Good Grief, What Grieving Really Looks Like
Underneath the pillow was a gun. The pillowcases were stained with tears. She didn’t sleep or eat. She wanted to wrap her car around a tree.
We were riding in the car together. She was driving when she said, “One day, I’m just going to wrap my car around a tree.”
“No you’re not,” I said.
Thinking back, I can’t believe I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous. I was a passenger without any control, but I trusted her.
“Yes I am,” she argued.
“No. No you aren’t,” I replied. “He wouldn’t want that for you.”
This was the first time I experienced grief and mourning. I think I was around eighteen years old. Someone close to me had lost the love of her life. He was all she knew having married at a young age.
And then he was gone.
Driving home many years later, the traffic slowed to a crawl. I noticed the car pulled over on the side of the road. I figured someone had a flat tire.
Then I saw her. I saw a lady looking down at the ground with one hand on the car door. She was motionless. I noticed something on the opposite side of the road -- a cross and flowers. The cars continued to go around her slowly.
Goosebumps tingled my arms as I looked her way and saw the sting of grief and mourning. The grief was as fresh as the flowers she placed on the make-shift memorial. There were still tire marks on the road leading into the grassy ditch. It was like a neon sign flashing your loved one is not coming back.
As I passed the car, she still hadn’t moved. I imagine the simple task of opening the car door felt impossible. Maybe the thought of driving home, leaving what was left behind was unbearable.
Was it her husband? I thought. Was it a child or mom? It didn’t matter. It was a hole in the heart regardless.
I watched in my rearview mirror until her image vanished from my sight. All I could think was that’s what it truly looks like to lose a loved one. It looks like trying to find the will to get showered and dressed. It is slowly driving home and not recalling how you even made it home.
It’s standing in the very spot where they took their last breath. It’s recalculating what happened and thinking maybe, just maybe, there could have been something more done and this wouldn’t have happened.
Grief wraps around you like a thick blanket pulled up over your head. It’s dark and hard to breathe. You have the option to pull the blanket off, but it’s more comfortable to feel numb – to hide. You experience a range of emotions from hopeless to angry. And then spend many days emotionless.
I wished I would have turned the car around that day, courageous enough to have given her a hug. I didn’t know her but I knew what it is like to wear the shawl of mourning and grieving. Maybe I could have opened her door and helped her get in her seat.
He does that for us. Jesus. He helps us keep going when we can’t on our own. He knows what it’s like to grieve and mourn. He chose to be fully human and feel deeply just like us. It always amazes me that Jesus, knowing all things – fully knowing the future – would drink from the cup of despair. And hurt just for us.
All for us.
It’s actually very comforting to know this. To know that Jesus cares profoundly to go through the same motions as us – the same emotions too. It’s like he wraps a thick blanket around your shoulders. He knows the feelings are going to leave you cold at times and you will need some warmth.
Too many times, we are only offered the back half of the mourning story. The part where joy has started to creep back in. We speak of the victory and skip over the dark parts. Maybe, we think Christians shouldn’t grieve that way or stay that way too long.
Believers should move on quicker and take comfort in the condolences of she’s in a better place.
You need to know it’s not all worship songs, praise and roses. Sometimes it requires medicine and long talks with therapists. There are times when you question your faith. Times when your faith may waiver. Feelings of anger and resentment happen. It’s all normal. It’s part of it.
Everyone grieves and feels differently.
But it’s in those times, you will find Him. You will feel His profound presence. If you want it.
It just takes time.
My loved one, she’s still here. She never wrapped her car around a tree. She wore the blanket for a long time. But day by day, she found more and more joy.
Or maybe joy found her.
It takes time.
And plenty of grace.
But know joy will find you again.