I write this from an International De-Brief organized by our ministry, Cru. As I was preparing for the conference, I felt wary, even afraid. I didn’t want to dive back into the raw emotion of leaving Hungary last spring. I didn’t want to face the loss and grief.
Grief can be like a scary villain, dark and obscure. It looms large bent on swallowing us whole. It threatens to mark us, scarred and misshapen, not fit for normal life.
I have met such a beast more than I care to remember. Yet, I will. Because I have learned great truths related to grief, yet it seems they must be re-learned as I experience it all afresh. And here is where a name for each grief allows me to meet it as something altogether new with fresh mercy and grace.
These are some names I have given my grief:
Losing Home/Losing Childhood: I grew up on a dairy farm. But, when I was 12, we had to leave. Life for us, would never be the same. This grief has spread its fingers intricately throughout my life. It is there whenever the shocking realities of a broken world come cruelly into my reality. The name I give this grief helps shape my understanding of all grief as I walk the long road Home.
When Dreams Die: For many years I experienced great success in school, sports, work and relationships. This led to sky-high dreams for every area of my life and the unstoppable will to run after them. They all shattered when one of them failed and my heart was broken. It seemed my successes were like a house of cards blown over and revealed for what they were. There was disillusionment with God, searing pain through a lack of closure in the relationship, and feelings of failure. Naming this grief allows me to see deeper things than choices others and I have made. It also shows me where I have gotten my value. But most, I learn there is always a measure of grief when I wrap my arms more tightly around something other than God.
No Longer Known: And this is when my mother died of cancer. There was not the sharp pain of sudden loss as the journey of cancer allowed time for a measure of closure. But, the loss of a good, loving mother is one that is all-encompassing. She seems to have been everywhere with a hug or word of encouragement over the phone or via a card. In many ways, she knew my siblings and I better than anyone. Hers was another loss of home and has spread itself throughout the 13+ years without her, finding me all over the world. By naming this grief, I recognize how deeply missing my mother goes. I look for her everywhere and am disappointed that another will not know me as she did. And I have learned that only God can heal me as He reveals how He knows me.
(Here is another piece on grief I wrote related to the loss of my mother.)
Tearing Heart Loss: This is the fresh grief I am in now from the loss of our life overseas. It feels like my heart has been torn. It is like the combination of all of the other losses I have named here. There’s been the loss of home, dreams and being known. It feels tragic, wrong, raw and this is after months of genuine healing. I am pulling from all of the reserves of grieving I have done in my life to walk this grief. By naming this grief, I recognize the oceanic depths of pain, loss, joy and love found in my heart. I see that I have given my heart and not held it back. And because of this, I see that this road will be long, maybe till Heaven, but I must stay on this path.
But, why? Why must any of us stay on paths of grief?
Naming grief is our heart acknowledging its significance and place in our lives. In this way, grief is a friend, like Sadness from the movie Inside Out. It teaches us the shape of our own unique story and guides us to tastes of the ‘fullness of joy’ found in God’s presence. Acknowledging and entering grief also guards our hearts from the calcifying effects of the denial of pain, hurt or loss. Instead of resentment, bitterness or hatred, we get healing, strength and hope. We also become those who grieve well with others. This is a true gift.
In this community at ‘A Life Overseas’, we are all in different places, literally and figuratively. But grief finds us all. Where I grieve a sudden leaving, another grieves family left behind. Others grieve a rift in a relationship even while still living in the same place.
Wherever you are, friend, name that grief. Let God shape you through it and show you what His healing can do. Don’t cheat your heart by avoiding grief and allowing a wall to form around it. Don’t let it stay the dark villain that keeps you afraid. Name it. Face it. Begin the journey of seeing God in every part of it. And know, we are in this journey together.
What is one step you can take towards knowing and naming your grief? Write that step in the comments below and/or tell a friend about it. Then, take that step.