I thought I knew about grief having loss so many members of my immediate family. I can remember attending my first funeral and how fascinated I was with being able to be there. My grandfather, or should I say my grandmother's husband had passed away. I knew who he was but he abandoned my grandmother years ago. I was pretty young then and naïve to the nuances of adulting. Little did I know that attending funerals would come all too often and even harder to bare. I have watched death come and take a way my cousin, aunts, uncle, mother, father, brother, grandmothers, sister and my son. I can remember starting a semester at the University of the District of Columbia years back to study the field of mortuary science because I thought, even back then, if I can't console someone dealing with grief then I don't know who can. In some way I likened it to my calling to minister to the grief stricken and broken hearted. Well we are know that experience is the best teacher. How do you process grief? Clinically, we can read and be counseled on the five stages - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Not in that order of course. Each journey and wave of grief is different rightly so because we are different. I've noticed a difference in myself with this grief journey then in times past. These past nine months, since February 22nd when my son Timothy was shot and killed by a former Fairfax County police officer, has felt like I am a wakeboarder who loss her footing while riding the waves.
Image being pulled behind a boat, holding onto your board which has now become your life-raft. The waves coming in upon you so fast you can barely catch your breath. The water pounding against your face, arms, and upper body. The driver of the boat is unaware of your condition and you can't holler out because you are taking in water from the waves. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance begin to pull on you like weights beckoning you to let go. Give in. Sink to the weightiness of their presence and your emotions. There are various outcomes to the end of this story. Some give in because life after the death of your love one is unbearable. Their light grows dimmer as they slowly sink beneath the surface of the water. Others muster up enough strength to hold on, riding the grief wave, until it passes. They wake up and resume daily activities which resemble life but within the heart grows hard as time passes. I can see both of these paths before me now. I also have my experience of forgiveness, perseverance, and faith that has kept me this far. I also have the reality of knowing that I have been taking in water while being pulled and tugged by my emotions and memories in a way that I have never been before down a journey that I have never traveled before. It is only faith that hold me together. I accept that it is okay and I am okay. I can scream out unapologetically, "I have never been this way before and I am scared but I trust God." I can yell until I am out of breath, "I am taking in water but I refuse to let go!"
Self-preservation, the protection of oneself from harm or death. It means more than physical, it also means that my mental health and emotional well-being is safe, whether that's setting boundaries, maintaining self-esteem, taking breaks, and asking for help (therapy). Yes, I may be riding the grief wave through uncharted territory AND I will make it to land safely.
If you are going through a difficult time or season in life it is my prayer that you will be encouraged to hold on tighter to love, hope and a good ending. Yes you might be taking in water but HE won't let you drown. Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."