The truth about grief, in my opinion

I posted today on Facebook the lyrics to one of my favorite old hymns: "it is well, it is well with my soul" and it's the truth. Deep down, in the core of my soul, I know that it is well. That dad is whole, and that I am going to be OK. That life is short and precious, and that it keeps on going.

But before you think I'm either lying, or sub-human, or both, let me admit that there's another layer, one not so deep. It's actually quite shallow, this one. And it is sad--which is to be expected, right? But wait. Even more than sad, it is irritable and distracted. It resents the fact that life has to keep on going, particularly when that life involves hungry children and dirty laundry. It sits down to respond to sweet e-mails and can't bring itself to reply a single word of thanks. Not for lack of time, but lack of energy.

I have waves of feeling angry at Dad for leaving us so early, so that no more good memories can be made. And then old memories wash over of the things that used to drive me crazy about him, probably in some primal attempt to shift the focus off my grief. And then I feel mad, and then I feel guilty.

I feel frustrated with the world that my floor is dirty and needs to be swept again. I have an unnatural hatred of smelly socks which seem to be in every conceivable size, lying inside out, everywhere I look. I don't want to grocery shop for the Thanksgiving gift baskets the kids are putting together at school or the Operation Christmas Child boxes from church. I don't want to oversee mundane spelling lists or fight about math homework. My younger kids are thrilled at how little I care about the amount of Halloween candy they eat, and Dora the Explorer DVDs play on an endless loop. And worst of all, I dread having to comfort my own crying children at night, when my patience has eroded down to nothing, as they grieve the loss of their grand-father. Because it requires more emotional strength than I have to spare.

I have an irrational desire to pack up and head back to Kenya now. As in, I could probably have us ready to board the plane tomorrow! It sounds lovely to skip the holidays and the rest of our speaking engagements and just throw ourselves back into the other life, the one where family isn't around anyway and nothing will look different than it ever was.

I was expecting the tears, but not so much the irritability. Not the desire to get out of dodge. Not my annoyances with my sweet children or loving husband who is doing everything he can to make life easier these days. And I don't have any brilliant insights on the matter.

I just know that this is a nitty-gritty part of life. Grief is real and varied and everyone experiences it differently. And I will be OK, and in that deep part, my soul is well. But for now, there may be times I seem distant or irritable or distracted. Please give me grace. I may not be able to express my thanks to every person who has blessed me with messages or cards or prayers. Please forgive my thoughtlessness. And if you have people in close physical proximity to your life who are grieving as well, don't ask them what you can do for them. Just tell them what night you're bringing dinner, or when you're picking up their kids, or that you will be mowing their lawn or shoveling their snow. Because, odds are, they couldn't tell you what they need from you if their life depended on it. Grief takes up too much room in the brain, or in the heart--there's no room left for opinions or brain-storming solutions to their needs. Grief isn't just sobbing tears, which pass. It's also numbness and distraction and apathy, which last far longer. At least in my opinion. 


  1. It matters - how you feel. Thank you for telling us. We're holding all of you close especially now. Laura


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