It’s been one year since my dad passed away, that night has stayed with me longer then I would have liked- the trauma of watching him die changed me forever. The next morning I couldn’t believe the sun rose, the birds sang… didn’t they know my heart was broken?
I was not only changed immediately and forever but I was in a dark place that I knew nothing about. Nothing was familiar and I kept retreating into myself, into solitude and away from all the frivolous activities that seemed to consume others around me. Who cared about someone’s OOTD when I just lost my hero? Who cared what I ate for lunch, what vitamins or skincare were my favorite when the most generous person I’ve ever known was no longer able to give? I wondered how I could let others around me know I wasn’t OK, could I wear black all day everyday for months like they used to in the past? I didn’t know how to grieve, but I was going to find out how.
After the funeral my family encountered a strange season of pulling away, each of us learning out to grieve. We each needed something different from friends and family and it was strange that while we walked the same road, in a sense it wasn’t. We all had a unique relationship with my dad-all of my sisters (myself included) adored my dad and his presence was such a rock between us. Our family unit was damaged and we floundered to find a new normal.
I heard about a counseling program called Grief Share, a 13-week course with leaders who had walked the road of grief before you, sometimes multiple times. I longed for those classes and weekly sessions where it felt safe to cry and share updates. Even when you pursue healthy grieving it looks different for everyone. But I did see others in the class not moving forward.
Many of those not making progress refused to pray. They refused to journal, do the Grief Share homework or answer the hard questions. And many refused to read their Bibles. I could understand that initial anger over the loss, but couldn’t they feel God nudging their hearts closer to Him? Couldn’t they feel the wall they built with emotions and the Why questions? Didn’t they want healing for their broken heart? I made a promise to myself that I would not build a wall within my grief, that I would let the Lord move me forward and let his loving-kindness heal me. I committed to a 30/30 journey in the month of January, it was 30 minutes of study in God’s word for 30 days… it wasn’t just reading the words. It was a study, a journal, a dictionary, a thesaurus and a heart to understand new truths, to understand God’s faithfulness from the past and learn how to relate that to my current pain.
I came out of January changed. It was like my heart had healed, grown and been propelled in a new direction. I asked myself “How can I help others?”, “Who can I forgive?”, “Who can I love on around me?” The Lord had taken my brokenness and used it to give me a compassion I never knew.
As the months inched along I longed to talk to my dad and very frequently would talk aloud, addressing my one-way conversation to him, until one week in Grief Share our leader challenged us to turn all those conversations to prayers. Oh, how my heart smiled each time I turned that loneliness and longing for my dad as an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord. I not only gained strength with each of these prayer sessions I felt my heart heal a little, teeny, tiny bit. Could you imagine a character in a book trying to talk to someone else in their story when they had access to the author? It’s going to this source that changes you! The one that has the power to change your story, to write something beautiful in the next chapter of your life.
The “Why?” questions still come, but I’ve learned that in most cases they aren’t answered and in most cases they keep you stuck. The truth is, death is apart of life. It’s a cycle in nature we see every year, but maybe in our fast paced world we don’t recognize it? We don’t let the hot sun burn or the cold winter days chill us, instead we use AC units to even out temperatures or layer and layer beautiful sweaters to warm us. When outside new life is springing forth after every spring and after every Autumn trees go bare and all of nature rests. But in that rest we also see death. It’s something most of us are callous to and instead of understanding a little bit clearer, death comes into our journey and we are left speechless and broken. Our removal from nature and the cycle of food has come as a disadvantage to our modern times.
I am determined to not let my grief stop me, I don’t want to live a life always looking backward. Instead I ask myself “How can I use my dads life as a sling shot to propel me into loving people? How can I give bigger? How can I forgive freely? How can I share God’s healing power in my life, to take a heart so broken and make it better?” and “How can I use my hurt to help me become more tender toward those around me? To feel their loss and know how to pull them close and pray for them confidently?”
This is how I’m different.
I wonder if we are not able to cry with those in pain, until we have first cried in pain? Are we a better version of ourselves when the Lord heals our broken heart and uses it to encourage others? Do our priorities forever shift from our selfish desires, into humble desires to help others in need after we have walked through pain?
The good news in that our God restores, He can course correct in areas we have deviated. He can reach into our hearts and show us how important people are around us and all the running around for more and the momentum of being busy is hurting us. We don’t have time to be quiet, to give to others the community and relationship we would give anything to have back with our loved one. He heals and restores and we are forever different. He wants something different for all of us.
In the grief there is so much loss, but He can use that loss as a paint brush of compassion and love.
When you think of me and pray for me, pray that my heart always turns to the Lord for comfort, strength and a desire to know Him more intimately. Don’t pray I’ll be over the grief and through the dark valley quickly. Because as I’ve walked this deep, dark journey the Lord’s comfort has never been closer, His words have never been whispered so sweetly and His presence has changed me forever.