Category Archives: Grief

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Remember or Forget?

 

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.

Grief.

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.”

 

 

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Seeing the Unseen

After a week that included two memorial services, my mind and heart have turned often toward heaven. I have remembered those last moments with Mom—moments I describe in the final chapter of Storm Sisters.

A beautiful smile covered her face, a face that had become frozen in a look of blankness for the past few days. And then, very, softly, she began to hum. Her entire face gradually lit up with an expression of utter joy as her eyes flew open one last time.

And then she took one last, raspy breath and stepped out of this world and into the next.

“Welcome to heaven,” I whispered as I kissed her one last time.

That glimpse of a world beyond this world still gives me comfort, especially this week as I said goodbye to two friends just a few years my senior.

Our friend Dave filled this world with kindness, integrity, and thoughtfulness all fueled by his big heart brimming over with love for Jesus. Our friend Ingrid spoke such wisdom into my life, wisdom that came from walking with Jesus through many years of challenge. In her thick German accent, she often reminded me, “Keep trusting God.”

Celebrating the lives and hearts of these two people this week reminds me to look beyond the daily to-do list, to look beyond what I can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste.

Join me this week, will you, in asking God to give us eyes to see beyond this world, to comprehend Him and the eternity He offers us through the death of His son?

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Personal Pain on Social Media?

I hit a rough patch recently. We all do, right?

So how do we navigate these challenging times, these moments that take our breath away and make us feel weak and inadequate?

And, for those of us who maintain a social media presence, how do we talk or not talk about these moments in the public forum?

Sharing grief on social media can help navigate loss, or so say some experts.

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4784659

http://www.newsweek.com/parting-such-tweet-sorrow-245058

Both these articles talk about the power of connection social media can provide—an antidote to the isolation that grieving, struggling people often seek.

But how do we talk about our pain and sorrow on a social media without whining, without giving details that might hurt others, or without giving more information than people have time to read?

I chose to mention my rough patch in vague terms, and I also stated that I could not/should not share details.

Best approach? Not sure.

But I wanted to let readers (you!) know that my life contains struggle just as it also contains joy. No perfect life here.

I also wanted to protect myself and those I love by not saying things that would live forever on the Internet, long after this rough patch passes.

I also opted out of social media for a period in order to “circle the wagons” with a few close flesh-and-blood friends and gain perspective. And, in true introvert fashion, I needed long stretches of quiet to think, read, and pray.

Thank you for understanding. Thank you for not asking for details. BUT thank you for being there.

“I’m praying.”

“Want to have lunch?”

“Be sure you aren’t isolating.”

One of you reminded me: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
 they shall mount up with wings like eagles; 
they shall run and not be weary; 
they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Thank you, Dear Readers, for hearing my pain and for drawing me back to God. Thank you for living as Storm Sisters.

Grateful!

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Not Alone

Challenging week here. Maybe for you too. Pain in the eyes of people I love dearly.

My heart literally hurts.  

Through it all some lyrics of a song spin around in my brain: “I know who goes before me. I know who stands behind. The God of Angel Armies is always by my side.”

https://youtu.be/qOkImV2cJDg

Reminds me of these words I have always loved from Psalm 139: “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me” (verse 5).

Perhaps you too have had a challenging week full of heartache. Perhaps this song and David’s song of long ago will comfort you as they did me.

What helps you through challenging, heart-aching weeks?

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Messy, Crazy Grief

For many of you, today will involve visiting a grave. Others of you may not visit a grave but your mind will wander back to memories of a loved one now gone from this earth.

As I’ve talked with some of you who have recently lost a loved one, I hear the ache in your voice. You talk of the unpredictability of grief. You talk of a day that seems normal suddenly getting sidelined when a sad memory takes you captive. You talk of walking through the day in a fog. You talk of wild dreams.

Oh, my friends, I remember.

After Mom died, I often found myself sidelined by a song on the radio, a song at church, a glance at one of her favorite books. My legs felt heavy. My aching heart seemed to make my whole body heavy. And then at night I had these crazy dreams, usually involving roller coasters and trying to keep Mom from falling off one. I woke from them certain that she actually still lived and that I had merely dreamed her death.

I often lay in bed after waking from such dreams and just tried to sort out reality. I lived in Illinois. Mom no longer lived in Colorado. She had a heavenly home. She had indeed died.

So, my grieving friends, my heart aches with you.

May I encourage you that this messy, crazy journey of grief will not always linger in every corner of your mind and heart? And may I also encourage you to take the journey? Take the time to feel what you feel, cry if you need to, talk to friends and family if that helps, journal. . . .

Might seem that avoiding grief could ease your pain most. Just stay busy with tasks and people. But everything I’ve read and lived through tells a different story. The best way through grief is just that—through it.

Know that I’m cheering you on. And know that in time you will emerge from the fog of grief. Your heart will feel stronger. Your eyes will see other’s pain more easily. Your feet will take you more often to the side of others in sorrow.

Let me leave you with some words that have given me countless moments of hope in my grief. And let me also leave with you some resources related to grief:

He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3:16-24, NIV

Helpful Resources:

http://www.griefshare.org/dailyemails
GriefShare offers lots of helpful resources, including a daily email with s encouragement and some questions to consider during your the grief process.

https://www.stephenministries.org/griefresources/default.cfm/774
This set of four booklets, written by a man who lost his wife to ovarian cancer, helped my mother-in-law immensely. They came to her at different time intervals after Poppo’s death and contained words of comfort meant specifically for that particular period in her journey. You can order these books for friends.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/in-grief-try-personal-rituals/284397/
This article talks about the power of personal rituals in the grief process.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-devine/death-and-dying_b_4329830.html
This article can help us all think more about how we help others in their times of grief.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for joining me on this messy, crazy journey of living connected. 

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I Forgot Valentine’s Day

“But you didn’t make heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast! You have done that every Valentine’s Day since I was little.”

My adolescent daughter looked up at me with sad eyes.

I had completely forgotten.

Truth be told, I had completely forgotten a lot of other things too.

I couldn’t remember my daily routine.
I couldn’t remember what I did for fun.
I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed.

My mother had died just weeks earlier. After being at her bedside as much as I could but being away from my own home for many weeks, I returned to my family in a fog.

That morning, my daughter’s words jolted me. And they pulled me back into life—my life. I loved my family. I loved making breakfast for my kids every morning. I loved leaving them silly cards with their heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine’s Day.

Annalisa’s words helped me see through the fog—just a crack. My fog did not disappear instantly that morning. Grief has its own timeline.  But my daughter’s truthful words that morning helped me make a start back into my life.

Many of you, I know, have grieved losses. You have felt the heavy cloak of fog on your brain and heart. Some of you live in this place today.

How did a friend or family member speak words to you that helped you begin to heal? Or, for those of you grieving now, what words do you wish a family member or friend would speak to you?