I should be done grieving. But, oh, good Grief! Here we go again. I thought I could spiritualize my way around you, tiptoe past you this year. I thought I could hand out flowers and chocolates and meals and do-good charm you. But you found me again, me and that man of mine, whom I love more than words can wield the matter. I should be done with grieving, but I’m not. He’s not. And this mother heart has to find a new way to grieve when I should be done grieving, but am not even close to being done.
We Should Be Done Grieving, but We're Not
Good Grief! Here we are, in the bedroom, screaming over a basketball game and our dead child’s birthday dinner. I’m throwing the marriage book and screaming, Why the hell are we reading this? Do these people have a kid in the ground? What do they know of hell? He’s looking at me like I’m crazy, out of my mind. Maybe I am. Maybe this love burning inside me is a little crazy, but that’s the mama that I am. That’s the mama I have always been: fighting ferocious, standing up to doctors, refusing to listen to a terminal diagnosis, battling in prayer. Always fighting for my babies is where you’ll find me, until I breathe my last.
And what does a mother heart do with that fighting love when her child leaves her first? And what does a husband do with her when she’s wild with grief?
I wonder sometimes if we’re the only people out there still bleeding, still clawing at each other, still battling for our own style of mourning, still drowning next to each other? Is there a way past this pain that we cannot see? Are we not spiritual enough, not strong enough, not focused enough?
Everyone wants to believe you can put half your heart in the ground and not miss it. Everyone wants to believe that if the unfathomable happened to them, they could survive it. Be sad, sure. Cry just a little. Trickle a tear. But no one wants to be torn limb by limb with grief. No one wants to feel every day’s waking is a curse. No one even wants to hear my mama heart say it on the hard days.
When You Should Be Done Grieving, Find Solace in Holy Week
Holy Week is our time every year to not shy away from the gruesome memories of blood and sweat and tears wrought from the world’s ugliness. It’s our time every year to remember the feelings of defeat of an entire broken world as Jesus hangs on the cross. It’s the time for those of us who won’t shy away from the truth that heart-rending grief changes us. Forever. And we are never the same again.
In this week of Holy, I wonder at Mary’s heart. I wonder at the long-term effects she endured from watching her baby Jesus beaten and broken. I wonder how she endured every lash and hammer her child suffered? I wonder, even after the resurrection, was she ever the same again, after watching her baby be crucified? After that agony? Could anyone ever be the same again, even with the resurrection rooting deep in a soul?
Jesus tells his mother, “I make all things new,” not “it’s okay, Mama,” or “you’re going to get over this after a while.” He’s not sugar-coating her grief or her pain, or the inevitable cruelty that their time together on earth is done. He’s promising her transfiguration for her pain, hope in the face of the cross. He’s promising her through every moment of agony that He is not done working. He is not done working through our griefs, and making the ugly beautiful.When You Should Be Done Grieving, Don't Give Up
I wonder at Mary’s grief, and if it resembled mine. I wonder at her heart even after her son rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. How she must have ached for her Yeshua!
I keep thinking there’s something wrong with me, something dysfunctional, something unspiritual in this grieving I cannot cease. It rips me open, even now just once or twice a year. But however seldom I experience this sear, I become instantly wild for relief as this burning fire pours through me. After eight years, I know one thing: there is no relief. I can drink myself drunk, I can pour chocolate down my gullet, charge up my credit cards, scream at my husband, hate everyone, and still the lava flows.
I am left once again, desperate and small in the enormous weight of my child’s absence. I still ache whole minutes in every day. I still wonder at the decades stretched before me, the year after year of loss I shall endure. Some days I wonder how it’s even possible to live heart-broken for a whole, entire life.
Mamas who are hurting, who are grieving, who feel that life will never be the same again, know this: it won’t. Life is forever different, and some things change us indelibly. Every child we birth changes us, molds us, makes us grow. Every child leaves their mark on our bodies and all throughout our souls. Do not be ashamed that your grief still rages years after your child is gone, lest you be ashamed of the love still roaring inside you for every one of your living children.
When You Should Be Done Grieving, Let Your Love Flow Anyway
Dear sweet, grieving Mama, know this: it’s okay. This is how heartbreak is supposed to feel. This is mama love transfigured. Your yearly, quarterly, monthly, daily lava flow is love. Love!
When lava flows, when it shoots up between the cracks of the earth’s tectonic plates, it literally makes new ground. Lava builds islands in ocean. Lava birthed the Hawaiian Islands.
Watch how lava from the Kilauea Volcano pushes through seven miles of ocean to erupt on the shores of the Big Island of Hawaii and add new land to its shores:
I don’t know what is more amazing or comforting or down right affirming than this? In all of these waves and all of this fire and all of this mix of brokenness my heart seems to be flooding out with today? The reassurance that maybe, just maybe, this grief may be breaking new ground when it is allowed to force through miles of ocean, of supposed-to’s, of expectations, and do what it was made to do? And if I try foolishly to sit on this volcano, what will I be forcing myself to hold onto: molten, fiery rock burning me up inside?
Instead of listening to the shoulds, I can choose to let my grief flow, allowing it to force its way through an ocean of flood, to birth new life.
My grieving friends, know that the love burning inside of you, eating you up, corroding your heart, is meant to be released. Don’t pretend it’s not there. If you find yourself surrounded by people who pressure you to do so, find a new circle. Find a new ocean where you can release this love to birth new ground. Then, sit back to watch as this new life you’ve faithfully delivered takes shape.
Maybe those of us who have said goodbye to our children have the most amazing task of all mothers: to keep letting the lavas of grief rise, breaking new ground for those who come grieving and erupting behind us.
You are loved, Mama. You are justified in your volcanic grief. Now: let it birth.
Broken and gushing lava,