Contrary to various cultural notions, there is no set time-frame for grieving. None of us “gets over it” in the one year (or less) of mourning that is often allotted to us. Each family, and every member within it, operates within a unique set of circumstances that will influence both the weight and duration of the period of heavy mourning.
In the early months of grieving for our son, sorrow, longing and anguish felt like a connection to him – a sort of conduit – a frantic grasping for nearness. To remember him was to be with him. All conscious thought was focused on getting to him – right now. To weep was to hold him close. My baby.
Though the Lord has carried me through two-and-a-half years of missing my boy, I still sorrow. It is just as heavy as ever. But I have grown used to carrying it. Sorrow is no longer great waves crashing relentlessly over my head but more like quiet little waves that lap continually at my heart. It is not as acute and overwhelming as it was in the early months but it is still there, a part of me.
Grieving, in the early months of bereavement, is hard, healthy, exhausting work and is a necessary part of our healing. There is no getting around it; it is work that must be done and no one can do it for us. However, it is important to remember that grieving excessively can become counterproductive if indulged in too deeply for too long. Life does in fact go on whether we want it to or not. Our Father wants us to be a part of it. He wants us to live, not just exist.
But it is not easy. Bereavement, and child loss in particular, affects every facet of our lives: relationships, sleep patterns, physiological processes, emotional stability, energy levels, spiritual issues, mental health issues, appetite, memory, family dynamics, finances, and so much more. It is a tsunami that leaves a diverse and disorienting array of wreckage on the sunny beach that was our former life.
Is it any wonder then, is anyone still truly surprised, that we cry so often and so easily in the first months and years of child loss? Tears are often the only way to release the astonishment one feels in the face of disaster. In the beginning, they come almost continually, sometimes with frightening ferocity. You sense that you could get lost in this storm and not even care.
Hard grieving is the unavoidable work of bereavement. Those early grief-storms, the hard crying, the wailing, all help to process what has happened to us. We are tossed around and battered until, exhausted, we are thrown into the arms of our Heavenly Father where we can rest awhile until the next wave hits. The tears purge our heart of some of the pain and float us to a place where we can function again. We sleep, eat, produce a few smiles, and do what needs to be done before the storm kicks up again.
And then we do it again. And again. This is the life of a parent who has lost a child.
But, incredibly, time passes. You begin to notice that the waves roll onto the beach at less frequent intervals than before. You feel a little less conspicuous, a little less fragile. The churning rawness begins to level off, not because the pain is less, but because you become too worn out to cry. Slowly, you realize your tears will not bring your child back and this knowledge brings fresh sorrow. But your sorrow gets quieter, burrows deeper, becomes part of you rather than something you do battle with. Whereas, once you thought your heart would explode with pain, you now feel it threatening to implode, to collapse under the stealthy grip of a steady, chronic sadness.
More time passes. Little by little, by very little, you gain the ability to smile a real smile while remembering. Instead of seeing empty spaces everywhere, spaces where your child should be, you begin to see God’s hand. The frantic grasping begins to subside as you look up in wonder, knowing your believing child is up there.
You learn the Lord has provided a better connection to your departed child than sorrow and grief, based on the facts as they are – not life as it was.
He has provided Himself.
Portions taken from: The Facts