“I have one question for you,” she said, leaning on the kitchen counter.
Dirty dishes in hand, I stopped loading the dishwasher and looked at my friend.
“Have you said goodbye?” Her words were gentle yet pulsed with concern.
My eyes closed to hold the tears at bay; I bit my lip to quell its quiver. My sister’s death was eighteen months behind me, but I was still slogging through the muck of grief. I didn’t want to hear this question, much less ponder and act on it. Saying goodbye meant letting go, and I was not ready to face the finality it would bring.
Three days later, my friend, Anna, and I attended a getaway with a few friends. Her question had not left me since she released it into the air. I opened my journal in the quiet hours of the last morning of the trip and started writing. My pencil scratched furiously, unspoken words pouring forth from its tip. Tears dripped down my nose as the things left unsaid made their way from the shadows of my heart to the page bathed in light from the window.
I reached the end of the second page, signed my name, and let the journal fall to the floor. Turning to look at Anna, I said the words at the exact moment I realized what had just happened:
“I just said goodbye.”
The words had barely escaped my lips when I thrust my coffee cup toward Anna and covered my mouth to muffle the guttural sob that rose from the depths of me. Leaning into my friend’s embrace, I mourned the finality of what had just occurred.
I had let her go.
In the weeks since that day, I have experienced a more freeing peace than I have felt since my sister passed away. The tension of feeling responsible for preserving her memory has dissipated. I’ve realized that the essence of who she was will always be accessible to me and those who knew her. Though she is no longer with us physically, the memories we shared with her are ours forever.
Grief isn’t linear; once you’ve experienced loss, it becomes a part of you. Some days it is more visible than others. Some days the pain incapacitates you; other days it recedes enough that you nearly forget it’s there.
Genesis 32 tells us that Jacob wrestled with God. He held on with all his might, refusing to give up even when God displaced his hip. Jacob insisted, “I will not let go until you bless me.” When dawn broke after the long night of wrestling, God revealed himself to Jacob and blessed him. Even so, when Jacob left the place of the battle and blessing, he walked with a limp.
Like Jacob, I have wrestled with God during the long, hard night of the last eighteen months. I have pleaded for His blessing and prayed for relief. I have fought to hold on in the midst of great pain. And yet I’m still here, albeit with a limp but still upright and living — just as my sister would want me to be.
If you are in the midst of circumstances that require you to hold on tight until your blessing comes, I want to offer a few ways I’ve learned to wrestle well through hard seasons:
Grieve what should have been.
No matter how hard we try to hold our expectations of how our lives should unfold in check, we are inevitably jarred by circumstances beyond our control — a death, a job loss, divorce, an estranged child, a miscarriage. There are no small losses. When faced with these circumstances, allow yourself to grieve what you had expected to happen.
Tell God how you really feel.
As Christians we may believe that our messy, negative emotions (sadness, anger, fear, and anxiety) are not appropriate and try to ignore or suppress them. Can I tell you a not-so-secret secret? God can handle your full range of emotions. Romans 8:26 says that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Voice your emotions through prayer or journaling. The Holy Spirit is waiting to comfort you in your heartache.
Reach out for support.
Many of us feel like we are burdening our friends and family when we are going through a hard season. We don’t want to be a bother or bring everyone down with our hurting hearts. But I’ve found, more often than not, that my friends would prefer I share my struggle with them, so they know how to pray for me. They will check in on me to see how I am. If I pretend I am fine when I’m not, I rob them of the opportunity to walk alongside me. Galatians 6:2 exhorts us to “carry one another’s burdens.”
There is hope, friend. I know it may not seem like it now, but it is there. If you squint, you may catch a glimpse of it in the distance. Hold on, the dawn is coming.
There is hope, friend. Hold on, the dawn is coming. #grief #loss -@TiccoaLeister: Click To Tweet