I became acquainted with grief twenty-two years ago when I was pregnant with my second daughter. There were clues that things weren’t right, but no one would say it out loud because even the doctors were unsure of what to expect. But my instinct was that my baby wasn’t growing and thriving. I began grieving my daughter even before I saw her.
Her birth confirmed all our worst fears, and after many days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, we took her home with tubes and wires and a fatal diagnosis. We were told to make her comfortable until the time came to let her go. And so, I began my journey with grief. It settled itself into our home like a member of the family. We learned to live with it. We laughed, we celebrated holidays and birthdays, we had friends over, played games, and went on vacations. But grief was always with us. It lurked in the background, uninvited and unacknowledged but ever present. It hung around like a dark cloud on a sunny day threatening to burst upon us at any moment.
For nine years we lived like that, teetering on the edge of some abyss that we knew was there but couldn’t see. And then one day our sunshine was gone, and the dark cloud of grief burst open and poured itself on us in a constant, torrential rain. We fell into the abyss and even though we had known for so many years that the fall was coming, no one could have prepared us for how long and deep we would fall.
Thirteen years have passed, and we have experienced much joy since then. We have been given the gift of a third daughter through adoption. We have watched our oldest daughter graduate high school, graduate college, and move to Africa to work with families who, like her own, face difficult diagnoses and even death. We have a strong and healthy marriage. We pastor a church we love and have friends who have stood with us through the struggles of life. God has been truly good to us.
And yet, this grief still lingers. It has taken up residence in my heart and is a constant companion. I have fought it. I have ignored it. I have medicated it. I have read every book I can find to learn about it. I have treated it as something I need to overcome, some flaw in my character. Every time I face a loss of any sort it is magnified and threatens to overwhelm me again.
It was for this very reason I recently made a trip to Florida to see my parents. Wounds, old and new, had piled up in my soul and left me feeling tired and dead inside. I felt I had reached the limit of how much grief one person can bear. I needed to rest. I needed to be with people who knew me before grief had entered my life. Maybe they would remind me of who I was before the grief.
My parents live in a retirement community, and their life is filled with routine. Every evening we took a ride on their golf cart and checked on the alligator in one pond and the birds sitting on their nests in another. It was what my heart needed. One evening my dad pointed out some beautiful flowers growing amidst a pile of dead plants. He said he had tossed them on that heap of debris because he thought they were dead. But there they were, blooming beautifully, in the debris.
That night I couldn’t stop thinking about that plant. I asked my dad to take me back, so I could take a picture. It reminded me of a poster that hung in my room as a girl. It said, “Bloom where you are planted.” I realized that even now those words had become a message I told myself over and over. Each time something happened I reminded myself that my job was to bloom where I was planted. No matter the hurt, whatever the cost, I believed my job was to bloom. I had denied my own grief because I wanted to prove that I could bloom in every circumstance, and here I was standing in a pile of debris because of all that trying.
Looking at that flower blooming on the pile of debris, I realized that there wasn’t anything the plant had done to bloom. It just sat there. Waiting. Looking dead. Soaking in the sun and water. And slowly, its roots had taken hold of the soil and planted themselves. And then it bloomed.
Maybe that is exactly the picture of what blooming where you are planted looks like. Maybe we need to quit trying so hard and just wait. Maybe it is okay to let grief linger. Maybe it is when we look dead that we are soaking in God’s love, grace, and truth. And in His timing, our roots will be planted in the good soil beneath all this debris, and we will bloom.
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)
Michele Morin says
Yes, “soaking in God’s love, grace, and truth.”
Statia, I can’t begin to imagine the depth of your pain and loss. Thank you for allowing readers a glimpse of your journey, a moment that sheds light on our own quiet strugles and produces hope.
Statia Olson says
Thank you for reading. Writing has been such a huge part of my journey toward healing. It is encouraging to know that it can also help others on their own path.
Thank you for your words. I, too, suffered a deep and traumatic loss. I can hardly attend funerals and when I do I sit in the back in case I just leave. After 12 years I feel I’m blooming on the debris but the grief is still there. I’ve tried everything to get well. God is with me and has brought me to where I’m at now. I am so very thankful. But I am tired.
Statia Olson says
Thank you for reading. I find that grief never truly leaves so I am learning to not just survive but truly thrive in the midst of it. It is hard work and very tiring. I will pray you feel God’s presence today.
Susan Daugherty says
Thank you for this. I need to be reminded that waiting and lingering with pain and grief are okay. Not just for me, but for others who have suffered as well. It is God’s job in his timing to lead them to bloom again, not mine.
Statia Olson says
Yes, it is in the lingering that I have found healing. Lingering and clinging to God gave me strength. Thank you for reading.
I remind myself daily- Your time, Your Will, not mine! I am going on 8 years, seems like forever some days, yesterday others!
Thank you for sharing your story, your grief and pain,in His time! He is making beauty with the ashes! We just need to let go and allow Him to do what He does best! He created us and holds us close!
Love and prayers to all!
Statia Olson says
Thank you so much for reading my story. Praise God for the ways He guides us to those who can understand us in ways others cannot.
Your beautiful words are like shade on a hot summer day, a glass of ice water for a parched throat. I think you get the direction I’m attempting to go. Nothing of any value is ever accomplished without some type of struggle or cost. A life well lived is the same – it is the tears, the laughter, the frown lines and more that creates character and makes us unique and thus valuable. We are God’s treasure. He is the parent in the stands shouting “that’s my kid!”
Statia Olson says
Life is indeed always a mixture of the bitter and the sweet. It is His grace that turns it all into a beautiful story. Thanks for reading mine.
Melissa Ens says
Oh, Statia, I am so sorry for your losses. Thank you for courageously sharing your beautiful-broken heart and story with us. I have not lived with the same loss, but I, too, know Grief and I believe you. May you continue to find healing as you continue to soak up God’s love through your roots and receive His grace and loving kindness through your face and hands turned up toward Him.
I’ve nothing to say regarding the death of your beloved child, since I know that pain, that vacant chair, will always be there in joy and sorrow, and with your husband also.
Find a tiny measure of consolation in that your words have spoken to me, your blooms have encouraged me to believe that no matter how long it takes I too may bloom if I wait upon the Lord [but act when I feel Him boot me in the bum :)].
Thank you for sharing. It has been a year since I lost my daughter. This year same month I lost my dad. I am beginning to feel some kind of way about September . It feels like an old wound has been re opened . I am going to save this post . It gave me comfort. As I began to read it my eyes filled with tears. Thank you again.
Cathy Lloyd says
Your words were perfect for me at this time today. I am sorry beyond what words can express for your loss. My beloved husband died a few months ago and I try so hard not to be sad or to cry or to ruminate over our idyllic life together before cancer stole him away. I stay busy with my teaching and many loving friends who have cared for me in so many ways. In my head, I realize grief must occur for healing but I am aware that God has faithfully lifted me up above so much of the pain that I would have otherwise experienced without Him. Thank you for sharing.
Cherlyn Kelly says
Thank you so much for this post. I’m so sorry about your daughter.
I too have been dealing for 13 years with grief from the loss of my son. He was murdered at the age of 29. God has been good to me too. But I feel exhausted some days from trying to hide what I feel inside when it’s a particularly difficult day. I’ve been told to snap out of it by friends, pastors and neighbors. I’ve had people say I’m keeping my son’s spirit from resting. I’ve been told you can’t be in the prayer ministry and pray effectively for others because when I’m having a bad it’s saying I don’t believe my son is with Jesus.
Why can’t we be who we are in that moment.
Beth Williams says
I’m so sorry for what “well meaning” Christians say. Not sure why we feel we know how people should feel or act. Everyone grieves differently. No one can truly understand one’s loss. God does understand. He grieves with you & will help you through this grieving process. Praying for you & your family.
Beth Williams says
So sorry for the loss of your beloved daughter. Can’t imagine your grief. Know that I’ll be praying for you. Thank you for opening up & sharing this heart wrenching story. Those grieving any loss should quit striving & pretending. Tell friends how you really feel. Let the tears flow. God understands & grieves with you. Life gets hard & messy. We make missteps. God has plans for us. Plans to prosper us & not for harm. We just need to bloom where He plants us. It may not be where we would choose to be, but God knows best. He can bring beauty out of ashes. God is constantly molding us into the person He wants us to be. Let’s do our part & bloom where He puts us. Pray for others & watch Him work.
Jocelyn Weber says
This was so beautiful. So deep. So perfectly, spot-on. I barely have words. Everything I have felt for 9 years now. The trying so hard? It’s a THING, isn’t it? It’s exhausting. I needed to read this.
The other day, I heard the live version of “Sails”. Have you heard it? My heart needed the words so badly. I’m so glad God has been patient with me.
Thank you for writing this.
Thank You so much for this beautiful blog post! Since last October, I have lost way too many friends unexpectedly. Most of them 40 years old or younger. It has been a long season of grief and your blog post really touched me. I even linked back to it at my blog as my Write 31 days series is on grieving well. Thanks again!