Wait and Watch
I started to write this post about a month ago. I had so many feelings surfacing at a time when school and work had become more demanding. I knew I needed to get my thoughts and feelings into words, but I didn't have the time to finish a blog post. Now that my semester has ended, I've had some time to reflect and refine my thoughts concerning recent experiences.
Over a month ago, I saw that my friend's mother had been admitted to the hospital. My heart sank as I felt this deep fear that my friend's family might experience loss. Immediately, I prayed and pled that they would not have to experience the pain that I have felt. When her mother passed away, I did what we all do. We feel sad for our loved one's loss and we think about how difficult it must be. But this time was different because I knew exactly what might be happening. My mind brought me back to those first days. I remembered the headaches, the nausea, the racing thoughts yet slowing of time. I remembered the many things to decide and plans to make. I remembered the shock and the pain. I remembered the wailing and tears of others as they learned of Isaac's death. I couldn't help but wonder if her family had felt some of these things too. I felt sad because I knew that her family was most likely in their darkest hour. But then I remembered the kindness of others. I remembered the peace that I felt in the midst of my most violent storm. In that moment, I realized that God would take care of this family and that they would experience the tender mercies that can only come about through loss.
A few days later a song came on my radio that captures the experience of grief for me.
When a Heart Breaks by Ben Rector
I woke up this morning
And I heard the news
I know the pain of a heartbreak
I don't have answers
And neither do you
I know the pain of a heartbreak
This isn't easy
This isn't clear
And you don't need Jesus til' you're here
Then confusion and the doubts you had
Up and walk away
They walk away
When a heart breaks
When I heard this song after Isaac died, I remember really feeling the line, "And you don't need Jesus til' you're here." I never felt so desperate as when I lost Isaac. It's not that I have never needed Jesus before, but I had never known pain that deep. Loss isn't easy; it isn't clear. But there are times when confusion and doubt are replaced with peace.
It's been over a year and half since Isaac passed. I wish I could say that I don't feel so desperate, but sometimes I feel just as helpless as the day he died. Although I've continued to move forward in my life and I've even started dating, I've learned that grief isn't something that fades or gets fixed. Despite all the good things that come into my life, I can't unlearn what I now know. I still awkwardly carry the burden of grief. It still feels heavy. Some days feel similar to my old "normal." Other days, I'm reminded that I no longer get to feel normal. It's not necessarily a bad thing but it requires more strength. So often in life we happily move forward. We get married, we move new places, we quit jobs, we start new businesses, we have kids. We do all these things assuming things will turn out exactly how we want them. It isn't until we lose a lot that we begin to recognize how much we actually risked and then the pull to do the safe thing becomes stronger. But loss also pushes you to do the hard thing because you realize that time matters and you don't have time to waste.
On Easter Sunday, I sat in church and was listening to a friend of mine give the sermon. He spoke about Jesus' last week on earth. He told about how Christ went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. For those of you who aren't Christian, it was in the garden of Gethsemane that Christ suffered for each man's sins and pains of mortal life. Before Christ entered the garden he asked his disciples (his followers) to wait and watch while he went and prayed. The Bible states that Christ felt very sorrowful and heavy. When he came back to check in with his disciples, they had fallen asleep. He asked his apostle Peter, "Sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour?" You can sense the disappointment, that in his darkest hour, his friends could not wait and watch for him. Christ returned to the garden to pray more, and when he returned, he found his friends had fallen asleep again. As I pondered this series of events, I thought about how Christ's suffering in the garden was the ultimate expression of grief. I realized that those who grieve have to at some point face their grief alone, because friends and family can't bear it for them. Yet, as grieving persons we hope that others can wait and watch until we've tended to our sorrows.
I'm not sure that this only applies to persons who are grieving. I think each of us will have a time in our lives that feels like our darkest moment. In these moments, I think that we, like Christ, hope that our friends can wait and watch. Sometimes we can share our burdens and others can lift them for us but there will be times that others can't help. Some parts of grief are lonely. Some parts can be shared, and even healed by the love of others. There are so many ways others have helped me and continue to help me. Sometimes my friends and family actually help carry the load by watching my kids, inviting me to dinner, or helping me clean. But there are probably even more times when I need them to wait and watch. I think that for me that means that they listen as a process my grief. It means that they witness my pain without trying to fix it. It's a hug, or putting an arm around my shoulder. It's different simple acts that communicate awareness and acceptance. I continue to think about what it means for me to do the same for others. It can be difficult to understand someone else's pain, so we might fall asleep, unaware of our loved one's struggle. This past month has made me more aware of the importance of learning to stay awake, stay watch, and wait. It can seem like so little, but sometimes it's the very thing the grieving person needs.