The past month has seen the waves of grief crashing ashore for several friends. It is in these times I feel both powerless to hold back the tide of their pain and, yet, called forward to wade into the surf with a steady, compassionate hand.
Grief is an island no one wants to visit, but we all, inevitably, do. While difficult to believe when emotions drown out the world, hope does not disappear during these shadowed hours—it remains tucked behind the horizon, waiting to slowly emerge as the fog begins to dissipate.
When I facilitate grief support groups, the hardest question to answer is “why.” Before I can address that here, I must say that I believe in God with all my being. Some of you may be inching toward the x in the corner of your browser, but know this: this blog is about enlightenment and hope, not exclusion and hype. If you are still deterred, I wholeheartedly bid you peace and welcome you back at any time.
So, returning to why. My answer begins with a question: have you ever held back details with a child, a friend or a family member because you did not wish to cause further pain? Or, perhaps, you knew it was not the time or place to share every element of a story, since the person before you was not in the state of mind or heart to fully acknowledge such details. I have found, through many losses and trials, that the truth I desire, the answers I crave and the path I seek are all revealed at exactly the right time . . . when God knows I am most ready for them mentally and spiritually.
No loss is greater or lesser than another. Bidding farewell to dear grandparents, close friends, even family acquaintances all have an impact. In this moment, I reflect on one particular friend—a gloriously beautiful angel, creative partner and inspiring mother—who is facing a tremendous loss. Her father just passed in the same manner my dear dad did nine years ago. A sudden heart attack called him home, and the lives of those who knew him changed in a dizzying instant.
The news strikes like a tidal wave of numbingly cold water to every pore of your body. If you think this is an exaggeration, I pray you never face such an ache that drifts to your bones and submerges your vision. And no, the pain never dissolves entirely. It does, though, become more of a river than a vast ocean.
If you read “The World Needs Hope,” you know my father is woven lovingly into my dedication. If you know me, you feel the fingerprint of his legacy in the words on the page. If you were lucky enough to know my dad, you will see his smile, feel his warmth and recall his strong hand reaching out to help any one at any time. Big Mike with the big heart (pictured below in high school).
Thinking again of my friend’s grief journey, I can relate to the pang of losing a mentor, a best friend, an ally, a father and a rock. One person takes many roles in your life and, therefore, you face many losses all at once—the car fixer, family mediator, problem solver, rule enforcer, Yahtzee champion, billiard buddy, spiritual leader, joke instigator, movie chauffeur, coffee companion, humble sacrificer, smorgasbord preparer and inventive gift giver. As you feel up to it, lean into the emotion. Honor each tear, own each longing and embrace each memory. We would not grieve if we did not love.
Every loss transforms you from the inside out. The blessings of enhanced compassion, enriched empathy and heightened awareness may be granted in their own time, as you are able to slowly heal and accept them. There is no magic wand and, I implore you, no earthly drug to escape the journey.
A grief support group can offer great comfort. I encourage you to visit GriefShare.org for locations near you. If you have a small group or organization seeking tools for navigating grief, consider arranging a Healing Hope: Your Grief Journey workshop. Access the Journey tab to learn more.
You are not alone. You are never alone. God is reaching out through His words and graceful presence to comfort you. I pray you reach back. And I hope this message floats past the rocks of worry, around the cliffs of sorrow and leads you to safe harbor.