“Why do so many things have to remind me of her?” she asks with silvery pools rimming her cobalt eyes.
In her short decade, my daughter has experienced more loss than most adults I know.
Abigail perches herself beside me and sinks into the down comforter. She tucks her knees into her chest, then rests her chin in the crook formed between them.
I sigh while my heart seeks God in search of comforting words. I wish I could kiss away her pain like I used to.
“Because you love her,” I answer.
It’s been nearly two years since Christmas lights first cast a shadow over our hearts. Two long years since merriment mixed with mourning and the season of joy became a season of bittersweet struggle.
I’ve learned to appreciate the mourning. Deep grief is a sign you have deeply loved.
I once suffered an anaphylactic reaction. In an instant the air I’d taken in effortlessly hung out of reach. I gasped and wheezed with swollen effort. In that moment, I knew desperation.
Grief is like anaphylaxis of the soul. Love that once flowed freely is choked off. Grief’s long-reaching fingers clench your heart so hard you wonder if you’ll ever come out from under the weight of your own skin. If you’ll breathe again.
The red-lettered words you’ve believed for so long seem to buckle under immense sorrow. The promises that were so real and alive, feel distant and far off―no matter how desperately you cling to them.
You want nothing more than to rewind the clock and rewrite the story.
Even years later, the scent of freshly baked gingerbread or ring of candle-lit carols cinch your soul. Grief presses down with renewed vigor as if the clock’s hands remain perpetually stuck in sadness.
Even when you know God is there. Even when you see He is doing good things. There are days when you feel like you’re drowning but can’t see the water.
So you hold on to those red-lettered words like your life depends on it, because it does. And you carry on, because others are depending on you.
A friend wraps your hand in hers until one day, you find the wheezing has eased. The tears still fall, but you smile for a moment before you cry. You talk about it, and it’s okay.
You choose to trust God, and stop struggling to understand. Your lungs fill. Your lips praise. And it’s not just okay, it’s good.
Before long, you’re the one lacing fingers through a friend’s grief. The one sharing tears. The calm in her storm.
She believes you. And together, you believe Him. She holds on to you because she’s witnessed your heartbreak. You discover you’re capable of real, raw love like never before.
You marvel at what God has done. And you think this must be what it means to be blessed.
I want to whisper all these things into the hurting heart curled up beside me. The one that seems far too young to carry this burden.
I want to explain the inexplicable. To put words to it all. I long to help her understand deep loss prepares the way for great love. To help her see her pain has value.
I want her to know she is being equipped to love like Christ loves her. She will be a greater blessing in the lives she was created to touch because of her heartache.
But I can’t form the words.
“I’m sorry you’re hurting, honey. I love you.”
It doesn’t feel like enough. I press my lips against the line where dark strands meet fair skin.
“How about an ABC prayer? You go first.”
She nods, then rests her head beside mine. She wraps her fingers around my palm. “A. Thank you God for apples.” She starts, tucking her bottom lip between her teeth.
My turn. “B. Thank you God for breath.”
Abigail turns her face toward mine. I reach out and smooth a cool tear across a handful of freckles. The corners of her mouth curve upward.
She’s catching her breath. It’s going to be okay.
We’re going to be okay.