Grief – a word I used to associate with death. In my mind, grief had one place – following the loss of a loved one. Over the past few years, I learned grief is needed in other areas of life also.
A nasty accident – life-threatening injuries – severe lifestyle changes … words I wake up to after ten days in a coma. Darn – now what?
Asking God for help every step of the way (literally) I tackle the tough physical recovery with my solid Pennsylvania Dutch work habits and the endurance of the runner I was pre-accident.
Step by painful step, I recover better than expected.
I’m happy for the miracles, but sad about the effects. I don’t know what to do with my emotions. They refuse to obey my life-long habit of stuffing them anymore – instead they surface in depression and anger.
A saint from church, Audrey offers to mentor me after seeing the emotional mess I’ve become. I’m not sure what mentor means, but I’m starving for some answers so I agree.
Peaceful garden – tea – cookies … Audrey knows how to put a person at ease. When the tea is finished, we move to the living room and I wonder if a lecture on how to handle a crisis will now begin.
Instead Audrey showers me with love and understanding, “Janet, I’m so sorry about the rough year you’ve had. Praise God, your body is recovering. We’re not just physical beings – how’s your mind and spirit doing?”
I mumble as I try to explain my confused state of mind. Week after week, she is a good listener and only asks enough questions to help me spill more of my jumbled thoughts.
Miracles – sadness – limitations – guilt … I talk about my conflicting emotions. “I’m Miracle Woman, but I’m complaining. I should be shouting Hallelujah, not feeling sad.”
“Yes miracles happened,” She says, “But sadness is okay, you need to grieve.”
“Grieve?” I ask. “No one died in our accident, what am I grieving for?”
“Yourself – Janet,” she pats my hand, “You need to grieve the part of you that you lost.”
She gives me a minute as I try to understand what she said. “Grieve for myself?” Just repeating it makes me feel selfish. “The loss of a loved one deserves grief – I’m alive, not dead.”
“You lost the active part of yourself. You lost the way your body looked. You lost some dreams for the future,” Audrey explains. “These losses are major. I don’t think ignoring them works.”
“But, but … grief sounds too severe.” I try to comprehend this new thought.
“Any loss, no matter what size needs to be grieved,” Audrey says. “And disappointments, especially major disappointments like you live with have to be acknowledged and grieved. Do you think ignoring those feelings is working?”
Okay she has a point – even I, the mess, can see I’m a mess!
“Talk to God about your sadness. Maybe even write down your feelings of loss,” Audrey encourages. “By doing that, you’ll understand them better.
When faced with something new, I need information, so I find articles and books about grief. I laugh and cry as I realize my struggle is normal. I’m not losing my mind! I’m okay – or going to be okay after I work through my grief.
Grieving is random – following a textbook style for a time and then suddenly I’m all over the place again and nothing makes sense. But step by step, acknowledging the grief allows God’s spirit to bring healing and recovery happens. At first, I don’t even recognize the speck of light I feel, but then I realize it’s a glimmer of hope.
Through grieving my losses, I learn to live in the tension of celebrating the miracles that happened while being real about the disappointments I live with.
How’s your mind and spirit doing – with losses you’ve had in life?
PS. Because I live with ongoing limitations/pain, I still deal with grief sporadically, but this severe time of grief happened in 2006.