How will you grieve the quarantine?

How will you grieve the quarantine?

Yesterday, with the sky blue, sun shining, I set out for a walk down to the lake. I’d been outside spray painting a coat rack to repurpose as a purse rack – pink it’s the color I had on hand. I quickly decided my yoga pants weren’t going to be warm enough. The wind up here on the mountain is razor-sharp, it slices through pretty much anything. I changed into jeans (which I seem to wear more now instead of less) and added a few more layers. Then I took off on my walk. Away from our windbreak pines, the wind bit me down to bone. I thought about turning around and heading inside but I didn’t.

What I can control

My thoughts – 

  • Walking outside is something I CAN DO.
  •  It’s something I can control. 
  • I’m a bit uncomfortable but just think how wonderful it will feel to go into a warm house!
  •  My legs are moving. My arms are pumping. I’m listening to one of my favorite podcasts.

I love comfort

Yesterday, I talked about how we have become a society who seeks personal peace and comfort. I am totally raising my hand here. I love comfort. I’m like Goldilocks. I like things just right. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. 

It’s just not realistic. Take it from a mama of seven kiddos. Life is not comfortable all the time. Plus we appreciate comfort so much after uncomfortable circumstances. For instance, after my walk, a hot cup of tea, a bowl of chili, and fresh hot cornbread were the ticket.  

The Real Discomfort

Let’s talk about the real discomfort we’re feeling – not just being cold on a walk. The discomfort of putting some projects on the shelf, canceled birthday parties and celebrations, coffee at the local coffee shop, not hugging people, changing the patterns of our days. It’s just darn-right uncomfortable. It’s okay to grieve what we thought our lives would look like at this moment. Or what we thought it would look like in a few months and probably won’t.

Right now I’m sitting in an orange camping chair on the banks of the Blackwater river while my son and husband fish. It’s chilly but the sun is shining. I’m wearing a winter hat, a coat, sweater, flannel shirt, and a tee underneath. I’m pretty comfortable. It’s the first time I’ve been out of my compound, I mean neighborhood, in a few weeks. It’s a fishing trip for the guys and a mental health day for us all.

Confession

Want to know what I did this morning? I sat in my bathroom and cried at the helplessness and lack of control I feel.

  • Not being able to go to Target with my daughter and grandkids.
  • Not being able to “work” at Joe n Throw with my other daughter (our coffee office).
  • Not being able to host family dinners.

I won’t give you the whole list of things I’m grieving. I’m sure you have your own list. Even when we have a list of items and comforts to be grateful for, it’s okay to grieve the loss of things we miss. It’s a season of light and darkness at the same time. 

We should grieve the loss of human connection. It’s what we are created for!

What are you grieving today? What comforts are you looking forward to?

Living with Grief

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

 

The picture is four by seven and we five siblings lean into each other, smiling. The funeral home is crowded with friends and family. The rich walnut wood work goes unnoticed. We are smothered in grief. Everyone loved my mother. It seemed as if everyone she had ever known was there. I felt numb and floaty.

er told me that grief felt so like fear

You may be reading and thinking my mom died recently. She didn’t. It has over twenty years. January 8th is her birthday. Every year I go through the same cycle. I begin the year with gusto, lists, a word, getting back to good habits and BAM, grief hits me out of nowhere and knocks the breath out of me. Grief sneaks up on you just when you think it has left. I have a few melancholy moments over Christmas when the scents, the music and putting up the tree triggers a memory, like Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail.

It sometimes takes me a day or two to recognize grief. It is not a stranger to me, but sometimes I don’t want to recognize it. I want it to stay a stranger in the shadows and leave me alone. My body aches. I weep at weird times. I’m an introvert, so I isolate. Because I’m adult and have some experience, although my epiphany may be delayed I recognize grief and call it out by name.

God gives us peace for this unfathomable pain.

But, peace is not an antidote for the pain, it is more likened to an antiseptic to keep the wound from festering, but the wound is still there, fresh and deep.

It’s okay to angry with God.

He can take it. Just don’t stay stuck there and let bitterness eat you up.  I remember when my mama’s death was so painful and fresh. I couldn’t figure out how to go on or why people were out shopping, eating, and just living when there was such a gaping void in my life.

The church tells us to rejoice that our loved one is in heaven and no longer suffering. That is true. However, we are the ones that have suffered loss. Don’t let anyone discount that. The pain is real. The void is there. What we humans must do is cope with the pain. Live with the pain. Remember the person. The time with her. The lessons taught. Celebrate the life that she lived. Don’t copy it completely per say. Find the guts to live the life the way you were meant to. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Grief must not be brushed aside. It must be practiced.

In the book a Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken, practices grief through writing letters to his wife and listening to her favorite music. My mother-in-law wrote letters to her mother to practice grief.

Grief is different for each individual, but ignored only turns into bitterness or depression. We must practice grief, tell our story to an empathetic listener and often work through doing the things that person loved to do.

I participate in many of the traditions that my mother taught me. At first they are painful to the point of ugly crying, but after a season, they become a comfort.

Grief can give physical symptoms as well as emotional. Grief can knock the breath out of you. It’s not a one time event, its a process that must be practiced. Don’t shy away from grief. Practice it according to your personality. Do the things your loved one loved even if that means crying all the way through the process. Tears are cleansing. Healing is a job. Don’t be hard on yourself. Allow the feelings to wash over you and process them in your way- journal, listen to music, see a counselor, hike, paint, bake, whatever it is, do it with your whole heart and your whole heart will be on the road to healing.

Want to hear more on the subject of grief? Listen to our podcast:

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Look at Life with Fresh Eyes

Sometimes life throws us for loop.

  • The death of a love one
  • Financial collapse
  • A child gone astray
  • A new diagnosis

Yep. We can just humming along, feeling blessed. Walking on cloud nine. We’re doing exactly what God asked us to do and it’s working! Then smack, like a giant wave we get bowled over. See that word I used above? FEELINGS. Then we FEEL differently. Depressed. Despondent. We don’t want to go on. Depending on the severity of the situation, that’s pretty normal. Those sorts of feelings tell us something is not right.

When my mother died, I couldn’t fathom why the world kept spinning. People kept going about their lives, shopping, eating out, going to work and worst of all, smiling. How could people smile? Laugh?  Then when my step-father, Bud died, it was the same. The problem was, my new kiddos had arrived the week before he “went on to glory” as he called it. I now had a houseful of seven children, four fresh from an orphanage in Poland. My grief and their habit of fear (survival mode) could have had disastrous consequences.

I had something happen yesterday that brought all of these memories back to the surface. It’s not my story, so I won’t tell it. Suffice it to say, I watched someone die. I did everything I could to help this not happen. It didn’t work. My prayers were not answered in the way I wanted them to be. The whole event sent me spiraling into dark places. (Please say a prayer for this family, you don’t need to know the name, God does).

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What can do we do when we get stuck feeling something? When a trigger takes us back or circumstances keep us down?

  1. Tell your story. Ever wonder why counselors ask lots of questions and spend a lot of time listening? It’s because telling our stories brings healing. Find someone you trust and tell them your story. Ask them to pray with you. If your issues are serious, this may take weeks or months, maybe years. Don’t give up. You’re worth it. Work for your healing.
  2. Don’t isolate yourself. When bad things happen, we want to hunker down in our little bunkers and leave the world behind. Don’t. Just don’t. I’m all for a little time alone, but a habit of isolation just breeds more of whatever you are feeling- depression, despair or despondency. Go out and do something with friends. If you have a few minutes of crying during your outing, it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. Try to keep your normal routine as much as possible. When Bud died, my nephew Josiah said that God sent me my new kids cause he knew I would need them. I had to get up every morning and make food, homeschool and run my household. I even had to smile.
  3. Look at life with fresh eyes. Amerey did a live on this on The Whole House Facebook page. She and her family rented a beach house for a week. When they arrived, they were disappointed that the ‘rustic charm’ was more rustic than charming. Their little girls didn’t notice the dirt or the ‘rustic’. They loved the beach house and didn’t want to come home. Sometimes we need to see live through the eyes of a child. During the season after the deaths of my mother and Bud, I laughed at my children’s jokes. I watched their puppet plays and smiled. I watched my newbies experience things for the first time, Christmas, birthdays and riding a bike. I had to look with fresh eyes.

Whatever you are going through right now, remember, this is not the end. It’s just a page in your story. Whether it’s a diagnosis, the loss of a job, a new baby keeping you up all night or the death of the loved one, this too shall pass. There is one thing that is a constant in our lives, that’s change. Things change. While you are in the midst of all of it, don’t let despair rule. It’s okay to feel these things, but don’t let them boss you around. Schedule time to grieve. Write down what you are feeling. Work on your healing. I’ll leave you with this:

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Message

Grieving the Loss of Your Mother on Mother’s Day

I dream about my mother at this time of year. I awake drenched in sweat and remember, she’s gone. She’s not here. I can’t pick up the phone and call her. I can’t buy her a gift for Mother’s Day. I cry at the stupidest little thing. A commercial. A post on Facebook of a tea party for a mom. A picture of fresh-cut flowers.

In the dreams I have of her, I never seem to say anything meaningful or profound to my mother. She is just there, like she used to be, rushing around in the kitchen in her pink and blue plaid robe over her flannel pjs. She’s working over a skillet on the stove or a stainless steel pot or that scary pressure cooker.

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My mother didn’t die a few weeks, months, or years ago. It has been a few decades and still the wound seems to gape open on holidays and especially on Mother’s Day. I awake to it taunting me. I see others celebrating their mothers and I’m jealous. I hear others complaining about their mothers and I want to whack them on the back of the head with a rolled up newspaper and say, “Be thankful! Stop your whining! Celebrate your Mother while you still have her!” That wouldn’t make my pain any less potent. It wouldn’t make my mama come back, so I don’t.

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Grieving the loss of a Mother is like having a learning disability. I am learning to live without a Mom and every once and awhile I have a slew of great days and I think, “I’m recovering!  I’ve got this grieving thing down!” I’ve run through the stages of grief like running a gauntlet. I am whipped, bruised, scarred, but I have made it through again and again. I’m learning.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

“It’s frustrating to be in the midst of learning. It is like sitting in algebra class, listening to a teacher explain a subject beyond our comprehension. We do not understand, but the teacher takes the understanding for granted.

It may feel like someone is torturing us with messages that we shall never understand. We strain and strain. We become angry. Frustrated. Confused. Finally, in despair, we turn away, deciding that formula will never be available to our mind.”- Melody Beattie

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Sometimes I feel as if I will never be finished grieving the loss of my mama. It won’t work for me. I will keep cycling through, keep picking up the phone to call her, keep dreaming about her  I have good days and then I get catapulted back to the beginning of the process. Scars open to expose old wounds, festering, seething with loss.

And then I think of my adopted children. They had a mother before me. They had a loss different, yet similar to my own. They had an Eden. A beginning with someone who birthed them. She didn’t die and leave them like my mama did. She abandoned them. Rejected them. I hear adoptive parents try to sugar coat this and say things like: She couldn’t take care of you. She was too young. Addicted. Whatever.

I know I am guilty of this. The truth is you can’t fool a child. The grief and loss are as real for them as it is for us. And at this time of the year, when mothers are being celebrated, they may be confused, especially if they were older when they were adopted. They may be wrestling with grief and it often masquerades as anger. The children may not want to buy new mom a card or celebrate. They may be missing something that never was. They may have a picture in their mind of a perfect mother from their past. It is an illusion. We didn’t adopt these kids in a perfect scenario. We adopted them in the midst of trauma. They will run the gauntlet of grief just as we do. The wounds will re-open, fresh or old, and be festering, infectious.

After Mom’s death, I began life as a new kind of orphan. A motherless adult. At first, I had a strange sense of surreal detachment, watching my life play out, walking through the normal activities of the day. I also felt a profound sense of peace- a peace that surpassed all understanding. Then, I moved into a period of anger. I couldn’t fathom while people still grocery shopped, went to work, bought new clothes. My mommy had died!

Gradually, my outlook changed. The pain of the loss remained, but God changed my perspective. There is a point when death makes way for new life. It is when we accept the death of a loved one that the platform of love and remembrance can be constructed. The legacy of that beloved person births a new life: A ministry, and organization to help others, a continuation of the work, an act of compassion and empathy.

“While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming Joy.”- Timothy Keller, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering

My adopted kids had a magic carpet ripped out from under them, too. Their beginnings may have not been ideal, but it was their beginning. Their mother, their grandfather. The abnormal life of neglect was normal to them because it was the only life they ever knew. When that was taken from them, it was death. I understood death. All those years ago, in a courtroom, they stood a the threshold of a new life.

New life is birthed out of death. A seed must die before it bursts forth with new life. Life begins in a dark place. Deep within the soil. So, if you or your child are grieving right now, don’t despair. Grieve, but don’t despair. There is a coming JOY. There are moments of if. Remembering the good times. Enjoying the good days. Accepting a homemade card from a child who is beginning to warm up to the idea of a new mom. Looking through old photos of your mama with flour on her apron and fresh-baked cookies on the counters. Be patient with yourself and your child. Allow yourself time to grieve. Allow your child to grieve. Grief is a job that must be done!

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“We are promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not in imagination.”-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Oberved