Learning to stay afloat in the waves of grief
They say that grief comes in waves.
And it’s true. The emotion comes and goes, comes and goes, comes and goes.
They also say that you should never turn your back on the ocean; waves can come strong – catching you off guard – and hit you harder than you were prepared for.
The waves of grief are no different. You might understand intellectually that they will keep coming, but some days they hit more forcefully, more fiercely than you ever imagined possible. And just when you thought you might be able to predict the next set, a rogue wave comes rushing in, undermining your balance and sweeping your feet out from under you.
I’m feeling it today – the tsunami of sadness all over again.
The angst of the last several days has receded (temporarily?) but in it’s place is a powerful ache.
Just days ago I told Ryan that I felt “mad at the world.” My emotional tolerance has been stripped back to the bare bones and every remotely unpleasant thought or word or deed was making me rage internally. Not at anyone or anything in particular – just this vague, unnamed angst leaving me tightly wound and poised to explode at any triviality in my line of fire.
Coping with the anger has been the hardest when I’m around my children. They act like toddlers and I fume beneath my skin – it’s too loud, too messy, too hard, too chaotic, too demanding, too physical, too emotional, too stressful, too thankless – while my nerves rattle and my flesh cry out. They need me too much. What can I possibly give them?
And then I agonize with guilt, knowing they’re just. being. normal. Two high-energy boys who love their mama and need her present and haven’t yet learned that the world doesn’t spin on their every whim and desire.
No doubt they also feel the emotional undercurrents, even if they aren’t able to articulate or understand.
So I bite my tongue and count to ten under my breath. I’m smoldering within, while trying to keep calm for the sake of these littles whom I love so dearly and don’t want to let down. The guilt melts me as I’m on the verge of collapse and don’t they deserve a mom who can hold it together just a little bit better? I think as I shake my head and mumble a prayer.
You see, I know truth. But sometimes truth doesn’t actually making the living it out any easier.
Yet today there is no anger. I’m glad for a break in the boiling, but in its place resides a deep, wide sadness and a longing to have her back in my womb where she fit so well – where things felt right.
(I wasn’t ready to let go. I’m not sure how to say goodbye.)
I scoop up the boys and load them into the car. Let’s change our scenery; let’s try to play.
When I see her I say hello – the woman who cut my hair last June (have I really not had a haircut in nearly a year?). I’ve never seen her son before, but now he plays with mine on the playground and it is clear they’re delighting in each other.
Do you have other children? I ask.
“Just my son,” she pauses—patting her belly—“and a baby on the way.”
I smile and she adds, “Due October 12th.”
My eyes well with tears as I think of her baby sharing a due-date with mine. (Mine, the one who was supposed to come. Wasn’t she supposed to come??)
But I keep smiling anyway and tell her congratulations, that’s wonderful, because of course, it is and I mean it.
It’s wonderful, and right, and beautiful, but the thought of it stops me in my tracks and I feel broken and empty all over again.
It’s all just so raw, so hard.
While driving home I cry and cry in silence behind my dark sunglasses, thankful that the boys can’t see my wet cheeks from the backseat. (I don’t want to hide from them, but I don’t want to burden them either. Protect them Lord.)
“Why are you sad mommy?” Levi asks as he sees my shoulders shaking from behind. “Because you want the baby to come home?”
Yes, I gasped. Yes.
I just want the baby to come home. I miss her.
“Yeah,” he says, before going quiet again. (And sometimes the best thing for a woman treading the waters of grief is just for someone to say yeah and to validate how hard it really is.)
I know that tomorrow I’ll be okay. I might go back to feeling angry. I might feel tired. I might feel joy. I might feel nostalgia and gratitude for the prayers that were answered and the time that we had. I might cry about unfolded laundry or have the urge to rearrange the closet or watch too much tv or finish my taxes (I doubt it). I might decide to take the boys to get ice cream cones at a really inappropriate time (breakfast?) or dust off my guitar and sing “Silent Night” just one more time.
Or there might be no waves at all tomorrow. It might be flat and still on the horizon, a day to sail easily in calm seas.
I’ll try not to busy myself too much to mask the suffering or bury myself too much that I can’t see the Hope That Never Fails. I might do well or I might fail. (And there’s grace for both. Amen.)
Because I know – our girl is safe now. (Entirely.) She is loved. (Always.) She is whole. (Completely.) She’s made new. (Miraculously.)
And I’m glad for that, truly.
I only wish that my small gladness would ease the missing a little bit more.
It’s stormy here today. I try to adjust my sails and I attempt to work within the waves.
But it’s hard. It’s really hard.
[Beautiful print via UUPP.]
Friends, thank you for your tender emails and comments. It breaks my heart that there are so many mothers who share in this form of suffering. I wish I could draw near and hug you all and tell you (as I tell myself) “we’ll get through this”. I want to hear your story, validate your pain, honor your child, and cry with you over your empty picture frames and empty arms. But I can’t. So instead I ask Him to come, to draw near, to speak softly, to usher in grace that covers everything. The waves are relentless, but I have to believe they bring a form of life that would otherwise remain out of reach. I have to keep believing. I just have to. And you, friends? How have you experienced the waves of grief in your own life?