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Dear self,
Yesterday you turned the big 3-0. Thirty.  Take a deep breath. That’s right. You are officially out of your 20’s.

Your 20’s were good to you. They brought you your husband. Your kids. Your career. Your passion.

But they were rough, too. The loss of your brother, your parents. Chronic sinus problems. Back trouble. Bad feet.

You’ve had some good times – times you’ve laughed until you’ve cried, times you’ve cried until you laughed.  Sometimes those events were the same day!  There’s been lots of lessons learned.  Lots of friends made, and more than a few you’ve lost touch with over the years.  You’ve learned relationships are tough.  Sometimes really tough.  Tough just to keep going – tough to put the extra work in to keep the flame alive.  But oh, so very, very worth it.

I guess I wanted to write you this to give you some advice. Advice you probably won’t listen to, but you’ll nod and smile and say you’ll listen, and I wanted to write it out here so there were witnesses, so to speak.  So here it is. The big advice for you going into your 30s:  Do hard stuff.

Life is hard.  Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Friendships are hard. Work is hard. Faith is hard. Cleaning is hard. Downtime is hard.

Cooking is hard to find time for in light of all that other stuff.

Be kind to yourself – but also, be good at doing hard stuff, because at the end of the day that’s really what life is about.  Dig in to the moment, be present and real with people.  Acknowledge that you’re doing something hard, and then do it.  Give yourself a break when you fail, because you’re going to. Just be ready for it.  Every day you’re going to wake up with 57 things to do and you are going to fail to do most of them.

Try to do them anyways.  Don’t half-ass it, either, because who wants half-ass attention? No one. So do one thing really good. And then do another, and another, and another.  You may end up with 14 good things by the end of the day. Awesome. You did good.  You failed at 43 things, but they don’t matter because you rocked at 14 things.

When you turn 30 (if you’re me) you start to think about your legacy.  At the end of my life I want to be known as someone who was real.  Someone who had to dig her way through life with broken nails and tear stains and dirty tennis shoes who was a real person to the people she interacted with.  I don’t want people to think I’m something I’m not. I’m a mess – just like every other human being on this messy broken earth.

By the grace of God I’d like to fight against that brokenness – the brokenness that destroyed my parents, the brokenness that threatens to take others every day… I’d like to BE KIND and DO HARD STUFF because it helps fix some of that brokenness. And if on any given day I can only do 14 good things, or even just 1 good thing, it means the world is that many more things better than it was yesterday.

I just had to share this quote because, well, I think it needs to be read.  And reread.  Sarah Bessey is one of the few reasons I haven’t completely given up on reading blogs.  Some days there’s too much anger and misunderstood words on the internet, and she is a peace to me in the storm.  I love her writing, so let me share what she wrote about the Shikh Temple shooting.

Hard conversations are coming, perhaps legislation, around gun control, about hatred, racism, religion, about our culture’s glorification of violence, our nationalism, and the divisions between us, yes, those conversations need to happen, but not just now: now is the time for grieving, now is the time for loving, for burying, for mourning with those who mourn, for gathering humanity together, and for compassion.

I believe that it is precisely because of my Christian faith that I am sitting my heart down, mourning with those that mourn, grieving and honouring, loving and praying. Love casts out fear, and may the mouths of the faithful be filled with words of Love and hope and peace, never fear.

Thank you, Sarah, for your beautiful words.

(Source)

For those of you who don’t follow the news (and these days I don’t blame you) it has been a rough week for those involved in Public Safety. 

  • Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron from Austin Police Department. Shot and killed after responding to a drunk at Walmart. End of watch April 6, 2012.
  • Deputy Sheriff Ryan Tvelia from Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office. Motorcycle accident. End of watch April 10, 2012.
  • Deputy Sheriff Robert Paris from Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. Shot while serving an eviction. End of watch April 12, 2012.
  • Police Chief Michael Maloney from Greenland Police Department. Shot while serving a drug related search warrant. End of watch April 12, 2012.

I don’t have words to express the heartbreak I feel for the the people in these agencies.  For those in the public safety sector these names – whether or not we know them personally – represent brothers and sisters.  These are people united in a cause of justice and community service.  I have grieved a similar loss.

It’s easy to forget that cops are usually people just like you and I that want to go home to their family at the end of the shift.  They post pictures of their kids on Facebook.  They’re not always crooked or bad or focused on putting people in jail.  They like to go to concerts.  They want a safe place to live and raise their families, they want to see justice done, they want to help society catch bad guys.  They dress up for Halloween.  They like mexican food and sushi and drinking beer.  They love football.  Sometimes they drink.  They go to church.  They have husbands and wives and parents.

They serve, but they still cherish life.  And when someone takes that from them… it’s difficult.  I’m not a police officer, but I work side by side them every single day.  I go to church with them, I talk to their wives, I smile when their kids succeed.  I pray when they struggle.  They’re humans.  Now, granted, they’re humans who carry guns, but generally that’s only 40-50 hours a week.  The other 120ish hours they’re sons and daughters and mothers and fathers.  They’re friends.  They’re usually good people (I say usually: I know some cops are bad, but they’re few and far between and not the focus of this writing). 

Please, when you get the chance, when you see that patrol car flying code somewhere or driving behind you, please take a second to think about their job. The risk they take putting that vest on every day.  If you see a police officer eating lunch, don’t ask them about the parking ticket you got last week – just thank them for trying to protect you.  Nod and smile.  Don’t break the law.  Don’t shoot them and take their life. Is that so much to ask?

I wanted to write something about how this week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week – the week that dispatcher’s are recognized for their support of Police, Fire and Ems responders.  But I can’t because my heart is heavy and broken and I wish there was more I could do.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction

I would like someone to write a song, please.  I don’t have the skill for songwriting.  I would like you to model it after “Does Anybody Hear Her?” by Casting Crowns.  I would like you to tell a different side of the story.

She is trying but the canyon’s ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart

The song is about a broken woman who wants love and acceptance and help from the people of the church but does not get the help she needs.  I would like you to write a song about the people who offer love and acceptance and help to a broken person… to no avail. 

So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She’s another two years older
And she’s three more steps behind

I would like you to talk about how heartbreaking it is to sit beside them and watch them run in the wrong direction.

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she’s going down today?

I would like you to talk about having an opportunity to help them.  About how scary it is when they move in to your world and how happy and hopeful you are that this time, this time it will be different.

Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

Sometimes we do see.  Sometimes we see the hurting, and the broken, and the bruised.  Sometimes we say to ourselves: Hey, we should be like Jesus and try to help them.  Sometimes they ask for help and you see an opportunity.

 She is yearning for shelter and affection
That she never found at home

So we invite them into our world.  We take them to church.  We hug them and cry with them.  We feed them and clothe them and pray for them and with them.  Sometimes it works for a while. 

She is searching for a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day

Sometimes you tell them their worth and they nod, and they smile, but they don’t believe it.  You tell them to have faith in their own worth.  You tell them that they are God’s precious and loved child, and their lips say “I know” while their heart can’t believe it yet.

You pray for them.  You kneel at your bed and you cry for their soul.  You pray that God will give you the words you need to reach them in the midst of their brokenness. 

And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

And then… then they tell you that they’re leaving.  That they’ve found another path, another way out, one that doesn’t involve the hard work of facing the pain.  They’re leaving so they don’t have to deal with someone loving them, but telling them that they need to make better (and admittedly more difficult) choices.

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can’t see past her scarlet letter
And we’ve never even met her

You watch them go.  Despite the sacrifice of time and energy you watch them leave.  You know it’s fruitless.  You know they’re not ready to change.  You’ve seen for some time now that your argument was ineffective. 

One of the worst parts about this, in my opinion, is that when it’s all said and done there is a small part of you that is relieved it’s over.  Don’t get me wrong: the overwhelming emotion is grief and sadness.  But there is also relief tinged with guilt – relief that your time of sacrifice is over, and guilt at being relieved.  How can you be relieved they’re going back to their broken life?  But you’re human, and you’re glad that this means less stress and sacrifice to you and your family.

And there’s a bit of doubt.  Did I try hard enough? Did I show them enough love? Could I have changed the situation a bit and had more success?

The important thing to remember here, and the thing I have to remind myself, is that I can’t fix anyone.  I can’t make them better.  Only God can.   That is what I hold on to.  When I feel all these emotions so strongly, I remind myself that God is the great physician and we are his broken church.  Ultimately, He is the one who heals.  We just point people in His direction.    

So, dear reader, if you decide to write a song about one of the other sides of “Does Anybody Hear Her” then please make sure you talk about how in the end, God is the great transformer…not us.  I know I’m asking a lot, and I know you probably won’t write a song about such a sad and helpless place, but my request has been made. 

I’d like a song that reminds me that sometimes we fail, but at least we tried.

(all italicized words from “Does Anybody Hear Her” by Casting Crowns from their album Lifesong.)

Grief is a funny thing. It has affected me in so many different ways throughout my life and sometimes it doesn’t feel fair the way I feel. Grief forces me to feel a way I generally don’t want to feel – angry, mad, sad, numb, relieved…etc.

The past few nights I have not slept well at all. You could say I am grieving – and that’s exactly what I am saying – although I don’t have a very good reason to grieve right now. Hmm. I don’t know that I’m wording this very well, let me try again. There’s nothing new that has happened in my life that gives me a reason to be grieving. There.

I kind of feel like this grief may be residual grief that I never really worked through with my folks. Maybe certain things didn’t get dealt with because of the huge big crazy tragedy that was their death. Maybe I didn’t deal with some of the stuff because I was too busy caring for others.

I’ll probably never know.

I know what triggered this, but I won’t elaborate here because the trigger isn’t a part of my story, it belongs to someone else. It’s not important any way. What is important, though, is that I recognize that grief is OK. Even if the grief hits me almost three full years after their death.

So the part of grief that has hit me is this crazy inability to stay asleep. I can’t close my eyes without thinking about terribly depressing subjects and seeing floods of “what ifs” race through my consciousness. When I finally do wrestle myself to sleep, I wake with a start at the slightest disturbance around me. I bolt up, heart racing, and take forever to get back to sleep. As you can imagine, this has been slightly irritating.

So what do I do?

I recognize that this is normal. I recognize that grief is weird and strange and affects everyone differently and maybe this is how I have to grieve – one piece at a time – so I don’t fall apart at the seams. I recognize that my mind has to process things in its own time. I recognize that my job is to sit here, tired, and remember that through all this – the grief and the pain and the sleepless nights – I am not alone. I recognize that this sucks, but that it’s part of life. And I blog about it, so that maybe someone out there googling how to deal with grief will find these words and know that they, too, are not alone.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I miss you guys so much.  I can’t believe you’ve been gone a year.  It’s flown by and dragged in so many different ways.  I’m almost done handling your estate… you guys suck for not having a will, by the way.  What a pain! But some good has come from it – I’ve preached pretty heavily about the importance of a will to my friends, and actually convinced a few to get one.  Their loved ones would thank you in advance, if they knew.

I hate how things ended for us. I hate that you guys are going to miss out on watching your grand kids grow up, I hate that I don’t have your advice to turn to.  I’m glad I have the memories I do have, though.  They comfort me when your loss hits me all over again.

I know you guys did the best you could do to raise us, I just wish you would have focused more on yourselves.  There was obviously a lot of unspoken pain that had never been dealt with.  On both your parts.  It kind of breaks my heart, because while we saw glimpses of it I don’t think any of us really realized the full impact of what we were seeing.  Of course, does anyone ever really understand? Hindsight being 20/20 and all of that.

Dad, do you remember the first anniversary of Grandma Marie’s death? It was May 2002 and I said something about it and you got so angry at me for bringing it up! It had only been one year, and I was still hurting.  I wanted to talk about it, to heal, and you wouldn’t let me have my say.  I think about that now and realize that you were hiding from the pain.  I’m so sorry that I didn’t see that at the time.  I’m not hiding from the pain of losing you, though, because it’s about time our family stopped repeating past mistakes.

Mom, remember the way your face crumpled up when you got the phone call that Nanny died?  I remember the way your voice broke and you wailed.  I did the same thing when I lost you.  I know it’s not fair to say I miss one of you more than the other, but if I’m honest then I miss you most of all.  I can’t call you while I’m in the store anymore and tell you about my day.  I miss the way you laughed and the joy that you made me feel.

Mom and Dad, not a day goes by that it doesn’t hurt me that you’re gone.  I think about the amazing things in my life that are coming up and I mourn your absence.  I wish you could still be here.  It’s only been a year and it feels like yesterday and a million years ago that you were here hugging me, telling me you love me.

I love you too.

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