Some times just forming words together to describe our grief just helps. I’m not sure why, but it does. Some times those words flow in a journal, in a blog, or form themselves into an attempt at a poem, or even a song. It may only be for myself, but it’s definitely therapeutic. I hope that if you’re grieving too, that you can find an outlet for what you’re feeling. Even in our pain there is beauty because there is love. Sometimes you just need to show that love in a tangible way.
The growing club of grief.
Now more than ever, it seems several are being forced to join the club that no one wants to belong to. It’s happening in our local community, in the state, across our country, and the world. There will be more deaths this year, than ever before in the history of mankind. That leaves a lot of us behind with holes in our lives that can never be filled. Unfortunately, grief is still a topic that so many are uncomfortable preparing for, thinking about, and dealing with- when the time comes. I’m certainly no expert and it would be really sad for someone to be a grief expert, but here are a few things I’ve learned since I’ve been a part of this club:
- Don’t have any expectations for what you may feel, think, or do as a result of your grief. Even when we think we know ourselves and how we would usually react to something, we aren’t ourselves right now. Grief taints every circumstance-especially in the immediate future after a loved one has passed. An unexpected emotion may blindside you and the best thing to do, is to go with the flow and not expect yourself to react like yourself, if that make sense? I’m not only talking about the feelings that come with sadness. Our emotions will “run the gamut” as we venture forward and we will use them to deny, protect, and avoid the real work of grief. This is where grace comes into play. Have grace with yourself and hopefully others will have grace with you as well.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again-we don’t all move through grief at the same pace. Never expect yourself to be “over it” or done with it. Likewise, never expect a grieving person to be at a certain point in their healing, just because time has passed. We all arrive at different times and that’s ok. Along that same note, just because a person seems ok one day, doesn’t mean they are ok the next day. At this point in my grief journey, the days are usually quite normal, but at night–when all is quiet, my thoughts always go to Sarah and I miss her so much, it’s hard to breathe. I do still have days when I need to just sit in my grief and allow myself to feel what I feel.
- People will act awkward around you at first. They won’t quite be sure how you are coping. So, they may avoid mentioning the death of your loved one. So, if you’re feeling up to it, please keep talking about your loved one that has passed. Those who are grieving with you will want to talk about them as well and it really is therapeutic for all of you to remember. Those who aren’t necessarily grieving, will seem uncomfortable at first when you mention your loved ones name, but that’s not because they don’t want to talk about them. It’s because they don’t want to cause you to be sad. Mentioning your loved one first gives them permission to talk about them to you.
- I’ve briefly mentioned this in some of my other posts. Grieving can sometimes physically hurt. So, please do what you can to relax and destress your body. You will feel like you’ve been ran over by a truck at times, but if you can-stretch, go for a walk and just be outside for a bit. Eat well, stay hydrated and allow yourself to nap, if your sleep schedule is off. My sleeping pattern is so different, since Sarah has passed. I find myself still waking up early and because of that, sometimes I go to bed much earlier now. If I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes I just go ahead and get up. I usually spend that quiet time reading, listening to worship music, and just visiting with God. I’ve had some very precious times in the early morning with The Lord. He is very near to the broken hearted and I know that strength comes from Him when we admit our weakness to Him.
- When you’re ready, you may want to find a creative outlet for your grief. Do something to honor your loved one. You don’t have to be the best artist, singer, writer, etc. Maybe it’s as simple as finding a favorite photograph and doing something special with it to make a keepsake. Many people have found comfort in making pillows, quilts or other memorabilia out of their person’s clothing items. Maybe writing a letter or keeping a journal would be helpful for you. It doesn’t have to be for anyone else’s eyes but your own. It will help you process what you’re feeling and express it in a tangible way though and there is comfort in that.
These are just a few of things that come to my mind today about being in the grief club. Please know there are many things that will change, but it may surprise you to know that some things may change even for the better. People in the grief club don’t seem to take the same things for granted any longer. The terrible thing is that we have to sometimes join the club before we realize what it means to truly value life and all that goes with it. Hopefully, even in the midst of your grief you will know that you are never alone. Scripture tells us that God is near to the broken hearted (Psalms 34:18) and He cares deeply when our loved ones die.(Psalms 116:15) I pray that you will feel the nearness of God and that you’ll also stay connected to the other members of the grief club through blogs and FB pages like Grace In Grieving or other types of support groups. Grieving people are really good listeners and we can relate to one another in our loss. It has helped me so much to read all the responses and comments to my blog posts. Here’s the thing about grief-sooner or later, everyone becomes a member. None of us are exempt from loss. When it happens, I hope you will find grace in your grieving.
This is the song that we closed Sarah’s Celebration of Life with. Maybe it will bring some comfort to someone who’s new to our club. I’m just going to leave it right here…
January 9, 2021
LPW…Wednesday was difficult. I was paying attention to what was happening in D.C., but that isn’t why. I wasn’t surprised by the direction that D.C. went though. I guess I’m a bit numb to so much of that. No, the difficult part for me was that I began trying to remember some of the good things that happened in the hours before Sarah left us and I realized that I was starting to forget…and it upset me. Now I know in the past I have shared how my brain wouldn’t let me forget the traumatic things that happened right before she died and I would love to forget those things. However, there were some really beautiful things that happened as well and I don’t want lose those. You see, as weird as this will sound to some of you, when you spend time with a person who is dying, some really extraordinary things sometimes happen. Especially, when that person is a believer.
A few years ago, I arrived just moments after my Mamaw passed away and heard the stories. Just two weeks later, I was with my Papaw when he passed away. It truly was beautiful watching their faith become sight. My Papaw had Alzheimer’s. He hadn’t been himself in a very long time. Seeing the look on his face as he looked past me and my Aunt into eternity, it changed me. There was such peace and recognition, like we hadn’t seen in a long time. Now the stories of my Mamaw passing and in the hours before she passed, were unique for sure. She was actually talking out loud quite a bit. She talked to family that was beside her but, she also was arguing with Jesus about going in a way that only she could! You see, she had an amazing relationship with Jesus. He was her Lord and Savior and she never got tired of talking about Him and all the ways He blessed her, but leaving her family was hard. They must have worked out the details though, because she gave up and went. My family surrounded her and they said when she died they got goosebumps because they could feel another’s presence enter and leave the room. She had a touch lamp on her bedside table. It went out. No one touched it. Gives me the chills just thinking about it.
In the days and hours leading up to Sarah’s passing, there were things so special that I feel I just need to write them down. So, bear with me as I journal this and continue to process all that we witnessed. First of all, I never want to forget Sarah’s absolute trust in God’s plan and timing for her life here and in eternity. She knew that Jesus could heal her on earth, or heaven, and once she understood that Jesus could help those of us left behind heal from her leaving us, she was ok with going. She was especially ok with it, if it led others to faith in Jesus. She never stopped giving Him the credit for the strength that she had and the joy that just oozed out of her. After her lung drain failed, she started to have more hospital staff come visit. We knew they were all trying to say their good-byes. They would often tell her how amazing she was but, she was always quick to smile and say, “Thank you, but it’s not me. It’s Jesus in me.” We knew she was popular with the staff, but they really went out of their way to let us know how much they cared and how special they felt that she was. The darker things got, the brighter she shined. She resolved to worship and sing with every last breath, as long as she was awake and even as she slept, the worship music never was to be turned off on her phone. It was always close by her. We were blessed to have James, our worship pastor, allowed to come and sing worship songs together the day before she passed. She loved every second of it.
Speaking of sleeping…during the last week or so, I pulled the hospital couch over and slept as close to her as I could, if I was able to sleep. Her sleep was restless and when she did, she’d dream. She started talking in her sleep a lot. I would listen to her talk in her sleep to her friends, to Libby, to her family, to who knows… So many people were on her mind. About a week before she passed, she woke up in the middle of the night and told me that she had been dreaming about Grandpa Barney. Grandpa went to heaven in July. In her dream, the family was at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Brookville, like a holiday. She told me everyone was talking and no one noticed that Grandpa was going up the stairs by himself, except for her. She was worried about him on the stairs. So, she was calling out to him and started following him up the stairs and down a very long hall that suddenly didn’t look like Grandma’s house any longer. She said he went through a door and she started to follow, but stopped because there were no walls or windows in the room—just stars. After she told me all of this, I was just stunned. I knew that it was a prophetic dream. I told her not to follow Grandpa up the stairs again, if he came to her in a dream. I wasn’t ready for her to go with him.
Some nights she would wake and ask for her bible. Sometimes she would ask me to read it to her. Sometimes, she just wanted to hold it. As they sedated her, she continued to dream “out loud” if you will. She talked in her sleep about Instagram and I could completely hear her trying to inspire others to be careful what they subscribed too. You see, she had learned to fill her news feed with things that fed her spirit and heart, instead of things that caused her to compare herself to others. She really felt burdened for teens that struggle with that. Having cancer and losing her hair brought out a confidence in her and taught her so much about where true beauty comes from.
Once, in her sleep, I heard her discussing things that you would hear at one of her FFA meetings. She loved being a part of all the amazing things that her club had to offer. She had so many ideas for the reporter position and being elected an officer meant so much to her.
The more her lungs filled with fluid, obviously the harder it became to breathe and talk, but she would wake some and continued to call out to me. She continued to sing when she recognized the song being played. She recognized everyone that came to her, when she was awake, and always stayed like herself. The closer she got to passing though, the harder it was to breathe and the more she was sedated. Her dreams became more vision like and I really believe that she was in the “in-between.” Being half-awake she would attempt to talk to us about the things she was seeing. Once, she said “Uh-oh Mom… Dad’s getting ready to post the video!” I quickly moved to her bedside and asked her “what video?” Her answer was…”The one with the glow-sticks. It’s a social media challenge thing.” We all kind of giggled as we thought about the reality of that ever happening. Chad knows nothing about social media challenges and would be the last one to post any sort of video. That’s actually how the glow-stick challenge that the FFA club sponsored at her Celebration of Life came to be. As we reflected on how she was like a light in the dark, we were reminded of her glow-stick vision. It seemed like a perfect fit…Sometimes we need to break before we shine.
One of the last visions she seemed to have that she was able to communicate to us was about peacocks. She suddenly spoke to us and said “Mom, do you see it?” I responded, “See what, baby?” She said, ”The peacocks…” and then mumbled some other things that I couldn’t understand. However, she quickly said “Libby was there, she saw it too.” A few days later, as I was processing her saying that at that time, it occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t Libby that she was seeing, but one of her siblings that looks like Libby. How I wish I could have understood everything she was trying to tell me that she was seeing. I know she was experiencing vivid colors and beautiful things. I’m not sure if Grandpa came to show her the way home, or who guided her, but she went very peacefully considering how hard it was to breathe. All of a sudden, she opened her eyes to focus on something and she just stopped. The struggle was just over. We cried and begged for her spirit to come back to her body, but we also knew that it was selfish to ask her spirit to come back to a broken body. We knew she was in the presence of Jesus and she was worshiping Him. As we spent our last moments with her body and preparing for them to take her away, I swear she was glowing. I’ve seen a few people in the moments after they have passed and and none of them have had a brilliance about them like she had. She was absolutely stunningly beautiful. Through the tears and the heartbreak, it felt as if we were looking at a sleeping angel.
So that’s the story of her final days and hours. I’ve not mentioned everything because I just can’t. I don’t share this to find more sympathy. I simply felt led to journal and share the things that we witnessed before my brain forgets all the details. I’m still processing being here without her and I still have a long way to go before my broken heart is healed. I feel so blessed that I got to care for her and watch her grow into such a beautiful soul in the 15 years that He shared her with us. She’s still inspiring so many.
Shared this on my personal FB page a year ago today. You’ve probably figured out that writing for me is therapy. A way to express my emotions and process them. It also helps me compare those thoughts to the truth that is instilled in me. It’s a creative and therapeutic process for me at the same time. Is there something that you do creatively to help you process your grief? The Grace in Grieving FaceBook page is a place for you to share, if you feel that it would help someone else in their own grief journey. Maybe it’s a drawing, a poem, a song, a craft, etc. If you want to share, please do and simply say “In honor of…(your person)” No explanation needed.
Everyone wants to know how we’re really doing. There’s no easy way for me to respond to that. I won’t speak for Chad and Libby, but one minute I’m doing ok, thinking about some menial task, and the next minute something triggers a thought of Sarah and what should “be” and I’m in tears. Grieving is hard work—not just mentally either, but physically. Sometimes I feel my heart is literally breaking on the inside and I feel random aches and pains and the old familiar gut punch that has come and gone for the past 10 months. 10 months… I still can’t fathom that she’s gone and it only took 10 months. I hate cancer. I hate our new normal. Please bear with me as I figure out what life without Sarah looks like. Please have grace with me in my grieving…and No, this doesn’t mean that I’ve lost faith. God is close to the broken-hearted(Psalms 34:18). I know He can handle my honesty. There’s really no use pretending with Him. I learned that a long time ago. I know He’s the only one that can heal my broken heart. I made Sarah that promise as we talked about her being healed in heaven, instead of earth. I told her that just as I could trust Jesus to take care of her there, she could trust Him to take care of us here and heal my broken heart. “The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.” Psalms 116:15. He cares for all of us who are hurting because we’re separated from those that we love. I’m so thankful that He made a way to defeat death once and for all.
So, regarding the hard work of healing, I’ve decided to start this “Grace in Grieving” blog. If you’re interested in my journey through grief, or maybe you’re grieving too, hit the “follow” button on FB, subscribe to receive updates, share, and comment.