I live in the eastern half of the United States where it appears that we are on the cusp of a seasonal change . . . finally! I’m no groundhog forecaster, but winter looks poised to cast off her cold, white wrappings in favor of the soft pastels of spring. And just as the seasons change, those who grieve face seasonal changes of their own. From birth through the golden years there are natural changes that require constant adjusting.
Even though many of us walk a grief journey, we don’t take our first steps at the same time or handle our losses exactly the same way. However, no matter the differences among us, collectively we “get” the deep pain we bear. We are well aware of the grief that is a permanent part of our steps going forward. Like the changing seasons, our grieving faces are constantly changing, too.
Let’s ponder some of grief’s faces, shall we? You may have other faces that fit your personal experience, and, as they come to mind, I encourage you to respond and share your thoughts with our growing community of cyber survivors.
The denial face ~ There is not one survivor who cannot recall the exact moment tragedy struck . . . it was as if the hands of time stopped at that precise second, right? I remember exactly where I stood, the time of day, the day of the week, and the crush of excruciating pain at hearing the worst words on earth. That precise moment, when it seemed like time stopped forever, is forever frozen in my memory.
Oh, how I wanted to believe that my son had not done the unthinkable . . . How could he take his own life? There followed a whole host of reactions: disbelief, shock, and denial to name a few. Remember them? If you are here, may I hasten to add that the denial face will pass.
The foggy face ~ As caring people gathered around, I could appreciate their desire to love and comfort me, but where could I go to be alone? I needed to think, but I couldn’t think. I wanted to be a good hostess, but I felt dull, lifeless, and numb thru and thru. I remember people trying to coax some life into me, insisting that I eat, but I wasn’t hungry.
Someone attempted to start a conversation by asking the question, “Have you been working on any crafts lately?” C-r-a-f-t-s? The word sounds vaguely familiar, I remember thinking. I stared back at the questioner and didn’t answer. At that moment I had no idea what she was talking about and could care less. Can you relate? If you are here, may I hasten to add that the foggy face will pass.
The angry face ~ Sometimes anger barges in as grief begins. Being a secondary emotion to pain, it takes its rightful place. It’s natural to want a solution. Guilt and blame take their places in our minds, too. They may be directed outward to others or inward to self. Sometimes, as in my experience, others direct their pain toward those who are hurting the most. As the grief journey moves along, anger and guilt will likely come and go, which does not mean the person is going backward. It is common to re-visit the stages of grief throughout the journey. Most of us feel an insatiable burden to put all the puzzle pieces of tragic loss together somehow. It is our effort to make sense out of the senseless act that claimed the life of someone we love.
The reality face ~ Remember this one? I think my reality was attached to a ton of bricks . . . and it hit hard. The realization that my firstborn would never darken my doorway again hit me even harder. Bruised, battered, and shattered beyond recognition of the old normal, was this to be my new reality? Was this the beginning of a new normal? Was I going to pine for the old normal, or would I like the new one? I am here to say that I am adjusting to my new normal and getting comfortable in my new skin. You will, too.
The mask face ~ This one is hard to describe because I could wear a different mask at any given time. Maybe you do, too? If I had errands to run, my mask was made of stone, my jaw set. If I passed someone, I did not make eye contact. Those first months after my son died I feared I would lose control and burst into tears if I even looked into someone else’s eyes. Over time this changed. I no longer see my son’s likeness in the distant faces of young men. In my experience, the masks slowly dissolved away as I became more comfortable with my new normal and the faces of others felt less intrusive.
The turnabout face ~ I’ve been on this journey long enough to be able to look back with almost 20/20 clarity. No. Not all of my questions have answers, but I have been able to put the picture together and come to some understanding as to why my son died. Missing answers equals missing puzzle pieces. I will have to wait until I see my son again to finish the puzzle . . . but with the rush of excitement at seeing him again, I doubt I’ll care.
The forward face ~ This is the face I wear now, as I face forward in anticipation of the King of King’s awesome soon return. I will, at last, see my firstborn son again (1 Thes. 4:16). I have peace in spite of losing him because I know he is not suffering. He knows nothing of my sorrow (Eccl. 9:5). The Bible says that we will go to heaven together, and I like that (1 Thes. 4:15). I can’t wait to hug him again. I can’t wait to see his smiling face and hear the musical notes in his laughter.
Living with hope does not mean I no longer grieve. I surely do. But in the seasons of change now, I have the opportunity to give back by helping others navigate their own grief journeys. May you be blessed today, my friend.
“O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am.” Psalm 139:1
Verse shared from The Voice (VOICE)