I think we all have a notion or opinion of what grief will be like once we experience it. But like everything in life, nothing is as we expect. Before losing my mom, I thought I couldn’t survive if one of my parents left this earth. I didn’t think I would be able to go on. I thought if one of them died, I would stay in my dark room and cry. I would possibly drink too much wine or even take a pharmaceutical drug that would block out reality. I envisioned myself being somber, sullen, pitiful.
But my actual experience with this thing called grief has been nothing like that. I don’t want to dull or mute my mental acuity because I want to take this on full force without anything watering it down. I don’t want to stay in bed all day because I have two little boys who need me and who want me to laugh and smile again. I haven’t drank too much wine because the thought of being hungover paired with the physical pain of grieving sounds like torture. And after watching my sweet mom rely on pharmaceuticals just to live, a drug is the last remedy I would seek.
Over the past two weeks as I’ve been processing my mom’s death and learning what grief is truly like, something keeps emerging with stark clarity.
When my heart is lost, I feel the hearts of others.
The pure compassion, concern, love, guidance and encouragement I have received during this troubling time have given me the strength to face each day without my mom. Below are some of the words I have let overtake me as I’ve learned to cope with my new normal.
“It is so hard to accept God’s timing.”
“I’m so sorry to hear of your mom’s passing. I did not know her but I know the daughter she raised, so I know she was an amazing woman.”
“I wish I could take some of your pain away. Sending you hugs, prayers, peace, and comfort.”
“After losing my dad, I never thought it would get better…but it does. God’s word promises us that. Remember Psalm 116:15 that says, ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.'”
“I know this is the greatest loss you have faced. Remember all of the great memories you have of your mother. In your memory, she will always be alive.”
“You will miss her for a lifetime. Make sure those special boys know all the stories and powerful experiences you shared with her.”
“I lit a candle for your mom this morning that is still glowing brightly. I pray the warmth and light sends at least a little comfort.”
“After my mom passed, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. These first days are unbearable but just know you are not alone.”
“If ‘one day at a time’ is the best you can do, that’s okay.”
“I love you and your blog post brought me to my knees. You are an amazing woman because of your mom and your faith.”
“I have no words for your pain, but I have words for your strength. You are one of the strongest women I know. I’m praying God holds you together while you have to be the strong woman your mom raised you to be.”
“I’m not sure I understand the depth of the grief you are experiencing, but I do know how to pray…I am praying for you, your dad, the boys, Todd, and your sister and her family.”
“When I lost my dad, I was just going through the motions. Take time to grieve but also do your best to honor your mom by enjoying life when you can. Enjoy your boys, nature, writing.”
“Your mom was so proud of you. All she talked about was you, your sister, and those sweet grandchildren.”
“Be prepared for the grief to slam you in the face when you least expect it but at some point, you will no longer feel like you are suffocating. Just stop and breath through the moments when it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest.”
“What are you doing for self-care today? If nothing, you need to. At least one thing each day that’s for you. It’s a rule. I read it in the Bible. ;)”
“It is okay to feel the grief. Let those tears flow with no apologies. You have the right to embrace the way grief shows itself. Get it out, sister.”
“Overcoming grief requires the three Ts. Tears, time, and talking.”
“Try to talk with at least one person each day. It really helps with the emotional isolation.”
“Take care of your day. And take care of yourself.”
“I love you and your precious family. I have walked in your path and I moan with you.”
“Your mom always had a smile on her face and that’s how I want you to remember her. She loved you with all of her heart. You could see that by the way she looked at you. Be strong and remember she is now your special guardian angel and will protect you.”
“Please, please just be gentle with yourself during this fragile time. Make no excuses for being happy or when you feel like you should be sad, feel no guilt about it whatsoever. A lot of people who have not lost a loved one think there should be a timeline for grief. I’m here to tell you there’s not and you should ignore anyone who tells you otherwise.”
“Feel everything and don’t fight it.”
“Let yourself feel your emotions. Cry when you need to and be sad when you need to, laugh when you need to too. Plus, try to get lots of good sleep because it’s emotionally and physically exhausting going through and feeling all this.”
“Things like this really does change you. You have to really hold on to her in your heart. I feel my mom around me all the time. I am so so sorry for your loss.”
“Susanna, Psalm 56 has meant so much to me. There are twin truths in the Psalmist’s words-‘God is with me and God is for me.’ I’m praying you know these truths now more than ever.”
And there are so many others. I will never be able to explain the love I felt through all of the words, cards, messages, notes, texts, Facebook posts, Instagram comments, emails, etc. I still haven’t been strong enough to respond to everyone, but I will. I can only read a few at a time before it becomes too much. Baby steps…
One theme that emerged was to let the grief have its space, to let it overtake me when it needs to. Trying to fight it won’t help or heal anyone. A friend and fellow blogger lost her dad. Some of the advice above is from her. She also suggested that I keep this quote in mind.
The funny thing about grief is that it’s nothing like you think. Along with the darkness comes light. Along with the sadness comes love. Along with the loneliness comes friendship. Along with the solitude comes a new self-awareness. Along with the heartache comes strength.
I wouldn’t wish grief on anyone, and I know my personal journey with grief is far from over, but the compassion of others and surprise glimpses of God’s grace have kept me afloat when I feel like I’m drowning.
And for that, I will be forever grateful.