What Grief Has Felt Like…

If you know me, I am not a verbal processor (I process through writing), and if I can not figure things out in my own head and get it on paper, I feel silenced. But I’ve been trying to force myself to write and to take the next step.

There have been more months than not that I’ve felt numb. It’s so hard for me to talk about the accident last summer. It’s so hard for me to talk about that week. And it’s especially hard for me to look at pictures.

Things that happened behind closed doors in a hospital room feel sacred and should only be shared with those you trust because quite frankly you’re inviting those people into your hurt. Into a place where words fall short and emotions and logic are unreliable.

The fact if the matter is, some cannot be trusted with your experience. It could do more damage to your already mangled heart. Please understand, I am not trying to be mean, but several times I spoke up to people and it made it worse… I know they mean well, but it’s too sensitive of a topic to discuss with just anyone— even some friends. It’s not that you can’t be friends, but this topic should just be left out of your catch up talks. And that’s hard too because what happened inside those hospital walls have now become a part of you… and that you cannot always be shared.

I purposely haven’t reached out to some because they don’t understand. The littlest things could hurt more than you know. I’ve gotten hurt several times and had I not lost my dad, I don’t know that I would trust myself with the sacred information of loss. I still don’t.

Ironically, I’ve found, that there are some people that become closer because of loss. And some times you become friends with the most unlikely of people because they share the same grief road that neither of you foresaw being on.

I decided to write on grief for two reasons:

1) This week will be one year since my Dad’s accident… And, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that he’s gone.

2) Because I haven’t found much help on the topic— maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but recently, I finally found a good podcast on it. It was like a breath of fresh air. I thought, “this guy knows. He gets it.”

Before last summer, grief was just a word to me. Yes, I have lost two new found friends, and three grandparents, but nothing prepares you for the moment your mom walks in the door and tells you, “Dad’s been in an accident. I’m waiting for the police officer to call back with more information.” And the phone from your sister, after she arrived at the hospital and says, “You’ve got to come. I don’t know if he’s going to make it.”

Several weeks ago, I went on Facebook and on three separate occasions I saw a post from three different families about a loss in their family. My heart aches for them because I know they’re now thrusted against their will onto this what feels like God-forsaken road called “Grief.”

Grief feels like you’ve been on vacation, relaxing on the beach soaking up the warm sun, and suddenly you’re picked up and dropped in the middle of the a turbulent ocean. You’re fighting to stay above the cold waves smashing into your face as you look up and see you’re surrounded by dark skies. The chaos causes fear and panic. On top of that you feel as though there is a rope around your ankle trying to pull you under. And yet, somehow, you’re supposed to get back to the shore that you simply cannot see. You feel like you can barely stay afloat and sometimes, you do get pulled under, but you know you have to fight to stay above the waves. Nothing seems sure and it feels like no one understands and no one can see.

People will be talking about their life (on the beach) and all you can think of is “I’m about to drown!” But, in real life, if you brought up your situation, you’d make others feel bad… So you keep silent fighting every wave that threatens your existence. I don’t remember hearing one thing someone said that has helped… Words fall short… But you know what has helped? Having someone understand and having someone be there.

I think we as a culture are so scared of not saying something … Instead of having the courage to just let silence speak and linger while we hand someone a tissue and create a safe place for them to let their tears fall. Some of the most helpful times were when a friend just let silence sit in the midst of us… tears were allowed and those tears became a gift.

I have a friend who lost her Dad just a few months before I lost mine. After I lost my Dad, I apologized to her… I said I was sorry because I had no idea how hard it was to lose a Dad — even though I thought I knew.

People forget about your loss after the service, or, if you’re blessed with amazing friends, a few months after that. We all do, me included… But when you’ve lost someone, and someone else’s loses someone else after you, you remember because you know the pain. Because, you will forever have a hole in your heart and so will they. You’ve been branded forever by grief.

What most people don’t remember is (including me before this) there will ALWAYS be someone missing in my family. We will NEVER all be together on this earth. Family get together will always be bitter sweet because there will ALWAYS be an empty chair. As Nicholas Wolterstorff put it in his book, The Lament of a Son:

“Only our death will stop the pain of his death.”

Do we look like we are drowning from the outside? No, we look fine. But on the inside there is an incredibly dark storm that makes us want to quit nearly every day. It makes us not want to not wake up in the morning. It makes us just want to go to heaven— Now.

The reality of grief brings waves that threaten our hope, heightens our fears, and tests our resolve. It pulls at the very fiber of our being and the foundation of our faith.

If God is sovereign, and I believe He is, what is the purpose of this? It’s too much heartache for one human heart to bear. It seems downright cruel. My Dad had 23 grandkids when he died… 2 will never know their “Padge” and several will not remember him. My sister and I will never have the privilege of having him “approve” who we date or have him walk us down the aisle. Although, he said he cared more about preforming the ceremony than walking us down the aisle. We will miss that too.

I used to think that people that posted often about their loved ones weren’t very strong… I am ashamed to even write that… But, I didn’t understand why they’d always post dates. I simply didn’t understand the magnitude of the weight that grief brings. The loss of a loved one’s life alters every life that, that loved one’s life became a part of.

It wrecks you. And the worst part about it is that you never asked for it. It’s like a wrecking ball was dropped into your life you’re somehow supposed to figure out how to go on with it and somehow make order out of the life it just wrecked. You can’t just put it down. It’s a part of you now. I hear that grief lessens over time, but it doesn’t ever go away…. How could it?! I will always miss my Dad.

Unfortunately, grief is a part of life. Which to say that sounds oxymoronic because grief is brought about by the absence of a life. I’m on this road and I still don’t understand it. It’s confusing, it’s hard to know how to share it and hurts more than words can express… Speaking about the events that took place last summer have muted me because I feel like I’ll fall apart if I visit that road again.

But, the one thing that is a comfort is the people who do understand… And although, I’ve doubted His plan for my life more times than I care to count, Jesus is the “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

God chose to face grief so that when my grief came without my consent, He’d know how to walk me down the road…

Quite frankly, I can’t wait for the day where there will be no more pain and no more grief…

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey.

Note: this picture was taken by a family friend the morning my Dad passed. My brother (Brian) and sister (Rachel) and my Mom stayed by my Dad’s side until he passed. Linda, Stephanie, Jessica and I were at the hotel when they pulled up… Somehow we all ended up in the same place in the parking lot. We hugged, cried and prayed… I don’t know what I’d do without them and my brother (David) who joined us later… Hard times but we face them together.

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Who Needs Men?

My order at Chick-fila was quite large as I was ordering for other people as well. I took the drinks out to my car so I would be able to carry the rest the food without having to struggle.

As I waited, I noticed a girl who looked as though she were just about to get on shift, or had just come off break. She had crimson red hair and didn’t quite seem to have the same disposition as the other employees. I don’t blame her, life is sometimes rough and I’m sure it’s hard to say, “my pleasure” all day everyday (especially when the customers may not be pleasant).

“Christi” they called my name to retrieve my food. The man behind the counter said:

“You got all this?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“My pleasure!”

Suddenly, I heard, “That’s right, tell’em you don’t need a man.”

I turned to see the same girl that I had just observed moments before. I was so surprised by her comment that I was speechless.

“Tell ’em you don’t need a man!”

The words seem to echo in my head. Remembering that literally hours before she said this, I had shed tears with a woman over the loss of her dad and mine.

I began thinking about the men I’ve been honored to know. Just last night, I was swapping emails with my friend’s dad who used to take me camping. He’s done so much for my family over the years.

I thought of my brothers and their protection over me and their encouragement to pursue my passions.

I thought of my brother in laws who have helped me assemble furniture, fix computers, laugh, taught me to shoot, and to find good places to eat and just watch out for me.

I thought of the men in the church I grew up in. They were my Sunday school teacher, the teachers on Sunday and also the men who would lend a helping hand whenever necessary. As well as written more recommendation letters for me than I can count.

I thought of my Sensei who, under his even keel, I healed from a damaging work relationship.

I also thought of some of my guy friends who have poured wisdom into me and shown me some tricks of the trade or who taught me to love production.

And the friends who were there when I needed them the most. And would drop everything if I needed their help.

And of course the most important— my dad. His wisdom, his kindness, his love of sports, the scripture and being available. He taught me not to settle and to keep pressing on no matter what. To leave things better than when I found them and to love God and His word and be there for people.

So, to the woman at Chick-fila, here is my response:

This world needs men. I’m not sure what your experience has been, and if you’ve been hurt, I’m deeply sorry. But not all men are bad. Yes, there are some that are a real pill and I’ve met several, but I know the person I am today is because I have had amazing men in my life.

Those men (who you say I don’t need) have taught me to stay steady; despite hardship. They’ve taught me the power of an encouraging word. They’ve taught me to think and figure things out. And they’ve taught me that I’m worth being pursued because I’m made in the image of God… So, I am not ashamed to say that it is because of the men I have known, I am who I am and I needed them every step of the way.

So, who needs men? I’d say I do. And thank you to the men who’ve helped shape me into the person I am today. I’ve needed every single one of you 💗!