The Quest for Closure: An honest look at Grief
I’ve wanted to write a blog about grief for a while now as it’s something that weighs deeply on my heart and has shaped so much of who I am. Actually I’ll rephrase that: grief hasn’t shaped who I am, how I chose to respond to grief has shaped who I am.
Words like Depression, Anxiety, Grief, Cancer and Anorexic are such powerful labels. They turn a feeling, or accurate description, into so much more. Sometimes a label can be freeing, it gives a name to something we’ve struggled with alone, it takes the strangeness away and helps us refocus and realise others have experienced these same emotions and situations. For others, labels can be poison. Giving a name to the emotion of sadness that we all experience can, at times, give some people an excuse to hide. They hide behind the extra grace, the options and support that come with these labels. I’m not knocking any of these illnesses. I myself struggled for years with acute and irrational anxiety, and also sat under the blanket of grief for a long time. All I’m saying is that sometimes we need help to know how long we should live under a label.
This is why we always suggest seeing a professional counselor or mental health worker. People in these professions are able to accurately diagnose feelings and emotions, and give us insight on whether we really do need some extra support. I wanted to share an excerpt from a blog I wrote in the middle of journeying through the grief of losing my mum at age 56 to Breast Cancer. I don’t often talk about this time in my life; it was scary and very dark. I give the credit for my healing to God. I am a firm believer in Jesus’ healing power, not just for physical sickness, but mental and emotional also. I also had a fantastic support network around me; friends and family that genuinely cared for me and what I was working through. During this time I also saw a counsellor. It was the hardest but most productive experience I’ve been through. This is the excerpt from the blog that I titled ‘Quest.’
Quest was my mum’s favourite word. She was a true adventuress at heart. I’m sure she’s scoping out the caves and hills and forests up there, finding little nooks of glory to call her haven. She made everything beautiful; I was never scared when she was there. I guarantee that we could be lost and stranded in the middle of nowhere and as long as mum was close I’d be okay. Her warm arms wrapped around me so tight said more than any words ever could. If anything happened it happened to both of us, and someone else would be there walking through it with me so it was alright. We shared each other’s stories and pain. We carried it. I knew her wounds ever so well and I fought to protect them from getting any deeper. She loved me, against all odds and through the darkest trenches. We always made it out.
And so now I’m here. And some nights, like tonight where the candlelight and my thoughts are the only company, I get to thinking, ‘Will I ever make it out this trench?’ Some days the battle seems so long and familiar; same enemy, same ground, same weapons, same me. Except not same you. You’re armor and sword are right where you left them, and suddenly my action grinds to a halt. I know the world hasn’t stopped and it’s the heat of the battle, but it seems like the trees have stopped breathing in what I’m breathing out and the sun has stopped burning. The birds are all mute, I can see them flying, but why are they not singing? I see lips moving and eyes burning, but no sound. I’m straining. I close my eyes, block my nose. Open my ears. Senses don’t fail me now. You’re voice is fading amongst the sounds of war. I can’t chase where it’s going, I can’t chase where it’s gone.
Past tense. She was. She would. She did. I say these things, and correct myself. She is. She will. She does. This grammar is the life support. If I change this, you’re really gone. Then it’s all real and I wake up and you’re just a photo on the wall.
My eyes sting and my heart burns. No one can understand this. Will I spend eternity begging to be understood? Their glare hurts my eyes. Their cheering hurts my ears. The anticipation, the climax of this great tragedy. The impending fall. I’m running from it.
Pain is real. We bleed over different things. We shouldn’t cheapen each other’s pain. Give it the honour that it deserves. It’s not something we can ice over and decorate until it’s presentable. It’s raw. Honest and uncomfortable. Want to know me? Know this. I’m broken. But aren’t we all? In one form or another? And here’s the punchline, because yes, I can never resist. It’s what we do with that brokenness that defines us. It’s who we are in the trenches that make us the survivors. It’s the difference between the victims and the victors. Life happens to everyone, in different quantities and strengths. For some it’s spaced thoughtfully out, for others it’s a bombshell. My point is: where are you taking your wounds? The world is never going to be able to treat the source, the original infection. It’s something deeper than the pus on the surface, than the mess everyone sees. It’s our hearts. They need dressing. And who better than the Great Physician of our souls? The Creator of the Universe. He’s big, but not unattainable. He’s real. I’ve met Him on my carpet, I’ve met Him in my car, I’ve met Him in the woods and I’ve met Him in a smile. Open up your wounds, nothing heals when it’s covered up. Get it out in the light, in the air. Let it breathe what your lungs are breathing.
Find Him. He so desperately wants you too. I swear we’re gonna make it.
Where are you taking your wounds? What are you doing with your grief? Are you journeying through it safely? Or are you looking to unhealthy sources for pain relief and affirmation?
Friend, this has been a blunt blog, but I pray you understand you are not alone. Whatever grief you’re experiencing- you will come through this; but you need to decide to be a victor not a victim. Let yourself feel what you are feeling, don’t discount it- it’s real. But stay tuned to those around you and yourself. Learn when it’s time to begin to heal, learn how to not shut off completely. Keep yourself in touch with the things and people that breathe life into you and speak joy into the depths of your soul. Take long walks, read books and just breathe. Breathe deeply. And if you have lost a loved one, find the courage to remember them. Ponder on the beautiful moments, it might be hard to find some, you may not have any, but find SOMETHING beautiful to replace that with then.
I’ll say it again, the journey through grief shaped me into who I am today, but how I chose to respond to death is what has shaped me positively into who I am today.
With love, Anna