It had been a rough twenty-four hours. I’d volunteered to keep a friend’s young children while she went out of town, and to say I wasn’t used to caring for four kids at once (hers plus mine) was an understatement. I joked that the second they got in the car, I started calling my kids by the wrong names. I wasn’t the only one who struggled; her kids weren’t used to being either at my house or without their mom. When my oldest daughter opened a bag of balloons and blew them up for the younger kids, I think we were all relieved to find a fun distraction we could all enjoy. For hours, the kids played catch and keep-it-off-the-hot-lava-floor, then eventually moved outside to decorate my driveway with chalk.
When we saw my friend’s car driving down the street, her kids ran inside to grab their bags. As I was assuring their mom that they behaved just fine while also confessing my renewed admiration for moms of more than two kids, the youngest kiddo flew out my front door with backpack in one hand and balloon in the other. Though it wasn’t filled with helium, that balloon immediately got caught in a gust of wind. I laughed at first, because it surprised us all (and I assumed we’d catch it in just a few seconds) — but then, suddenly, it burst!
One second, the pretty pink balloon had been dancing along the grass of our front yard and the next, it had exploded into pieces of plastic, victim to a too-sharp blade of grass. Stunned, the adults shook our heads as at least one child began crying. Who would’ve guessed that grass could be so dangerous?!
Later, as we picked up toys and tossed extra sheets into the laundry room, I thought about how that front-yard explosion was a little bit like grief, how something seemingly innocent can shatter your peace and bring you to tears. It reminded me of how grief can sneak up on you, biting out of the blue, striking with no warning.
Just like children playing with balloons know to look out for light bulbs or cat claws, when you’ve experienced a loss, you know to anticipate deeper grief at certain times. Holidays, anniversaries, firsts, or lasts — all of these are hard to handle when you’re doing it in the aftermath of a death, a divorce, a lost job, or broken relationship. But at least we can see them coming. It’s the supposedly harmless blades of grass — the song on the radio, the turn of phrase only that person used, a movie you watched together, a previously buried list of goals, a simple question from a neighbor — that really get us.
When that happens, we can be tempted to feel shame. I shouldn’t be so upset. It’s not a big deal. I should have it together by now. It shouldn’t bother me so much still. But grief doesn’t follow a timeline or, really, many rules at all. And nobody has the right to expect us to grieve any certain way — even ourselves! So the next time your heart is stabbed with something as “innocent” as the grass in my front yard, give yourself some grace if it hurts. Take a deep breath, take some time, take the kindness and consolation others offer.
And remember that God promises to be with the brokenhearted. Period. No restrictions or expiration dates. No exclusions or requirements. Just love and comfort — promised for and offered to you, no matter what breaks your heart this time.
The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18 (CSB)
God promises to be with the brokenhearted. Period. No restrictions or expiration dates. No exclusions or requirements. -@marycarver: Click To Tweet