Grief, usually viewed as the single entity death wears other faces. Though we grieve from the earliest moments of our lives it’s rare that we develop a process for coping with grief until something devastating happens in our lives. Everyone is familiar with heartache and disappointment. With my divorce, miscarriages, unexpected death of my favorite person (aside my husband) and parenting curve ball, I’m not different.
Goody-Good Girl’s Marriage, Divorce and Grief
God’s plan for marriage etched in my heart I found every box perfectly checked for embarking on the marriage journey. Thorough virgin? Check. Christina man? Check. Love? Check……The day I got married everything was perfect down to the sipping straws in individual orange juice containers intended to prevent lipstick smudges. The dress matched my outdoor soul and the hidden girlie-girl buried deep within (it found a home at a thrift store years later). Officially a married woman we left for our honeymoon and welcomed the opportunity to surrender and unite completely to as husband and wife. I never intended to return to my parents home.
I lived by the book and when my marriage went sideways I grieved. Unprepared for struggle, heartache and the deepest disappointment of my life initially I chose to cuss God out and threatened to take my own life. How could God allow this to happen to me? I upheld the values and morals prescribed by the bible. Anger towards God turned to bitterness because I didn’t understand what true surrender to God looked like.
When the Good Christian Girl Gets Divorced
Devastated and hopeless I became a shadow of myself. I hid behind a phony “happy smile”. Ragged, the carefree joyful girl of my youth no longer resembled the carefree and joyful girl from my youth. Committed to an abusive marriage I grieved my dream and expectation for a connected happy family and of growing old with my soulmate.
A good Christian girl should obey her husband and I did, until I didn’t.When I realized I needed to leave, not necessarily divorce, I grieved deeply and prepared. As the only person in our family and extended family to divorce it took all my courage to forge a new path, a path God doesn’t intend. Secretly I met my parents at my dad’s office. We hadn’t spoken in two years though we lived less than five miles apart.
They sat side by side behind my dad’s desk and my defeated soul sank into the grains of the old oak chair intended for clients. Emotions aside I poised myself in business posture. Now in the self-preservation business I matter-of-factly told them, “I want you to be the first to know I’m going to divorce him”.
Divorced and Delivered
Divorced I grieved the motherhood I’d never experience and the sweet companionship my grandmas enjoyed later in life. I released hopes and dreams birthed from childhood and embraced a bleakly optimistic future. Tarnished, I wondered if I could still be in God’s service. What the divorce process revealed and the freedom it provided astounded me. I’d never believe I’d be given a second chance at marriage and that God would fill my cup overflowing despite my past. God is so good to us.
When We Miscarried- Twice
When my second-chance husband and I miscarried our first baby around eight weeks the disappointment overshadowed the heartache. I rationalized that a significant percentage of women miscarry babies at least once. I comforted myself by the idea that I fit the statistical norm and moved on. Such a practical and calculated response surprised even my doctor.
Then we lost the second baby.
The pregnancy seemed normal and my husband took the day off work to see the newest family member growing in my womb. Then, an hour before the appointment my life changed forever when I went into the bagel shop’s restroom. I felt normal, better than normal ecstatic, but using the restroom I noticed blood.
What the bystanders thought I’ll never know, attempted discretion failed as my body shook and through tears I attempted to communicate my deepest fear to my husband. The following months friends stood by our side.
Those friends gave me permission to grieve.
Though they provided space to grieve privately I felt their presence by small gestures, the kind only friends know will lift one’s spirits. No doorbell ring or knock at the door but the moment I sought fresh air, there on my porch I’d find candy, a magazine or bottle of wine on our front porch. My friends whispered, “I know you’re hurting. I care and you’re not forgotten. I’m still here.”
The day after losing our second baby we said goodbye to our dog of eleven years. Marked by tears and devastated hearts, Memorial Day weekend of 2010 will never be forgotten. I didn’t realize how important those losses were in preparing me for what was to come or how God would use those experience to help others.
When a Legend Dies
Few girls get a dad like mine. He made my ideas soar and as the baby of four kids, when many get herded along, he made time for me. I felt deeply loved and important. Sometimes we build people up after they die, we remember the highlights and gloss over painful interactions; sometimes we realize we shared life with a legend. He was wise, content with his corny wit, cared deeply for others, intensely curious, respectful of people, endured unjust treatment and unkind words with a willing heart and always looked for a bridge to build peace. I shared life with a legend.
After he died I realized the pains of many yesterdays gave me strength and understanding to grieve the most significant loss of my life.
People Don’t (can’t) Tell You About Grief
Unfortunately, people don’t tell you everything you need to know about grief. The conversation for most is uncomfortable, however, it is necessary because everyone encounters grief at some point.
You hear people say, “I don’t go a day without thinking of him”. It seems overstated, like a grand gesture to validate the degree to which someone is missed. If you’ve lost someone dear, you know such words are not a cheap token. What people don’t often say is how grief pops up in the unexpected margins of life.
People don’t prepare you for noticing traits, quirks and superficial resemblances. I continually see pieces of my dad in those around me and it catches me off guard. From the friend that dresses like my dad (true story), or a man that responds in gentleness when most men react in rage I see bits of my dad. I’ve nearly hugged a few men in my sphere simply because their stature resembles my dad and I long for his comforting embrace and reassuring words, “Sugar, it’s going to be okay.”
People don’t warn that grief randomly presents itself at unexpected times. CPR training took me back to the moment my dad dropped dead. I comforted myself in the isles of the school library and struggled to regain composure.
There are days when heaven seems too far away. Even a heaven bound heart can grow sick when a phone cannot connect to heaven or you know there’s no chance of sharing a meal again. Through these moments I’m learning how horrific the curse of this fallen world is. God’s plan didn’t involved death.
I’ve found myself compelled to learn more about heaven and picture those I love in the magnificent throne room John attempted to describe in Revelation. Losing those I love drives me to learn more about my future home.
A Worthy Death
How we live determines how we die.
Drenched in faith and dependable traits that mirror Christ, my dad lived an extraordinary life. It’s not that he spoke bible verses to people but he did something more difficult, he lived them out. In his absence I see more clearly substantial faith.
How he lived challenges and changes my daily life. By example he loved like nobody else and his death leaves a chasm that cannot be filled. When we live a worthy life, our death is also worthy. I want that in my life. When I die, I want to leave a void that points back to Christ. Even now, when I leave a setting I want there to be a noticeable void, not to be mistaken for a noticeable sigh of relief. Our daily actions add up.
Grief Beyond Death
Grief is more than death. It’s packaged in divorce, failure, broken relationships, polarized churches, a divided country, job loss or saying goodbye to an address of many years. Where God is present we have the comfort we’re moving closer to His goals for our lives. Grief is fluid, a way of managing and navigating this bittersweet world because even with every win there’s a sting.