The Journey of Grief & The Choice I Get To Make Every Day

winding-pathWhoever first explained grief as a journey was right on. It is indeed a journey filled with ups and downs, unexpected turns, and unfamiliar terrain. Perhaps author C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed said it best…

“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I’ve already noted, not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn’t a circular trench. But it isn’t. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn’t repeat.”

The first time I read this I was relieved to know that someone had put words to what this process really feels like.  One thing is for sure: actually walking through loss is very different than reading about it on paper.

Angie Smith, one of my favorite authors, wrote this after losing her daughter, Audrey, 2 hours after birth…

“So many people have written to me and asked how the grieving process has been for me, and to be honest, I never know how to answer. I have a master’s degree in psychology and I know the steps of grief. They look great on paper along with all the other multiple-choice questions, but in reality they aren’t that simple. They jump back and forth at a pace that is completely unpredictable.” She goes on to say, “There is no systematic way to understand the process, and I know because I have highlighted it all in bo0ks and then tossed them in the trash. I don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like. Quite frankly, I don’t know what an hour from now is going to look like.”

Sometimes reading about other people’s experiences after loss helps me to remember that what I am feeling is okay – and even “normal.” Yet in reality, it is anything but. It is simply the reality after loss.

In the last six months, I feel as though I have been up and down, in and out of every “stage” of grief multiple times. Some days, it feels like I have turned a corner, only to find myself at what seems like the exact same place a week later.

After feeling like I could brave the infant clothing department (I still have to buy clothes for Kyla) without breaking down, I recently found myself practically gasp for air as I came across “little sister” & “big sister” shirts, and saw all the clothes that I would be dressing my girls to match in. I had also sort of walled off Kyla’s obsession with babies successfully until this week. Her absolute delight at the sight of a tiny infant had me crying all over again as I imagined the immense joy that we would be feeling if everything had turned out how it should be, and Esther was here. Just when the pain and emptiness of night time seemed to lessen a bit, I have found myself crying as my empty arms and empty heart try to find sleep.

These types of things happen all the time, and I continue to find myself stuck on this journey I wish I never had to start.

The process of grief is exhausting, confusing, and impossible to pin down.

Perhaps one of the hardest things for me to swallow, is that this new life isn’t going anywhere. It is our new reality. Grieving a child is a different type of grief, and in some ways, we will be grieving the rest of our lives. Sometimes I find myself looking for the moment of relief – the day I will wake up and it will just be better. Yet day after day, I still awake to the same painful truth.

Often, I think about what it will be like a little further down the road. Next week, next month, next year. Or when we have another baby. Or when we celebrate holidays. Or when Kyla is old enough to understand. The truth is, I don’t know what it will be like. I wish that I did. I wish I could at least prepare in advance.  I like to see what’s ahead and know what’s coming. But the fact is, I can only see today.

Because of this, I have discovered that I have a choice. I can allow the anxiety of the unknown to rule my life, give up on my future, and fall into complete despair. If you have never lost a child, I cannot tell you how strong this pull can be. Or, I can courageously live in today, trusting that God’s grace will be enough for tomorrow.

More times than I can count, I have chosen the first route. But the good thing is, this is a choice I get to make again every day. And I am learning, though sometimes slowly, to choose the better option. To recognize the pain, and work through it as it comes, yet entrust my life and future to the One who sees beyond my pain. To realize that my questions, hurt, and even anger are all part of being human, yet these things don’t have to define me. There is One who defines me and he already knows the end from the beginning. While I know that He didn’t plan my pain, he knew it would come, and He has promised to see me through it.

One of the scriptures that I have clung to for the last months is Psalm 139. Here is my favorite part:

“…Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the night around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You…”

Wow. No matter what this journey is like any given day, He is with me. When I don’t know where I am, He is with me. When it feels like darkness is all around, the darkness (pain, emptiness, despair, disappointment, broken dreams, death, loss) is not even dark to Him. Not because He doesn’t understand or doesn’t care. But rather, because He knows the rest of the story. He hasn’t changed. Knowing that my God is not surprised, shocked, or moved even by what shakes me to the core, brings me an everlasting hope in who He is and even more…what He knows.

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  1. […] a fellow blogger and author of Mommy’s Heavenly Dream, writes this about her journey through grief,”These types of things happen all the time, and […]

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