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  • Writer's picturejessica wright

The Grief Journey

Cell phones.

They give us the answer to virtually any question we ponder. They document our schedules, our contacts, and even our locations. They make us traceable and reachable literally 24/7. And sometimes, they offer up little glimpses of life moments that we might otherwise forget. Then in those moments, we find ourselves so grateful for these little battery operated, time sucking, cancer causing boxes that dominate so many aspects of both our professional and personal lives.

Tonight was one of those nights where I was mindlessly scrolling before being notified of a new movie that my phone had created for me. It was dated 10/10/20. Turns out, it was footage from Carlisle’s 3rd birthday. So many great memories of little Carlisle with his monster truck cake, pirate hook, and upside down eye patch that he mistakenly wore over his nose and cheek instead of his eye.

Then in the background of one photo, there he was…my brother. Then came an onslaught of videos and photos of Rich and Carlisle fighting with pirate hooks and swords followed by Rich and Lucy having a dance off doing their best impersonations of majorette style dancing complete with various marching band music playing in the background.

My smiles, giggles, and warm and fuzzies quickly turned to stabbing pains and heaving breaths. And there it was again… my old friend whom I’ve come to know all too well in the past few months… grief.

First let me say, to anyone who has grieved…TRULY grieved… my heart goes out to you, I’ve prayed for you, and I sympathize with you.

Grief is an animal. But sometimes it’s a calm little kitty who comes and kind of rubs against your leg, tugs against your heart strings, maybe annoys you a little bit so you sit in it for a few minutes and feel its sting and sadness before shooing it away because you aren’t really in the mood to sit with it for too long.

Other times, grief is a LION. It’s the full blown king of the jungle, and when it strikes, it hits with a fury… digging in its claws, gnashing its teeth, and striking you so deep in the gut that you feel like you can barely gulp for air. You have no control over it, but sometimes you fight back and you win. You send the lion back to its den and walk away brushing the dust off not letting anyone else know you just played David and fought off Goliath before waltzing right back into the mundane.

Other times, you succumb and before you know it, the flood gates have opened, the beast has overtaken you, and you’ve given in to the whole pride of grief lions who have pounced and covered every hole and opening where light might have been trying to peek through telling you to fight back.

And the frustrating thing about it all is…you never know which beast which is going to show and what kind of opponent you are going to make of yourself. The universe just has a way of deciding for you with the same spontaneity that decides which way the wind is going to blow.

And while grief is confusing, daunting, consuming, inconsistent, and defeating, its also this wise old beast that touches you only to leave you changed into a different person than you ever were before. In some respects, it’s a mourning of your old self before you knew this grief. However in other respects, grief teaches you so much and gives you such a portion of perspective of which maybe you should send a thank you note on your best stationery.

Grief has a way, in the most cliché sense, of showing you how strong you are. You realize that you can do things you never thought possible like eulogize your loved one at their funeral yet you’re barely able to get through a conversation with a stranger who asks where your new Lexus came from (it's inherited just fyi).

Grief also has a way of showing you how weak you are when a line in a song like “I choose to praise” sends you completely over the edge. It teases you. One minute you think you’ve conquered a new peak, because you can look at pictures that a few weeks ago were making you cry and they now make you laugh. Then it sends you pummeling right back down into a valley when your child says “Mom, I want to go to heaven now and see Rich”.

This whole process is hard. Like really hard. It makes you question everything, but it also makes you hold on so tight to the people you love, the moments you cherish, and boy do you take a lot less things for granted now.

It shows you things about the people in your life and it teaches you so much. Forever will I remember the people who were there for me and my family. The friends like Kari, Heather, Alyson, Brittney, and Caroline who sent beautiful flowers... or the ones like Tara, KP, Joanna, Hannah, Tina, Karina, Sara, and Christi who sent enough food to feed my family for days so that I didn’t even have to think of meal planning when I came home... or people like the Youngs and Saulters who drove all the way from Hernando to Madison to support me in my grief at my brother’s funeral. It meant everything and it still does... there are so many of you who reached out to me, did things for me, PRAYED for me, and let me say... IT TRULY MAKES A DIFFERENCE!

If there is one major but simple thing I learned through this grief journey, it’s when someone you know loses someone they love... DO SOMETHING! Don’t be that person that says if you need anything just let me know...I am a phone call away. If you are/have been that person, don’t feel bad. I have, too, and now that I have been on the other side, that’s what I mean about now truly understanding. Don’t make your grieving friends ask for their help...just show up in advance. Buy those flowers, deliver that meal, make that phone call, send that text to say you’ve been praying, volunteer to pick up their kids, wash their clothes, send their mail...whatever it may be. Just do it, because now that I have walked it I can honestly tell you that just remembering to do those mundane tasks like picking up your clicklist seems both petty and daunting when your whole world stops spinning but the whole world around you keeps going.

And let me say, THANK YOU to those friends who did that for me and my family during that time. It meant more than you will ever know.

Ultimately, grief has taught me so many lessons that I really wish wouldn’t have taken such a significant loss to learn, but I am different now after having experienced this grief, and in some ways I think that change is a good thing. It’s been a difficult few months for all of my family. Obviously losing my brother unexpectedly at age 47 was gutting and devastating, but in the last few months we have also lost Drew’s Dad, my niece’s Dad, an uncle, a cousin, and just yesterday my Mom lost a long time friend of 50+ years.

I don’t know if there is more grief around me than normal right now or if I have just become acutely aware and highly sensitive to the monster that it is. Either way, I can tell you one thing... my faith is the only thing that has gotten me through it.

I know I can be long winded, but I want to close with this thought. Yesterday, I was reading a bible study and it pointed me to the verses 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul says... Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Sata, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

While these verses may not literally translate to grief, I believe it is a good reminder that we sometimes ask God why did he let something bad happen or why did he give us this trial? And I am not suggesting he intentionally takes people from our lives just to teach us lessons BUT I do think those trials are intended to make us aware of our reliance on and need for him.

Like Paul with the thorn in his side, God tells he won’t take the thorn from him. Instead, he tells him my grace is all you need to cover your weakness. His power works best in weakness. Paul then changes his tune and instead of pleading for the removal of the thorn, he cheers about it knowing that because of that weakness, the power of Christ is at work even more in him.

While there was been so much sadness, so much grief in my life and the lives of so many I love here lately, and we may want God to take it from us or make it stop, that is mostly just our pride talking. We want God to make us strong, because we don’t like feeling sad or weak. However, as said in James – Consider it all JOY - because thanks to that great sadness, weakness, and grief, God’s power is working even harder in my life. He is near to the broken hearted. He is working all things out for good for those who love him. Whether it’s 2nd Corinthians, James, or Romans, there are so many reminders of God’s promises, and I cling to them daily.

Grief has taught me so much. It’s shown me that I have people who I can count on. It’s taught me how to better sympathize with others who are walking a similar path, and most of all, it’s made me RUN to my Father in heaven and be reminded, that he is enough. He parted the red seas, he brought water from a rock, and he will carry us through our trials too if only we just let him.

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