On this Memorial Day, many of us remember those we have lost this year: friends, mothers, spouses. . . . Losing people feels so sad, especially when we lose them to death. And especially, as with my mother or my father-in-law, when we just didn’t have the time together we thought we would have.
You have probably read about the five stages of grief as explained by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. Maybe you had to study it for a college psych course. It sounds so neat and tidy, doesn’t it—five stages? The word stages implies a progression from one step to another. And the word five makes the whole process seem so doable—almost minimalistic. I can do five! And I can keep at my grief work if I know that I will leave one step behind and move on to another.
I know that those of you who have grieved have discovered that the process cannot be wrapped up with simple words, such as five and stages. Messy, crazy grief seems a more apt description. (I wrote about that in a blog post last Memorial Day: http://aftonrorvik.com/blog/2015/05/25/messy-crazy-grief/
For the first few years after Mom died, I remembered that date and time vividly. In fact, I seemed to have an internal body clock that went off every year in January to remind me. But then the years passed—ten this January—and that internal body clock stopped going off.
I feel guilty about not remembering the date sometimes, just as I sometimes feel guilty about not visiting a grave on Memorial Day. I know that for some people going to the grave and talking helps them remember the lost loved one. And I know that for some people remembering the date of a loved one’s death and marking it with a ceremony of some kind helps them grieve and let go.
But, here’s the thing: visiting graves or memorializing dates doesn’t help everyone who grieves. Grief just isn’t a one-size-fits-all hat we can all wear well.
Truthfully, rather than visit a grave or memorialize a date, I would rather revisit a conversation in my head or read a book that the person I lost loved dearly.
So, my friends, and especially those of you who think today of one so recently lost, give yourself grace to feel what you feel and remember the way you need to remember. it will not look the same for you as it does for your grieving sibling, friend, child, or even spouse.
In my own journey with grief, I return again and again to some words that give me courage and perspective. Perhaps they will do the same for your today: “. . . because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed.”