If you took a microcope to the heart of a grieving person, examining the many details, you might find some common treads, but it would most likely be that you’d find a heart full of random oddities and eccentricities, uncommon, unpredictable and unusual. In fact, you might even be surprised at the strangeness of it all. Aw… but the one firm place that remains unmoved and unchallenged, is God’s love… in spite of my unconventional processing that is far from the patterns of normal everyday humanity and living.
Those untouched by loss or grief are the minority of our population. But many, of the majority, still want life to continue on at the same pre-loss pace and path… that is where my post begins to break through what we think we have to do to be ok, or normal. Just this week, normal was challenged, sanity as I once knew it was attacked and peaceful moments… well… they are few and far between. Nothing is really normal when you have lost someone you loved deeply. There is no rule book, manual with step by step instructions or the perfect response to every painful step. And… that is ok. God is generous with His grace and asks that we be so with ourselves and others.
Here are some of my “new normal” oddities and eccentricities. Don’t laugh too hard, but rather see it as an opportunity to experience proof that your processing may not be as weird as you thought…. 🙂 At Christmas… missing my beloved husband, I walked into a department store, went to the men’s department and bought two things… a flannel shirt and a sweater in my husband’s sized and favorite color. I call them hugs, since I cannot give them to him, I wear them, and… I smile. I kept his favorite cologne and sometimes I close my eyes, open it and smell it. I think of him, he seems closer. In our financial ledger, I have kept the last page he wrote on, so I don’t feel like I am doing book work alone. Sometimes I buy myself flowers and pretend they are from him… lavender roses. On his old bedside table there is a plant I gave him, it is a coffee plant. I have forgotten to water it so many times, but… somehow it lives. It makes me think of God’s grace with all my processing and the shortcomings that have ensued from it. And… I think of my beloved one’s memories, they will never die, even in the driest desert places. These are just a few things that are normal… for now.
No two journeys are the same, no one experiences the same pain or the same kind of loss. But we all long for something to remain tangible, for a solid rock we can lean on and for a little bit of love to fill the hole in our hearts. There is a whole world out there, whispering and shouting at us. Things like, “you’re going to be fine,” “it’ll be ok,” or “someday you’ll move on.” My heart screams, “no way, not possible.” Though meant in kindness. I respectfully say no, I will not be fine with this, or move on from it, nor will I be ok… my answer… I will learn to cope. Coping… much like the soldier who comes home with a missing leg. Like him, I have to learn to walk again. I have to depend on and lean on a crutch at first. Weaknesses and pain in the process are excruciating and I want to give up. Somedays I awake with a “phantom” leg. Thinking that nothing is missing and it was a bad dream. This is so real sometimes, that I believe I can walk exactly the same, not only walk but run. I jump out of bed, having every intention of catching hold of normal, and… fall flat on my face. And reality crashes in, with no grace or subtlety. It stares at me, pointing its finger in my face. Here I sit, on the floor, nursing bruised feelings and an aching heart. But, as the healing from the loss of someone so vital to my life, begins and as I become less raw, I can be fitted with the tools and equiped with the means to walk again. My gait will never be the same, my steps will always be a bit guarded and cautious even, and my confidence though it grows in the new ability to process steps will never be at the same pace. But, I will walk again, slow and steady … but forward.
I grieve my loss and my old normal, deeply. But, am beginning to understand that I am not called to be “normal.” Instead I am called to a place where grace and love can shine out from my circumstances, brokenness and pain. I don’t like being without my husband, I hate it really. The challenges are painful, but I have come to this place so often. The place where I am at the end of myself and cannot take one more step in the valley of the shadow. This is where God can use me most, though I feel too overwhelmed and weak to be of use. There is not a day that goes by that I do not remember my loss and my grief surges in my soul… but He is there as many times as I cry out. Holding me up and restoring my soul to Himself. Reminding me that my prayers for his healing from cancer… were answered, that I surrendered what I wanted and gave Him what I was holding onto so tightly. I have had to gift it back time afer time. But He is gracious. Looking back, there are powerful stories of His carrying through horrific circumstances. He never, ever left. Blessings are abundant, if I chose to look for them. So, until heaven, where I will be healed completely, I will lean on my savior and hold fast to His love.
So, He is generous, powerful and tender hearted in His gifts to us. No… normal is not one of them, but supernatural is. I grieve what I had before cancer… but I rejoice in what is coming from it. Life, eternal life, that would never exist if not for cancer. Wisdom, challenges, hope, peace, joy, goodness are words I never fully understood before Chris got cancer. They were nice words and I had head definitions, but not heart definitions. These are gifts a human could never understand. It takes a supernatural God of love and grace, to define them in us and through us. The catalyst to this, in my life, is great sorrow, tremendous loss, excruciating pain and a journey in the valley of the shadow of death. God is pouring into me the meanings and defining my existence and reinforcing the truth of purpose.
Grieving normal, yes, but I do not need to. As I am learning, it is not as important as holding His goodness in my brokenness and heartache, embracing joy in the painful steps I take or seeing hope does not disappoint. Shifting from grieving normal, to reaching for joy, is a blessing. One He will faithfully give over and over. May I be found reaching for joy.