The Mixing Together of Grief and Joy…

I remember like it was yesterday… I remember the pain, I remember the fear, I remember that it was Mother’s Day.  I remember the grief… it was the day my yet unborn son died…

And now, these many years later… the grief remains.  Yes, life has gone on… yes, life has been filled with good days, with joy… but tucked in a corner remains the grief.  For me, it’s because I believe that grief becomes a part of one’s being… the loss of someone from our life leaves an empty hole which grief fills.

And the ways in which that grief changes us are many.  It’s ironic that Elisabeth Kubler Ross, who described the five stages of grief, changed her opinion later in her life, perhaps after grief had invaded her heart, and wrote that grief is not a series of progressing stages, but rather a new cycle to our lives – days of sadness and gladness mixed together.

So, as always I’m looking for life lessons… things that I can learn, things that we can learn when grief invades our heart.

Grief is meant to be shared.  We are not designed to grieve only in solitude, but rather to have times when we can talk with others – with those who love us, with those who might be grieving also – talking about what we’re feeling, and especially talking about that person – in my case that wee little baby – who has died and left our lives.  No one should be alone in their grief – is there someone you can reach out to, someone who might be glad for your welcoming presence and listening ear?  Think about it…

Grief is meant to make us grow.  What weakens us can also strengthen us.  Have you felt it?  Think about a time when someone close to you died… are you able to aware of the ways in which you have ‘grown’ as you have walked through that grief? Maybe you’re a better listener.  Maybe you take more opportunities to say “I love you” or to appreciate your family and friends. Maybe you take time to reminisce. Maybe you share those memories with others, so that your journey of life will not be forgotten. Maybe you’ve been able to say to another who has just endured the death of someone close that you will be there for them – because others were there for you.  One of the things that was most precious to me when my very premature baby’s life ended, was a letter from a woman who had also had a miscarriage on Mother’s Day.  It didn’t matter that her loss had been many years previously – we now shared a common bond.  And maybe it’s that common bond, like cords braided together, that makes us stronger.

Life doesn’t have to be all about happy times or successful times to be considered a good life.  A good life can be having had the privilege of sharing it with others. I think that the privilege given to women by God to carry and bear children is one of the most special gifts imaginable, so I can still find joy that God privileged me to carry a little life inside me – even if only for a brief time.  I have three sons who I love dearly – one of them simply lives in heaven… he’s still my son, my gift from God… a good gift indeed.

Grief doesn’t have to destroy us.  Yes, many grief moments are because of tragedies – it’s likely that we all remember where we were in the early morning moments of September 11, 2001.  In addition to remembering the tragedy that unfolded in front of our eyes, do you remember the bonds we felt – with our co-workers, with our neighbors, our families, our friends, with the person at the cash register at our local grocery store?  Grief turned to strength gives us the power and will to move forward.

Grief is, without doubt, about sadness.  American historian and diplomat Washington Irving wrote, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”  It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be sad, to be very sad… it’s okay…

So… this was not a happy few moments of thoughts… For me, sharing about grief makes me feel normal in both my sadness and in joy.  For me, sharing about grief allows me to remember the past even as I move forward.  For me, grief can now be a normal part of my life.  For me, on this Mother’s Day, I can be joyful about my sons with whom I continue to share life, while still taking a few moments to remember a sad Mother’s Day, many years ago.  How about you… where will your journeys of grief take you?

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