Last week I started this two part post on the lessons I learned through grief. I touched on the goodness of God throughout my experience, the importance of community, and what it is like to take the reprieve. If you missed it, you can check it out here. In this post, I want to share a few more things I learned in that season.
Before Dad died, God had been talking to me about vulnerability for a couple years. Before I attended BSSM, I thought vulnerability was weakness. I thought I had to be strong for everyone around me. Life got a little bit more fun and meaningful as soon as I got over that but I still had to learn how to walk out vulnerability.
About a month or so before he died, the Lord asked me “Are you willing to let yourself be taken care of?” Now, I knew the “right” answer was yes but I wasn’t quite comfortable with that so I didn’t answer the question. I was the one that took care of people. I quickly found out that, it didn’t really matter if I was willing to be taken care of or not, I had no choice. I suddenly needed help meeting very basic needs. My willingness would only make it easier to receive care.
Not long after I returned home from attending the funeral, I had the first of many anxiety attacks. I was in the middle of making myself a sandwich, but sudden paralyzation kept me from finishing. I somehow managed to ask for help and one of my housemates joined me in the kitchen. I asked her to finish making my sandwich. That was the height of the realization of my vulnerability. I had always been independent and capable of taking care of myself but for this season, I needed to be taken care of. Then, I remembered the question God had asked me.
It was in this season that I truly started to practice asking for what I needed, not only physically but emotionally as well. There were a couple moments when I told people what I needed to hear. It wasn’t that what they were saying was insincere, it was that the words I asked for were the only things louder than the lies and anxiety in my mind. I experienced so much grace and love because of it. It was the kind of grace and love that is only experienced inside of raw vulnerability. I was truly seen and loved in all of my brokenness. I was able to trust and receive the love people had for me.
Ride the wave
I’m not sure how far I was into my grieving process, but I found an article. I wish I could find it again but to be honest, I don’t remember what the whole thing was about. I do remember it talked about one thing-riding the wave. It is useless to fight waves of pain. We can’t stop them from coming and we will likely get knocked over and toppled not knowing which was is up or down if we try. But if we ride the wave, we will find ourselves back to shore. I realize it’s not a perfect metaphor, but you get the idea.
I took that idea to heart. On one of my more difficult days, I felt this work. It was a long day and I wanted to see a friend that I hadn’t seen since before dad had died. We could not make it work for several reasons and I was left hurt, anxious and unsure of what I actually needed in that moment. I was lying in my bed when I remembered the phrase-ride the wave. I wrapped up in my blanket, grabbed on to my headboard and held on for 10 minutes while I felt physical waves of pain overcome my body. Grief will do weird things to you. I didn’t fight it. I felt it. I felt it come and I felt it lift. I was able to get up afterward and join the rest of my housemates in the living room.
This is a more practical lesson than the others. As one who enjoys journaling, I took to writing letters to my dad. Though our relationship was restored there were still some things left unsaid. But there were also things I just wanted him to be around for. In some ways, I was able to see more of his heart after he died. I only wrote a few times, but each letter was healing. I was able to release what was in my deepest heart while feeling connected him. I still cry every time I look back at those letters and they still allow me to feel connected to him.
I found this piece in my journal that I feel sums up grief. I wrote this on the 1-year anniversary of his death.
Grief was an unwelcome friend. I never invited grief on this journey, but it came anyway. While it was an unwelcome friend, it was a friend nonetheless. It was the only one that could truly grasp what I was feeling. It was the only thing that brought the tangible Presence of God like no worship song ever could. It brought a kind of love that can only be experienced inside of it. Some tried to wish away my grief while others knew that being held was the only thing that would alleviate the pain. They knew about the necessary friendship of grief. Grief brought me a lot of gifts, possibly to make up for the unbearable pain in caused.