I’m Not Planning to Get Over It

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last night, a thunderstorm brewed all around us as the huz and the kids played a new lawn game that they created using an old bowling ball and their bodies.

Storms are common in Minnesota summers.

They roll in, become violent – sometimes dangerous, and then move on with beams of sunlight replacing the darkness that they brought with them.  Thunderstorms, by definition, are unstable and violent. They occur when two very different kinds of air masses (cool air and warm air) come together and have an argument about who gets the space. Their argument is our thunderstorm.

Last week, my children graduated from high school. I wrote a post about my conflicting thoughts and experienced quite a response. Thank you to all who commented on last week’s post. To catch you up on that event: I did not cry at the ceremony, nor did I cry at the graduation party. Ok – let’s be honest, my eyes leaked a little at both events!

What undid me was the Sunday morning church service when we sang one of my mom’s favorite hymns – Holy, Holy, Holy - at the very beginning of the service. I sobbed (though briefly) as a thunderstorm raged within me.

There is no better description. It was an unstable and violent kind of emotional experience that rolled in quickly, caught me off-guard, and crashed open the floodgates and released the precipitation of tears. Grief had found me, and it collided with joy…their argument was my thunderstorm…right there in the front pew.

As the tears rolled down my face, I grieved that my mom had not been at my kids’ graduation to be the proud grandma that she would have been.

Tomorrow marks the eleventh anniversary of my mom’s passing. That this day comes only a week after my children’s graduation is a bit of ironic truth about grief that I have thought about many times over the past decade: life goes on even when we grieve. Babies are born, friends get married, and mothers die – all on the same day.

That I was able to make it through graduation events and and focus on the joy of my children’s accomplishments only to be slapped across the face with a reminder – through a hymn of all things -  of whom was missing from the event is just typical of grief.

And this week’s experience has reminded me of a truth that I’ve known for a while: we may never get over the death of a loved one.

My pastor huz tells families who are experiencing the death of a loved one that “death is not something you get over; it is something you get through.” There is wisdom in this. If we try hard to get over the losses that we experience, we may try to suppress how we feel about that loss.

Grief is common in any season.

“Getting over it” often means to us that we do not acknowledge that our people are still gone even years later. That my mom was not at my children’s graduation ceremony was something I needed to acknowledge, and our worship pastor made sure that was the case even though he had no idea that is what would happen when he planned for us to sing Holy, Holy, Holy.

And there simply is no getting over that; I simply had to get through it.

As I have reflected on joy and grief this week, how they are partners in crime – often playing good cop/bad cop with my emotions, I have come to realize a few things about what “not getting over it” means and wanted to share them with readers.

  1. Getting through it should not rob us of our joy. While grief comes at unplanned times and often at inconvenient ones, we must be diligent to acknowledge it briefly and then go back to our present joys – whatever they may be. On Sunday morning, I had my little sob-session in the front pew through the first song and then moved on to the joy of day.
  2. God brings people to fill in the gaps. Our family has experienced an overwhelming love from our church family over the years and in this specific graduation season. While they do not replace my mom, their presence certainly buoys us with their support, love, and generosity. I will forever be grateful for this truth in our lives.
  3. Our grief allows us to minister. Death is not a unique experience. Though the circumstances are often different, the truth of loss is not. And once we have lost someone close to us, we enter into a new understanding of what death is and of what death does to those left behind. Before that experience, we could be supportive to a certain degree. Once we have that experience, we have a new understanding and realize that being there for someone is different than we thought it was before.Our presence, often without words, truly is enough.
  4. Grief is not linear. Talk about irony – the kids first set of college books arrived in the same Amazon shipment as Invitations to Tears: A Guide to Grieving Well by Jonalyn Fincher and Aubrie Hills. Though I have not had a chance to read the whole thing, I skimmed the pages on Monday night and this theme rang through the book. And I know this to be true. If grief were linear, there would be an end point…if there is an end to grieving the loss of my mom, I clearly have not found it yet.

This morning – the day after the storm – the sun is shining brightly, and the storm has left a refreshing coolness behind it. I may even open my windows to let in some refreshing air. It is much like the sigh of relief that I exhale after a good cry.True confession: I hate to cry. 

But after a good cry, once I get over the puffy eyes, the snotty nose, and the headache, I tend to feel as though I am restarted in my perspective on life. A good cry acknowledges that I am still getting through it and that I will get through it – with the help of God and the gap-fillers.

PS: There is a storm brewing to the northwest of Minneapolis, but I doubt that it will come to us. The next chance of storms seems to be on Saturday. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a grief forecast?