Tending to Grief

Tending to Grief pic

Soon it will be four years since my mom went to heaven. 

Honestly, that doesn’t seem possible. 

You know, I still have her number saved in my phone, it’s still listed with the speed dial numbers.  Every once and a while I am tempted to tap the screen just to see if someone answers on the other end.  I can’t imagine what I’d say.  “Umm…you can’t have this number, it belonged to my Mom and she’s gone and no one else is allowed to ever use this number again, K? Thanks, bye.” 

I can hear myself stammering through something like that in my mind.

It’s best if I don’t know.

Just thinking about that scenario forces me to admit what I’ve known from the start, life goes on.  The sun rises and sets, the earth spins on its axis, roosters still crow at sunrise, cities still bustle with life and commotion, harvest comes and brings with it boiled peanuts and bon fires, school gets out and offers families a time to get away and play only to start again a few short weeks later. 

Life just goes on.

Young couples get married, they buy a house, have children, work hard and eventually retire and then one of them leaves…and they don’t come back. 

It’s the order of things.

Pretty sure I don’t like the order of things.

I think if I’ve done one thing correctly in recovering from all of this pain brought on by deep incomparable loss, it would be that I shared my feelings all along the way.  So many of you have shared my pain, helped me bear the load…you have been my solid ground in a season when I thought I might literally be washed away in sorrow.

You came along side and loved me, I will be grateful ‘til death do us part.

I caught myself recently feeling embarrassed talking about how sad I am that I lost my mom.  My self-talk scolded me for bringing it up because surely others are tired of hearing about what I’ve been through.

“Get over it already, girl, nobody wants to hear how you lost your mom almost four years ago.  It’s been long enough, you should be past all of this.  MOVE ON.”

I understood enough about this unhealthy dialog with myself to realize it wasn’t true. 

Please tell me it’s not true.

Folks are so polite to me when I mention her name, they seem to be genuinely listening when I tell them I’m so lost without her for the umpteenth time.  Surely it’s not all an act.  People really do understand you never really “get over it,” right?!! 

Grief never really ends. 

Yes, you manage it, you cope with it, you hide it, you deny it, you rage at it, you come to terms with it, but you never really get over it.  It lives on every time you open your phone and see your speed dial list. 

I can’t bear to see her name, can’t bear to remove it. 

Can’t bear to go on living, can’t bear not to. 

Can’t bear to see anything that reminds me of her, can’t bear not to have reminders of her for fear I’ll forget. 

There’s no way to escape the grief.

And just when you think you might…

It lives on when your niece and nephew graduate college and Grandma isn’t there. 

It lives on when grandchildren get married.

When parents remarry. 

It lives on at Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthdays and wedding anniversaries, when her favorite pew sits empty week after week and especially when we sing her favorite hymns in our little country church. 

It lives on.

I wondered what life would look like after she’d been gone a while.  I figured I would either be living okay without her or dead from the pain.  I realize now that both of those scenarios came true.  I am living and doing well, but death is never far from my mind.  Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t sit around and obsess death and dying, but I am keenly aware IT CAN COME KNOCKING ANY TIME. 

Tomorrow may not come.

Sorry if all of this sounds morbid. 

There I go again apologizing for my grief, pain has changed me. 

I wonder sometimes if we don’t take enough time to “tend to our grief.” 

Momma used to always keep house plants.  She used to tell me she had to “tend to” them so they wouldn’t die. 

I have tried over the years to follow her example.  Sadly, I have a brown thumb.  I remember she used to water her greenery faithfully, and occasionally she would go through and cut off all the dead leaves and stems.  When she was done the plant might look a little thinner, less robust, but it always looked healthier.  Without fail, it would sprout new leaves, and fresh new stems would grow up from the soil. 

Cutting off the dead allowed the plant new room to grow.

I wonder, if plants could talk, if they would want to be left alone; does it hurt to have dead leaves stripped away?  Staying the same would be so much more comfortable.  But, after the pruning process, when new life springs forth, I bet the plant would thank its faithful owner for the pain so it could be more beautiful than it ever dreamed.

This beauty didn’t happen on its own, it took “tending to.”

That’s how I feel about my grief.  Without my consent the Lord began to strip off the dead places in my soul.  I didn’t’ want it at first, and I let Him know it.  But, as I began to see the results of my pruning, I began to help Him with the process, offering my sorrow and sadness up constantly so he could pull it away and allow room for healthy life. 

I am now at a place where I can see new growth and life in my heart, but it still takes great care to keep it up.

Just like my momma’s plants, I have to take the time to water my spirit.  I do that by reading God’s word and reminding myself where she is, and that I will see her again someday.  Sometimes I take long walks and talk to her by breathing sentences into the wind.  Somehow, getting those words out of my heart and into the world helps me.

I have to prune the dead places inside of me.   The deadness being the numbing your soul feels as you try to cope with and comprehend what has happened.  To help with this, I try to remember her laughing and loving and LIVING her life to the very fullest.  Sometimes I will look at old pictures, other times I will sit and try to imagine her well and whole and happy. 

I KNOW she would want me to be happy. 

I’ve learned getting through grief, or tending to it, takes a lot of work.  But, it is worth the effort.  It takes time, lots and lots of time.  I guess that’s where I started from today, being patient with the process.  Being willing to listen to a suffering soul tell yet another story of how much they miss sew and sew is valuable beyond your greatest imaginations.  Please don’t get tired of listening, don’t get annoyed with how long it takes for a person to cope with their personal loss. 

In time, maybe a long time, you’ll start to notice some new growth in them, new green life sprouting up. 

And in a few years, or however long it takes, you’ll notice they look robust and healthy.

Just like momma’s plants.

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