That day in October changed our lives forever. In a conversation not unlike the conversations we have everyday, my husband said, “So many people die everyday and we don’t think twice about it. But, when death comes to your family, it alters everything in your life, permanently.” This is such a true statement. We see things differently; we process daily life activities differently; we hear things in casual conversation differently.
During a recent trip to Colorado for a marriage retreat, Dan and I went up the mountain into Rocky Mountain National Park with a couple who are friends of ours. As we approached the entrance to the park we passed a sign on the side of the road indicating there was a cemetery off to the left of the road. The sign simply said, “CEMETERY” with an arrow pointing to the left of the road. We both just looked at each other with that look we all get when something jabs at that sore spot in our hearts and stirs up the grief. He told me later about seeing that sign and thinking, “My son is in a cemetery.” It’s not just a sign anymore. We see a sign like that and we immediately “see” our son’s casket and gravesite and we are grieved; deeply grieved.
When this same friend tried to let me know she could relate to my grief by sharing a story about her father’s funeral, my husband and I were again immediately taken back to a moment in time we both wish had never had to happen: our son’s funeral. It’s not like we remember it, it’s like we are there; crushed with grief, lost to the world around us, reliving the horror of having to bury a beloved son. I think this must be because the wound is still so fresh and raw. But, when will it begin to scab over enough that it doesn’t completely undo us when someone mentions a funeral or we see a sign indicating a cemetery? This grief journey, as many authors and counselors describe it, is exhausting. To be honest, I absolutely hate it. I hate the reason we are on it, and I hate the grief itself. Sometimes I think if one more person says something about the “phases of grief” I will slug them right in the nose! They aren’t phases, people! They are stopping points on a rollercoaster ride that never ends. And, when the coaster stops at one of those stopping points, you just wish with everything in you that the stupid thing would get going again. But, it’s pointless to wish that, because the next stop will come whether you want it to or not, and it will be just as miserable as the one you are at.
Ha! What a complainer I can be! Sometimes I just have to say it and get it out of my head. This is a very difficult journey, but we do experience times of reprieve. And, we are very aware of the prayers being lifted to heaven for us, and we are so appreciative. We can feel that we are being carried by the prayers of the saints and the Lord Himself, who is acquainted with grief Himself. It’s a long road, but we are still living, so we must have something God still wants us to do.
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried.” Isaiah 53:4a
“A scar will always mark you, but never let it define you.”