grief: the stuff they don’t tell you

Today marks five years that my stepdad went home to be with Jesus.

You know what’s strange about someone passing on a holiday like Thanksgiving? The date was the twenty-third but it was the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, today is the twenty-third, but tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It almost feels like two days of an anniversary. That kind of sucks, by the way. One day feels like it should be enough, right?

Losing an important person in your life is weird. I guess it’s like any other major life event: like getting married or having a baby. There are no words adequate enough to describe what it feels like. But unlike getting married or having a baby, this is the yucky kind of inadequate description. There are psychological terms and many suggestions for how to cope. But there is no way to put actual words to the feeling. They don’t tell you that you’ll feel some kind of intangible ache or hole.

What I’ve learned in five years now about grief that has been the most surprising and the most unnerving is its unpredictability. No anniversary feels the same. Today almost always feels different than yesterday. There is no way to plan, prepare or foresee when the wave will come. This is what makes grief so dang difficult. You can do everything right and still get knocked down.

The uncertainty of how or when it will hit you is part of what leads to the anxiety or heaviness. There’s no way to control it, so it feels so out of grasp.

But what I have also learned in the past five years is the good news that they don’t tell you, either. It’s simple and may not feel like much.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Psalm 34:18

Brokenhearted. That has to be the most accurate language that could be used to describe grief. It matters to me that the Bible chooses to word this truth in this particular way. We can tend to gloss over it because it sounds nice and makes sense.

We have to take this into account. The truth is that the Lord is always close. He loves us and His Spirit lives in us. But there is something different about the presence of God when our heart is broken. Why? Because it was never intended to be that way. God is love. He is good and kind and merciful and protective. It would go against His nature to not rush in when His kids are broken.

And if you’re reading this and thinking, “God does not feel close to me in my brokenness…“, I want to ask you a question really gently. Have you let Him be close? Are you looking for Him or even aware of Him at all?

God is always looking to draw us closer to Himself through His Spirit. Our feelings lie to us when they convince us He is not there. When we’re down deep in the dark, it almost always feels like we are there alone. I promise you, you are not alone.

This is it. This is what I’ve come to tell you in case no one else has.

Grief and hope can coexist.

In the darkness of loss, pain is all you can see. The goodness of God feels like a joke and certainly not a reality. But as grief comes in unpredictable waves, hope is one hundred percent predictable. Why? Our God is the God of hope [Romans 15:13]. Hope is expectation and trust in what will come or what else could be, and God has already told us the end of the story.

What is the end of the story? It’s this:

“God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

This is our inheritance and our future. The dark will not last long.

I can hold onto hope without dismissing my reality.

So this week, I have held grief pretty close. I have sat and watched videos of Pop and remembered just how much I have missed his laugh.

I have felt really sad that he hasn’t been there to watch my kids grow up and become such incredible and hilarious little people. I have pictured how proud he would be of me and Tyler and all that we have done and become in his absence. I have allowed myself to be really bummed out that this is still my family’s reality. There is just nothing good about cancer, y’all.

I hold all of that in my hands, and in my heart I hold the truth that the Lord has been close in my brokenness. He has been near, and He has made me more whole as I have trusted Him to truly be God.

I have friends today who just lost their mom last week. I have friends who are experiencing their first holiday without their loved one. And others who have been walking this road a very long time and know that the absence of their loved ones is always felt.

If you find yourself grieving in any way this week, I pray today that you would accept the grace given to you by God. Grace to be human. Grace to fall apart without shame. Grace to question and doubt and maybe even hide for a time.

And I pray that this same grace would draw you near to the God of hope. To accept this grace that pulls you up and shines light on all the places that were dark.

It is by grace you have been saved. It is by grace that you will make it through. Second after second and year after year.

May you dare to hope.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness, His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:20-22

4 thoughts on “grief: the stuff they don’t tell you

  1. This is our first year without my father in-law. Thank you so much for these words. They truly give me comfort during a difficult time.

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