Grief really is a funny ‘ole thing. Everyone reacts differently to loss, and experts say there are ‘correct’ ways of dealing with grief and necessary steps to take.
I’m no expert. I’m not a grief counselor and I’ve learnt this year that how you may deal with grief may be completely different to the way I deal with grief and loss, and that’s ok.
My very first experience with grief was when I was seven years old. My family and I had left the overseas mission field to be with my paternal grandmother in her last days. I remember my Mum taking me in to Nan’s bedroom and seeing her lifeless body. I guess it was a chance to say goodbye, but I’m not all that sure that I did. Then I went to school. Funny what you remember about a day.
My other grandparents passed away in the two decades that followed. I was a University student when my paternal grandfather passed away and the way that it all happened was quite special. I’d travelled to be with him and my Aunt and I were taking turns being by his bedside. I’d had a pleasant few words with him in my ‘shift’ about some foods we both loved, and I’d summoned up the courage to ask him about some God stuff. Then I went back to his house from the hospital and he passed away shortly after. As much as it was special – it was also very hard. He’d been my closest grandparent. I also remember the shock of his passing also causing my ‘Aunt Flo’ to visit, unexpectedly and not in a timely fashion.. Yep. It is true that the body reacts to stress in interesting ways.
As well as having other family members pass away (an Uncle was murdered and an Aunt died from illness) I’ve had to learn to deal with my own loss as two of my own children have passed away – one a miscarriage and another labelled as a ‘spontaneous abortion’. Given that label instead of a miscarriage as it happened in my second trimester, not the first. I hate that label. I also hated being given the choice of waiting for my body to rid itself of the lifeless child itself or to have the baby taken from me, under general anaesthetic. I hated looking down at my little rounded belly – and remember wondering ‘why Lord, why was it never meant to be’. I don’t want to dwell on that whole time of my life too much here, I’ve written about it here .
As much as I have experienced grief in the form of loss of people – I also know what it is like to grieve in the way of missing out on dreams, missing out on experiences, learning how to live but not be a part of things that I would dearly have loved to be a part of.
When God whispers to you to do certain things, to live out His plan for you for your life, it always comes with a cost. Maybe this is a financial cost, a relational cost, or even a price that people you love have to pay.
For us moving away from our friends, from all of our support networks and all our extended family, it has come at a cost to us and to them. We are missing seeing our friends kids grow up. We miss being a part of their lives. Our kids are missing out on having grandparents and Aunts and Uncle and cousins around them. We missed meeting our new nephew when he was born. We missed physically being there with his parents and our niece when he passed away. When we return ‘home’ we’ll be starting again from scratch with everything – as far as possessions and furnishings and ‘assets’ go. Yes – these are all things to do with grief and loss.
But you know what?
It is worth it. The cost, whatever that cost may be for you, or for me, is worth it.
Every tear I’ve shed over feeling mis-understood and lonely.
Those tears were worth it – I know the Lord has kept them, bottled them up, and to do so has meant he’s had to have been right beside me. Every. Step. Of. The. Way.
Every hard weekend afternoon we’ve spent as a family feeling like outsiders and bemoaning the fact that it is ‘just us’ again.
That family time together has been priceless. And it still is. While some families struggle to spend any time all together – we never have that problem. We know what quality time together is, and we need to treasure it more. We’re a tight unit and for that I am extremely grateful.
Every purchase I’ve ummed and ahhed over. Wondering if we really need it – as we’ll never get that money back when we give it away/ sell it for way less when we move back.
That frugality – that is actually a gift I’ve realized. How freeing it is to hold ‘things’ so very lightly. To not need ‘things’ to be happy. It is a gift from the Lord.
Every friendship I miss and every coffee I feel I should be having with friends that are far off.
That longing and desire is actually an ok thing to have. Those friendships are God-given and they can survive a 5 year ‘recess’ of sorts, because of things like the internet and the phone. Plus God has finally, in his timing, brought new people into my life, new ‘iron sharpens iron’ people…..The fact that it will be hard to leave here when the time comes is a testimony in itself to God’s faithfulness, to his love and insight and provision.
When you face grief because a person has moved out of your life, or has passed away, you’re left with several options on how to cope and what your attitude will be over it. A lot of people will offer words of advice or will offer their practical help. What I found most helpful was not to be asked ‘let me know what I can do to help’ but to have people actually just get on and help. Bring a meal. Stay a while. Talk about ordinary things – because all inside you is in turmoil, all you want is for something to feel slightly normal. You also want permission to feel the way you are feeling. Whatever that feeling is. You need someone to tell you it is ok to be mad/ cross/ sad/ inconsolable/ angry/ bitter.
But the most helpful thing on grief that anyone ever whispered to me was that while I grieved, God was grieving too.
While I grieved, God was grieving too.
This changed things for me. This gave clarity and perspective.
When I have grieved over moving here and establishing for myself and my family a new life, one verse has spoken to me more than any others –
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” – Luke 18: 29-30
Why do we choose to follow God’s whisper? That whisper that means for us for an unknown time we don’t have a lot of roots to put down? Because it is part of God’s economy for us…..it is part of God’s plan to utilize my husband’s giftings and abilities to the maximum – for His glory. And our reward for being obedient – means a life full of richness. A richness in experiences ( meeting new people, seeing the way a different culture lives, visiting different cities and surroundings), a richness in variety – the spice of life, a richness in having a tight family unit, and a richness in being part of a global organization with a unified mission.
Yes there is grief involved when being obedient to God and when leaving all you know and love – but there is also unspeakable joy. That joy that comes with mourning. That joy that comes from having the Lord walk with you every step of the way. That joy that comes from having your every little need met. That joy that comes when you know you are not given anything too big for you to handle. That joy that comes when you understand that when God calls, He enables.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.