring about the change you wish to see in this world.  How long will you forget yourselves?'  The Kingdom of God does not come about in this world simply through prayer, it comes about by seeking to be the answers to the prayers that we offer.  Not because we are the solution to all the world's problems, not because God can fix anything and everything through us, but because we have offered ourselves as the Body of Christ.  If we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, then we will remember the God who demands that we remember ourselves, and what He has given us."

I forgot for a while.  I forgot those times when someone is told to shut up about their broken heart that is weighted with grief.  I forgot the times someone told another they need to get over it and move on.  I forgot for a minute that grief is such a mishandled, misunderstood, and misrepresented thing in our world.  I forgot for a minute how callous, brutal, and un-Christlike people can behave when the subject of grief comes up.  But people reminded me.  Whether it was someone telling me that they finally felt permission to grieve their Mother who passed away fifteen years ago, because they were made to feel like something was wrong with them for so long.  Or the sweet friend who reminds me that she, too, still wrestles with her grief.  Or the precious friend who tells me that she has no idea what she'd ever do without her Momma...and how in the world do I do it??  Or my husband on a Sunday morning, preaching on one thing, and unknowingly reminding me of a different thing... that my story is important.  I remember now.

I can't fix everything.  I can't solve everything.  But I do long to be a part of this Body called Christ...and I do care about you people so very deeply.  I can keep telling my own story, writing about my own story of grief that was handed to me---with no choice of my own.  I can try to have a part in helping people cope with their own grief, because that is my prayer for so many of you....
***That you know you are loved, you are not alone, and your grief is sacred, my darling.  I will keep seeking to be part of the answer to that prayer that I live out every single day.  And I will keep trying to do my part in this body, so long as I have a voice.*** 

I went to call her the other evening, My Momma.  She's been gone since December of 2007.  It's 2016...
I need her still, want her here still, and she is still gone.

That is grief, y'all.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Birthday Gift and a Goodbye that Never Was.

My Love surprised me last fall on my thirty-fifth birthday by getting us tickets to see something I'd been wanting to see for over ten years...."Wicked"....and it was so perfect.  So, so, so perfect.  He surprised me again by getting me seats a second time.  I have felt very spoiled, of course.   I am grateful.  I've always been an Oz fan, and have shelves and shelves of all things Oz in our home. So naturally, when this musical came out...I knew one day I'd just have to see it.  I'm grateful.  And now, I'm keeping an eye on when it comes anywhere near us again.  ; )

What he didn't know was how it affected me this month.  My sweet Momma's birthday was February 7th.  Anyone living with grief knows how the calendar can often kick us right in the gut. Being able to do something so magical kinda sorta helped me this month.  I'd known since fall that we'd be seeing it, but I didn't think anything about how it would affect me for good.  It just softened this month for me, in a very special way.
Obviously, I'm grateful.  Thank you, My Love.

Grief is so different from person to person.  Those of us living with the loss of a loved one, though the stories are different, we know the absence all too well.  We live with it everyday.  For myself, my story, not only was it unexpected and early...it was one that never got a goodbye.  We lost Momma abruptly, tragically, unexpectedly.  It was quite literally one of those things you've seen happen on television...one of those things you never expect will happen to you, it only happens to "other" people.  One of those, "We need to know whether you want to keep her breathing with a machine, or not" stories.  One of those, "We cannot tell you when she will be gone....it could be a day or three months, you'll just have to wait" kind of stories.  The stories made of nightmares, the ones we hate speaking of.  Losing her in that way will always be a part of my story, and that, I cannot change.

*Sometimes I wonder what I would have said to her, had I known I'd never see her again.*

I cannot tell you how much that angers me, frustrates me, and haunts me.  Being able to hug my Momma, tell her all the things she needed to hear me say, and knowing she was awake to hear me....no, it wouldn't have made losing her easier.  But at least it would have been a goodbye.  Perhaps it would have given those of us she left behind just a tiny bit of closure, knowing we were able to say some personal things to her.  But we never got that chance.  I know there are so many others who wish they would have been given the chance to say a last goodbye to their loved ones.

Music has always moved me.  Always.  I have always lived with a strange sensitivity to music, one that cannot be put into words.  When we were sitting there watching "Wicked", I was soaking it all in.  I didn't want to miss a line, a measure, not one thing.  Now, I had already heard the soundtrack for this wonderful piece of art a million times, and it was committed to memory.  But seeing it live, with people using their own creativity, there's just something beautiful there. 

As I sat there next to My Love, and watched my favorite character sing effortlessly, beautifully...I couldn't stop the tears.  They just unexpectedly fell...

"It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime.  So, let me say before we part:  So much of me is made of what I learned from you.  You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart.  And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine..."
("For Good" by Stephen Schwartz)

Perhaps, given the chance...something like that is what I would have said to you, Momma.  I'll never know, though.  Because that is a goodbye I never got to say. 


(A few weeks ago, I was at that point again, of thinking it's pointless to share these dark parts of grief.  Hearing from a dear, dear friend moved me.  She told me that speaking on my story like I've done all these years may have saved someone, and let them know they are not wrong or crazy.  I had never thought of it like that...thank you, sweet girl.  You know who you are. As difficult as it is to write on this grief, I hope it does let someone know they are not alone in their own grief.)

Whatever way your story goes, whatever grief you carry, whatever goodbye that you did or did not have when you lost your loved one...please know you're not alone.  Your grief is a sacred thing.  I will do what I can to give your grief a voice...because we cannot carry it alone.

***Love has no end, nor the grief that holds its hand.***

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bind the Brokenhearted.

Though any day of the year can hit me unexpectedly...the holidays and winter are always very long, and full of heavier grief.  She passed away right around Christmastime, and her birthday is at the beginning of February. So for me, there are more intense days between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, thick with the absence that my Momma left behind. Where I live, winter seems so long because the days are so very short.  And these short days make for very long nights....and many times, grief hangs around a little bit heavier during the night.
I've noticed my sensitivities are heightened around now.....and I've noticed the number of years that pass don't matter in the least.  What matters is I still mourn for my Momma.  Because she is still gone.

My Love read something today at Church, and it deeply moved me.  He talked about Jesus quoting those famous words from Isaiah.  I read that whole passage, and today it seemed like the following words jumped off of the pages into my heart, and it truly is something I needed to hear again.

"...He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...
To comfort all who mourn..."
Isaiah 61, NASB

This text is familiar to so many of us.  But today I saw these words in a way I'd never seen before.  I have never been artistic, but watching our sweet son become more passionate about his artwork every year has changed the way I see things.  It's helped me be more visual.

When I read these words today, it immediately brought a picture to mind.  All I could see was someone leaning over and comforting another person who's heart was broken into pieces, someone literally binding them up, around and around, wrapping them in bandages...with the focus on their heavy, heavy heart...their heavy, heavy grief.
I'm no nurse, but I am a Momma. I know a few things about taking care of someone when they're hurting.  The part of them that needs the most attention, the part that needs the care, the binding, the love...is always going to be what is hurting, what is broken, what is lacking.  That's where the primary focus lies.

What a comforting thing to remember this morning.  Jesus didn't tell us to pray away our cares, to ignore the problems, to buck up, be positive, and all the other empty theologies we like to pass around to make ourselves feel better...to help us ignore the hurting we know exists all around
No, not at all.

The better thing, always always always, is to notice those around us who are hurting, use our hands and our hearts to comfort them...wrapping those heavy wounds...even when it's the kinds of wounds that can't be seen.  Like grief. 

And we cannot "comfort all who mourn" if we do not first acknowledge their mourning.

May we bind up each other's broken hearts, may we comfort those who mourn...whether they've been grieving for a day, or a decade.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Unwanted Story

I get asked a lot of questions about my story with grief, or just told things from many who know how difficult it is.  Some of the recurring words are the following---

 "I do not know what I would do without my Momma......I do not know what would happen if I didn't have my Momma.......How have you done it so long without your Momma, especially while raising your own child without her?  My Mother just passed away...what now?"

I do not know.
I wish I could tell you,  to help prepare you.  I wish someone could tell me, to prepare me for the rest of my life without her.  I often look in the past and think how long and hard so many moments have been without her, without having her here.  My Love and I have raised our sweet boy all these years, and so often I've just wanted her here to be beside me in all that.  (Which,she would have been, just as she was for his first couple years of life.)  But then I think of the road ahead. I think of our next babies we have, I think of this sweet boy entering college, I think of him starting his own life, I think of all the rest of the birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions, etc.....and it makes me realize I still have the rest of my life to live without my Momma.  I still have the rest of our family's lives and events to live through---and that road ahead will also be full of her absence.  That is not how it should have been.

How have I done it? By waking up everyday.  By loads of coffee. By understanding a God who hurts with me, though I wish this hurt never had to be. I have gone through these years without my Momma by grieving, even when it hasn't been easy. I've done it by leaning on a husband with broad shoulders, and a love for me that never stops being love.  I've done it by venting to a dear friend who lets me share that darkness with her.  I've done it by seeing God in a much different light than the popular image(s) so often given.  I've done it by being stubborn.  I've done it by giving in.  I've done it by being strong.   I've done it by being weak.  I've done it by laughing.  I've done it by crying.   I've done it by being independent.  I've done it by being dependent.  I've done it by doing nothing.   I've done it by being too busy.  I've done it with a Daddy and Stepmom and sister...and they, too, live with this thing.

I've done it because it had to be done.  I'll keep doing it, because it has to be done.  I've done it because I still have this breath, and if you are reading this, so do you.  We will keep doing this life, even as we carry this grief...our Mommas want that.
But I will not pretend there are not days that I just sit back and let the tears fall because my Momma is dead.  There are still moments when I get angry and sad and frustrated, or lonely for her.  And there are still days I just want my Momma to come help me out for a weekend.  There are still days I want to call her and ask her opinion about so many things. There are days I am sick, and wish she could come take care of our boy while my husband is gone working and taking care of us. There are still days I want to call her and brag on our son, to hear her exclaim how proud of him she is.  There are days I miss the matriarch in our family, and all that went with that.  There are still days I wonder how she has been gone for so long.  And those moments will always ebb and flow. 

Because grief won't listen to our calendars and timetables and positive thinking. It's like love, we can't contain it. We just live with it.  And the rub with grief is that it does get heavier during hard times, yet even during all the great and wonderful times...we still wish our loved ones were here for those, as well.  We can't turn that off, nor should we try. Because love never stops being love...and if that is true, and I think it is,  then our grief that fell upon us is something that will always be present in their absence.

Our grief is part of us now, we just go on with it.  The best way we can. 

In this story of life there are so many things we get to write for ourselves.  We get to be in control of more than we realize, and we get to name all the chapters.
***But unexpectedly losing a loved one is not one we wrote.
Our Momma dying at an early age and leaving us all to go on without her...no, we did not choose that. That story of grief chose us.   

The only advice I ever give regarding grief, and I hardly do unless I am asked....is this:

Grieve freely, and do not do it alone. 

***Love has no end, nor the grief that holds its hand.***

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sharing Our Grief.

I had recently turned twenty-seven when I lived through what would forever alter my life. 
My Momma, unexpectedly, out of nowhere, having just beat cancer, died from other causes.
She was fifty-five years old. 
What a loss to this universe. 

An emptiness now looms over our family as we continue on without her, one we cannot ignore. 

Grief is such a weird thing. I think it is a lot like love...we can't explain it, but we know it's there.  We can't define it.

It hit me the other day that our dog had been in our sweet son's life longer than my Momma had the chance to be.  That angers me so much. That is not fair, and I'll never be okay with that.  

Our son is eleven years old now, and I love that he remembers bits and pieces of her.  But oh, what spoiled rotten-ness he's missed out on from her!
The other day we sat down for family movie night,  and he was so excited for me to watch a movie that he absolutely loves. He kept telling me how he knew I'd love it. He knew I'd love one of the main characters in it, he just knew it! 
A little bit into the movie, I noticed the girl he was speaking of...she had lost her Momma at a young age.  Halfway through the movie, it hit me...our son is absolutely conscious of the fact that I do not have my Momma in my life anymore.  He is sensitive to it, and he gets it. 

It is a horrible thing to live with, it is something I am all too familiar with.  So often I want to hear her voice, ask her a question about being a Momma, ask her about her history or my history, hang out with her, have her babysit for us, or all the things that would be happening if she were here, etc., etc.
It was weird and beautiful to understand that in his little eleven-year-old way, he is aware and sensitive of my reality. Understanding that he understands deeply moved me.
It breaks my heart. 
Yet it strangely warms me to know he was trying to speak to my grief, in a way only he knows how.
As much as I write about living with the absence of my Momma, I don't necessarily talk about it that much here at home. It's a hard thing to do, isn't it?  Speaking about our grief is not easy. To just start talking about this woman, this Mother, this amazing human that I miss so much...It's hard to do without bursting into tears. But that doesn't mean I don't need to do it.  My husband needs me to do that, and our son needs me to do that.  I need me to do that.
It is a disservice to our family if I do not speak candidly about the grief I carry day in and day out.
*It is not lost on me that one day our sweet boy may very well be leaning on my writings to cope with my loss.*
May we remember that just as we cannot live this life alone, we cannot grieve alone. May we remember that our grief, as hard as it is to live with and talk about, is not to be ignored.
There's not a platitude, or positive thought, or positive verse, that can take the place of the grief you live with...if so, that would make love and grief pretty cheap. And they are not...they are priceless.  May we speak of our grief, may we share our grief with our loved ones.
*May we remember that sharing our tears over the grief of losing someone so very dear to us is one of the holiest things we can ever do.*
Because life and love and grief affect us all...even an eleven year old little boy.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Newness of it All

I know some of you hear some harsh things from others about your grief.  I know because I have heard it, and I know because I hear your stories all the time.

For the past few days, I have had many of those, "GOODGRIEF, I wish Momma were here!!" moments.  Not necessarily any cry my eyes out days, which happen every once in a while, but just wanted her here to experience all the "this" of things.  The now.  The good, the bad, the all.

Want to know why those of us who lose our Mommas at a young age still go on feeling the ache so very much, and deeper still during some days?  Why we still talk about it?  Why we dare to mention that "M" word that others frankly do not want to hear about anymore?  Why we still miss them, whether it's been a week or a year?

Because we are still living, and they are not.

At least weekly I think of things to ask my Momma, not intentionally, just things that come to my brain.  Like so many of you still get to do, like I used to be able to do.  I wonder about her childhood, her wants, desires, dreams, wishes.  I need her help with many, many things as My Love and I raise our sweet boy.  I need her advice on so much...and all these new questions I've had since she's been gone...I'll never get answered by her.  I sort of have to piece it all together. 
Yes, the world keeps on spinning.  New things arrive, good and bad.  We go on living through many joys, while carrying many sorrows alongside this even deeper sorrow. 

In all the times I write about this thing of grief, tonight I am specifically thinking of you other young Mommas who do all these things just as I do, without your Mommas.
There are always so many people talking to us, many of them helpful and loving.  And then there are those who insinuate, or even flat out tell us things that are harsh about our grief.  Again, I know you hear them, you've told me.  Those voices that have told us, "Move on....buck up...etc., etc."  As if we lost our favorite purse, and not our Momma.

***I am sorry.  I am so sorry that anybody has come into your story of grief, invaded that sacred place, and tried to quiet you.***

I'm still going along.  Just as you are.  Doing my best, failing a lot, but trying to hope against hope.
One year has ended, another has begun.  We look back and think on the milestones of this year.  We set new goals, dream new dreams, laugh new laughs, and keep loving on our loved ones.  And we do all that knowing how much our Mommas have missed out on.  We all go on, carrying the ache.  Yet we do not have to do it alone. 

Hope Edelman wrote the following in "Motherless Daughters"---
"It's the fact that I can't ask her for these things that makes me miss her all over again"

That's why we still talk, that's why we still cry, that's why we still ache, that's why we still grieve.
They are gone, and we are still here.  And sometimes, we just want our Mommas.

Life can carry enough, don't add to someone's burden of grief.
If you don't understand, I get that.  We often get afraid of what we don't understand.
If you want to help, just ask.  If someone you know is grieving, just ask them what you can do.  Usually, they'll tell you what they need.  If not, silence is often golden.  Or chocolate and wine will do just fine.

If you are in my same boat, you are not alone.  If you've not found a safe space to talk, keep looking.  Loved ones will allow room for your grief, that's what love does.  Don't quiet your pain to appease someone else, find a safe place to grieve.

We'll keep going along together, okay?  Beginning another year without them.  But we will keep going.

***Love has no end, nor the grief that holds its hand.***

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My Momma's Name, and the Grief that Finds Us.

My week did not start well. 

Very weird day on Sunday. 
Rough day on Monday.
Started to feel sick Monday evening.
Today was okay. 
Then I spilled almost boiling water all over my chest. (I'm okay.)

In an effort to make a bright spot, I ordered pictures for our Christmas cards.  After receiving an email that they're done, I go to pick them up. Lady says they never got the order. Deep breath. No big deal, it's just pictures.  I'll reorder them, but now we're running an hour behind. Nothing that can't be fixed.
Oh well, it's fine...I tell myself in order to bring a bit of calm. 

I decide to look for a few things on my list while I'm in town, and can't find them anywhere. Looks like I'll order online.  Again, no big deal.

Coffee.  Surely that will help!

I order a coffee...come and help me, you glorious and loving coffee bean...and help me quickly!  Maybe it will ease the evening.  Just bring a bit of happiness in a cup before my day ends.

When I'm done, a sweet lady comes up and orders next. They ask her her name.  She very loudly, happily, excitedly announces, "JUDY!" 
I decide it's time to just go home, shopping will commence somehow in the zero spare time I have before Christmas.
'Ya just can't make this stuff up.
I've been thinking so much about my Momma's last words to me. How she said something like, "Baby, you can call me whenever you want, it doesn't bother me at all!"

***But I can't call her...though I wish so bitterly that I could.***
That is one of the ways of grief. We may try to ignore, get away from it for just a bit.  We may need a day to just forget the pain...but the grief will usually find us anyway. That's what happened to me today.
I've also been thinking about some of the last words she wrote in her journal.  She wrote some verses from Philippians.  She quoted some of those well-known words from chapter four.  I have not been able to get those verses out of my head all year long.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
It's been beaten into my brain about the whole "not being anxious" part, the "being grateful" part, and then God will give us this peace.  The "peace" that I'm quite sure is a little like hope....so often elusive.
But, then there's that one part.... the part that mentions letting our requests be known to God.
I think we gloss over that.  At least, I know I have for a very long time.  We forget that sharing our very being, our desires, our hopes, dreams, prayers, etc....that's part of it all.  That's part of this faith and hope and love and life and death thing we do every moment.
I have been making my requests known to God.  I will keep doing just that. 
Maybe that's why I can't get that verse out of my head.  Sometimes, reading very carefully....well, that's all it takes.

But for now, I just need the universe to give me a big ol' hug.
I miss my Momma I needed her today. 
I want to call her.  And yes, as many of you know, sometimes only Momma will do.
If the holidays are rough for you because of the grief you already carry all year long, please know you are not alone.  In the midst of your grief, as much as it lingers, keep letting your requests call out to this God who loves you.

May you know your grief is sacred, wherever it finds you.
*Love has no end, nor the grief that holds its hand.*

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Another Year Passes

This hangs on the wall of the bedroom My Love and I share. 
It has always been in the same spot. For some reason, it fell off of the wall today. 
I'd say it brought to surface all the things on my mind......but they were already there. 
My Momma gave this to me years ago.  She gave my sister one just like it. 
I remember....oh yes, "the" dates approach.  December 4th....when it all began.  And all the way through December 14th.
This ol' calendar of mine doesn't need to remind me of the dates approaching.  My body already knows.  My heart aches just a little bit more during this time of year.  My spirit is a little bit heavier.  My tears can fall just a little bit quicker.
I miss her dearly. 
My goodness, the things I wish I could talk to her about....the things I need her help with...the things I wish she were here for....the list goes on and on.
Of course I am different now than I was when my sweet Momma took her last breath. I was 27 when that hell came upon me.  It seems like forever ago, but seems like a week ago.  The years keep passing, I keep aging. 
But as the years go by, the grief  just doesn't leave. 
Grief merely changes, as we do with all the passing years.
How could it not? 
I miss my Momma in this 35 year old skin I walk around in.  One day, I will miss her in my 45 year old self.  But still...I will miss her I will always want to reach out to my Momma who can never reach back, and that is the harsh reality I live with everyday.  Harsh as it is, unwanted as it is, it just *is*. 
Grief is like that, you know.
Clinging to our very skin, never letting go. 
As it should be.

Because it clings to us the same way that four letter word clings to us, the same way LOVE, real love, clings.  It won't ever leave, because love doesn't walk away.  Neither will the grief it leaves behind. 
I miss her every moment, I miss her when we celebrate, I miss her when we endure hard times.  And though I miss her like the grown woman, wife, and mother that I am.....sometimes I still miss her as the little girl I used to be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Twinkling Lights and Teary Eyes.

Even though the days have all piled up....even though there have been so many moments we've gone on to have without my sweet Momma, still...

There have only been a handful of Christmases without her.  Only several Thanksgivings. A small number of birthdays.
So yes, of course, absolutely, you bet, and rightly so---the holidays are full of ups and downs and highs and lows and laughter and tears and memories and hopes. 

Because she would have made them better...if only we still had her here with us.
Maybe the number of holidays without your loved one is different, maybe it is the first.  Maybe it is the thirty-seventh.  Either way, I see you, dear one.
I know I'm not the only one. 

I know there are others who feel that similar twinge of heartache when seeing someone out and about with their Momma and their own little child, all three together.  Giggling, shopping, coffee-ing, just enjoying the company of one another.
I know there are others who hear a certain Christmas carol that calls on the tears to fall.  
I know there are others who see the empty chair, if only their loved one could still fill it.
I know there are others who long for that special Christmas meal that only their loved one could make *just right*.
I know there are others who see the perfect gift... if only they could wrap it to see their loved one smile upon receiving it. 
I know there are others who see the bright and twinkling Christmas lights, and have those bittersweet memories of seeing the twinkling all those years ago when she was still here.  And then the tears may flow.
I know there are others who have deep sorrow every single holiday season.
I fill our Christmas season with so many things to do together....so many readings, so many crafts, so many wonderful activities and treats... things to get us through the darkness of Advent.
***Because on December 4th, all the way through the 14th, my world forever changed.  Out of nowhere. And it will always be different because of the absence my Momma left behind.***
Sweet you, I know you are there.  You are there, and you feel and live with some of the very same things I feel and live with.  You are not alone.

Everyday, your grief is sacred.

Every Christmas...your grief is sacred.

*Love has no end, nor the grief that holds its hand.*
May the darkness of Advent remind us of the darkness of grief.  May we offer the light of comfort to those who need it.  May we truly join in the story of hope and Christmas by being present with those in pain.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lean In.

We spoke with some dear friends recently who were sharing stories of their loved ones who recently passed away.  It is always such an honour to hear stories like these.  Their precious loved ones were given the gift of many years here.  Still, that doesn't make it easier.

Since then I can't shake the thought of my Momma as an old woman.  We will never get to see her grow old, I know that.  That thought stings so bitterly sometimes.  I tried to picture her as an old woman.....I tried so hard. I tried to imagine her with wrinkles, old and frail.  And I just couldn't.  Because as much as I wish to imagine her old...she will never be gifted those golden years.
What a loss to the universe.

She would still be here spoiling her grandkids.
She would have been spending this time getting ready for all of us to get together...cooking, cleaning, busy with the excitement of my sister's family, and my family, arriving ready to spend some time together.

She would be doing all of that.
She would be 63.
She would be here...only if.

The other day our sweet boy told me he heard another little kid in the store calling out to his Nana.  He said, "Momma, I looked over at her, and she looked exactly like Nana!!!"
Even he feels her absence, even he remembers her.  That warms me more than I can say.
Imagining her here is all we have now.  And that is okay. 

But she is not here. The reality we live with is that something tragic happened, and she was gone well before she should have been. 

She will always be 55 in our memories. 

The holiday season can be full of difficult moments for so many.  As it should be, our loved ones are gone.  There are spaces in our lives that are empty, there are birthday cards never sent, there are phone calls never made, there are celebrations never celebrated.

*There are empty seats at our tables...and empty spaces in our hearts.*

May we never ignore the emptiness.

My husband often talks about how he's okay with "leaning into the awkwardness, the silences", etc.  I can't get that language out of my head.  I have been thinking about the necessity of leaning into the grief we carry. It is no secret that our hearts hurt, it is no secret that we miss our loved ones, it is no secret that we think of them so often...yet sometimes feel as if we will be annoying others if we mention them "again." May it never be.

May we learn to lean into the deep grief we carry, may we never lean away.
By leaning in, we get to learn more about love...which goes beyond every grave.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my stories about my Momma. That is a beautiful thing. She is missed, so very much.

While I enter into those days, those days that are anniversaries of the last days we had with her...even though yes, it's been so many years...I will lean.

I will lean, I will lean into the grief that is only here because of love.
Perhaps when I lean, I will be met with arms to embrace me.  Perhaps I will be met with tears that understand.  Perhaps I will be met with someone leaning alongside me. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Language of Grief

One of the first mistakes made in this thing called grief, is that often we expect it to teach us something.  Or, we expect it to teach those in our lives something.  As they live with this dark cloud surrounding them, we think maybe they should be learning during this process.  What a hurtful thing to do...expecting ourselves, or others, to find some amazing epiphanies during the heartbreak they carry daily.

I have talked with so many dear people who carry an ache like this, and there is a common theme I have noticed.  There's this idea, particularly in Christian circles, where we want to gloss over the hurt..........we want to get to a smiling place, where the hurt is no more. 

*We don't want to be in the midst of grief, we want to skip right over it, and immediately get to the happy parts of life.*

"Well, you do have a wonderful husband a son, and you have your Daddy, and sister, etc.".  So very true!  How beautiful, I never for one second take these people for granted.  They are my heart.  I will do anything for them, and I always will.
But the thing about death is...I still don't have my Momma. 
And I want her here.
That's the kicker when someone we love is taken from us early---we still want and need them here. 

*We cannot skip over their absence!!!*
We will never get to that point where the hurt is no more, we can't skip over the reality, in hopes of being happy about our grief.  Regardless of how much you may wish for us to be "happy", it is a burden placed on far too many. And so many people I have heard from do not know how to handle this aspect, it is for them I continue talking about this elephant in the room.

Grief is not happy.

Grief was never meant to be our tutor.  It's simply part of our story now. 

It's not enough to say we cannot grieve with others, unless we've experienced the same thing.  Because none of us experience the same things!  We are all different, we all have different stories...the same with grief.  I do not take for granted the gift of My Love, my husband.  He has carried this with me.  The love we share has helped me grieve in a better way, and the fact that he has given me freedom to grieve---never trying to quiet the pain I carry----means the world to me.  Not only does he see me carry it, but picks up my grief alongside me.  There is a better way than dismissing ourselves from someone else's grief by casually saying, "Well, I don't know what you're going through, so I'll just see my way out"....find the way of love.  Love will let you tell your story.  Love will try to understand, love will find a better way.

In grief, happiness is not the goal.  Utopia cannot be attained.
Please, if you love someone living with grief, let them just *live with their grief*.  Don't place a burden of a false smile on them, just because you are uncomfortable with the pain they carry.

My husband recently spoke of someone he admires. He mentioned that this writer helped him find the language to express the ideas that were clanging around in his head and heart.
**That is my hope.**
In all of the writing I do, as hard as it may be, I hope to help others find the language of grief.  I hope to make a place in your life to feel safe with this grief that you will always carry.  Grief is heavy enough....may we help one another carry it...whether we understand it, or not. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Neverending Burden, The Neverending Gift

One of the people most precious to me in this world recently said something to me, and I can't get her words out of my head.  She said, "You have a whole lotta love to give." 
The same is true for her, as well.

It has made me think about LOVE even more lately, what love looks like, and what it definitely is not.  One of the beautiful things about this four letter word is that because of it, we carry one another's burdens.  As we should.  *Love wouldn't have it any other way!* 
Thankfully, so many of these burdens will eventually come to an end.  Thank God!  So much of the sorrow we are handed ends up being healed, righted, repaired, etc.  

But not grief.  Oh, grief stays.

It plants itself right in the middle of our souls, and though we ache so badly and miss them every moment...and maybe we don't even want to have to feel or talk about the hurt we carry.....still, grief stays.
It rocks our world.  Losing a loved one is a loss we will always feel.  It comes uninvited, inconvenient, and intrusively into our lives.  It refuses to be replaced with the latest fad Christian theological diet, it cannot be undone. Shame on us for ever making other people feel as if they are a mission, as if they are something that needs to be repaired! Shame on us for handing over a theology that wants to staple smiling faces onto grieving hearts, merely for our own benefit and satisfaction!  May we strive to find, to be, real love. 

I don't know everything about grief.  Grief is one of the few burdens we will always carry.  It is sacred, it is intimate, it is haunting, it is holy, it is heavy...and it won't end as long as we have breath. I think grief is so very much like love, in that it is genuine, we will know it when we see it...without a doubt.
I see grief the way I see a whole lot in this life, in that I hope to choose the way of love every single time. Of course, I fail....everyday.  But I try.  Our sweet son told me that he was watching a cartoon recently, and the character reminded him of me.  I thought, "Oh boy...this will be interesting"...but it warmed me to the core.  He said the characters were speaking about justice, and how if someone does something bad to you, you should do something bad back to them.  One of the characters replies, "But what if you offer love instead of hatred?"...that was what reminded him of me.  I'll be hanging onto that for a while! Because I fail a lot as a wife, mother, friend, etc., but if I have passed on love to him, I'm calling that a win.  If that's all he remembers of me, that's what I want it to be.  LOVE.

Maybe if we stopped trying to find all the reasons, lessons, or meanings out of one another's grief, we could instead choose to just love one another- in whatever we are going through.  I like the idea of raw feelings replacing empty reasoning.  I like the idea of tears replacing trite sayings. I like the idea of heavy hugs replacing hollow theologies.  I like the idea of love replacing lessons.  I remember all the moments in my own life when the ones who love me most came beside me, and let love win the day.  I have a guess that you remember those times, too. 

So yes, in this life we have to---no, we *get to*---carry grief with one another.  That is one way love will win out.  Not when our grief is quieted by some super-positive-go-lucky-statement.  NO, love wins out when someone chooses to pick up the blanket of grief around us, crawl underneath, and say, "I'm here.  You are not alone"...that is love. 

Maybe the ideas of positivity, uplifting, cheerfulness, etc., etc., can help with some things.  But the thing is, being uplifted and positive is not always the answer. Not with grief, because when we wake up tomorrow, we will still not have the loved one we miss so dearly. I don't think I'm the only one who often needs someone to sit with me, allow me to feel all the feels...whatever they may be...and maybe even feel some of the same.  That is one of the ways I show love to my loved ones, I want to go there, join them, and just be in the moment with them.  It's part of the reason (not all, but part) I continue to write.  I know so many others who don't have that, and they just need a safe space to grieve, yet they're shown by those around them that it's not safe to grieve. 

*If love is near, it will always be safe to grieve.*

May we strive to find, and be, real love.  May we allow others the freedom to grieve, without burdening them with some idea that they need to be "done", or find an escape route to the nearest happy go lucky place that will make them forget their pain.  Perhaps we should find our way into their lives, instead of trying to help them escape.  *I think maybe love will do that...it will join you when you hurt, not shut you up and walk away.  It will go the distance, always.  Without question.*
There is a whole lotta holiness, sacredness, and God, to be found when someone dares to share their sorrow, and someone else dares to help them carry it...merely by choosing the way of love.

Grief over losing our loved ones is neverending.  But the gift of love is also neverending...so long as we choose to use that four letter word. That, my dear friends, is good news.

***Love has no end, nor the grief that holds its hand.***