Well if I didn’t already scare you away with the title of this post, welcome! Haha! I’m hoping you’re reading this because you’ve also been through a trauma of some kind that you are grieving. Actually, I take that back… I hope you’ve never lost someone. However, that’s part of life on earth. I used to say those of us who have lost someone live in a different world than those who have not. It’s true. So if you are reading and have yet to loose someone or grieve something traumatic I hope this gives you some insight and can help you encourage others in your life who have.
My journey with grief…. SCRATCH THAT! Don’t you just hate when people talk like that? “My journey” and all that crap?! I want to yell – just be real! Grief just sucks! It’s not a journey it’s a suckfest! Okay, to be honest it’s taken me many years to talk about my grief without anger and judgement. So, it’s okay if you use the word “journey”… I guess we can still be friends. I suppose I do use the “journey” word every once in a while – but I promise I’m being real! Let’s do something I should have done way back in the beginning… for the rest of the post we won’t try and judge which of our loses were more traumatic or roll our eyes at the wording we use. Let’s be here for each other and just listen. Okay?
Here’s my story in a nutshell as it relates to our topic at hand for today. I was 18 years old and had just started my first semester in college. As much as I wanted to go away to school and enjoy some freedom it was harder for me to be away than I thought. My sister was only 15 years old and I felt I had abandoned her and my home youth group a little bit. I had made a surprise trip home because I was so homesick… cost my dad a fortune on a last minute plane ticket! A month later I was walking – er… speed walking – to my class I was already late for. I got a phone call from a friend that wouldn’t normally call so I picked up and tried to keep running. Her dad was the Vice President at my university and used to be a pastor in my home district. We’d known this family for decades. She told me to get my boyfriend and have us both come to her dad’s office in the student union building… and she was all weird sounding. I got nervous and assumed we had done something to get into trouble.
We walked into Pastor Bob’s office and my friend was also in there. We went into the counseling room and Pastor Bob said “You know your friend Felipe?” and I said “Felipe Paes, yeah?”… and the rest is a blur. I remember Pastor Bob telling us he was in a car accident that morning and had died. My eyes filled with tears. All of a sudden my mom was on the speaker phone and was saying things. She said we were going to get on a plane and come home. Then we both went back to our separate dorms to pack. I got to my room and just didn’t know what the heck to do. I tried packing. All I could do is stare at the photo of my friend on my wall that I had put there when I moved in. Felipe and his brother Fabricio had become family to me and my sister. We had never had brother’s before and they had never had sisters. I loved and still love Felipe greatly. What’s more, I loved the life we all had together. The greatest of friends that had become family.
My first loss. Nine and half years ago. That tidbit of my story really isn’t the grief part. That’s just how I found out I had lost someone very near to me. The grief came in waves. Sometimes there would be a lull and I’d feel okay-ish for a minute. Suddenly all the grief, sadness, emptiness would hit me like a ton of bricks. Have you ever been caught in a big wave? It knocks you over so quickly and forcefully and you’re under water. You can’t breathe and you’re trying to get up to get air and you just can’t fight the wave. The only way to survive the biggest wave is to let it take you. When the worst has passed you lift your head and fight for the top of the water. Finally, air. Still you’re nervous about when the next wave will come so you struggle to get out of the water. You have to move fast otherwise you’ll get caught.
Life changed completed in an instant. I not only grieved the loss of my friend, but also the loss of what life was for us all before the tragedy. We were all happy and had such great love for each other and life. I went back to college a week later. All the way across the country. I went from being engulfed in tears to a dorm full of giggling girls and people moving about their life. I was stuck standing still. It was like watching the world from behind a glass window, like those ones you see on doctor shows where the people can watch the surgery? I was on one side of the glass, standing there stunned in a gray foggy darkness, and everyone else was on the other side of the glass moving around in color as if nothing happened. I watched everyone living. I was stunned and speechless. I felt invisible on the other side of the wall. Nothing for me could ever be the same. I just wished I could skip ahead 5 years when I assumed the pain wouldn’t be as raw.
Nine years later there is still pain, but life has moved back into color and I do enjoy it again. This past week something was triggered in me and I had a moment where I felt like I was right back there again. It was so confusing. I thought “aren’t I past this stage?”. Fortunately my mom helped talk me off the ledge and I’ve learned by now (a least a little bit) some ways to get through. I’d like to share with you my thoughts and some things that have helped me on my grief journey (okay, so I used the “journey” word, kill me).
Living with grief is a life long journey (there it is, that dang word again). I’m glad to report it does get better, but not solely because time has past. I’ve also let the real healer do His work. I’ve gone through a few other losses in my life since the death of my dear friend, but because that was the first it’s been most profound. Plus, I’ve already talked about some of my other experiences with loss on this blog. If you haven’t read those then check it out here, here, and especially here. I’m no expert, but this is what I’ve learned.
1) My loss allows for more of God’s will, because He fills in the gap with whatever He wants.
2) The ultimate loss isn’t the loss of a loved one or good health – it’s living your life without Jesus. He is the giver of hope, peace, joy, and true healing. He is the source of life.
3) I can’t ever get my loved one back and God may never heal my body, but because of my loss I have a new voice with a population of people who need encouragement from one of their own.
4) We will all be hit with some rough waves, but remember to lift your head and swim to the surface after it’s taken you for a whirl. Think of it this way, with each wave that carries you the shore becomes that much closer.
There are no rules for going through grief, other than don’t ever give up the fight. There is hope ahead for EVERYONE. Life ahead. Maybe a grief trigger will go off from time to time, like it did for me this week, but remember it’s just a wave. Everyone deals a little differently but you must deal with it to gain healing. Find your methods of coping. For me, it’s important to acknowledge the lessons I’ve learned while understanding there is still more to learn ahead. Some things will never make sense. Another way for me to cope is to write about it and talk with others who have experienced loss. After a conversation with a friend I feel revitalized. Even if their loss isn’t exactly the same as mine, as long as they’re good listeners and understanding then mutual healing can begin. Lastly, and the most important factor – my fulfillment in Jesus. When I am connected to the Holy Spirit there is a supernatural peace that covers me. The ultimate loss is living without the hope of Jesus.
“For I am convinced that
neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”