Do you ever step back and think, “Boy, if they could see me now”? Or maybe you think your parent or spouse is looking down from heaven and smiling at the person you’ve become.
It’s been years, but we want to connect. We want to share. We want the loved one who died to be a part of our lives today – and be proud of the things we’ve done. Or be involved in what is happening – a birth, a career milestone, or visit us at our new home.
If we feel entirely disconnected from our loved one, the thought may bring terrible loneliness and grief. They are not here. They cannot see what we’ve done. They aren’t part of this event.
What do we do with this latest twist to our grief?
I hear voices, but don’t be concerned. I don’t need medicine. I don’t need a psychiatrist.
You hear voices in your head, too. Our voices try to pull us down daily, feeding us messages of fear and inadequacy. They tinker with our sense of identity. They attack when we are weak from grief and stress. They attack when we are strong, too, in places we’ve left unguarded.
“I keep fighting voices in my mind,” sings Lauren Daigle in You Say, a charting contemporary Christian tune being played by secular radio stations and venues.
I’m convinced the popularity of the song is evidence of our society resonating with its message. We’re undergoing an identity crisis. We don’t feel loved. We don’t feel strong, able to meet the challenges of life. As a result, we seek out ways to patch the insecurities.
When you’ve lost your first love, your biggest fan, your highest image of womanhood, Mother’s Day is never the same again. A day set aside to express gratitude to her becomes a day of grief.
I really hated Mother’s Day the first few years. I faced Mother’s Day’s Most Difficult Moment if I did not skip church, where the pastor asked mothers to stand to be honored. It was salt in the wound as those who did not know me in our large congregation assumed I was a mother. So sometimes I skipped the whole ordeal and slept in.
Having avoided that grief trigger one year, I drove for an afternoon treat only to be confronted with the ice cream store manager suggesting I put “Mom” on the personal-sized cake I selected. I wanted to put a pie in his face.
Letting go. The term and its derivatives come up frequently in grief circles. I detest them. I cringe when I hear them used.
It’s typically thrust at us, as in, “You need to let go” or if you do this or that “then you will let go.” Or we ourselves decide our healing is in “letting go,” thus we strive to stop crying, or obsessing, or feeling. Or we strive to release a loved one’s clothing. Or their car. Or their home.
It seems so long ago that I sold the house where I grew up, the place where my parents died. I suppose that means my life has been filled with other pursuits for a year, but do not assume I did not miss the place. In fact, I’ve grieved letting it go. You can learn more about surviving this process in Letting Go of Where You Grew Up
How should we respond when well-meaning people say things that injure us? Has anyone ever delivered any of these platitudes, clichés or other expressions meant to comfort you as a griever?
“I know how you feel.”
“Time heals all wounds.”
“God must have needed her more.”
“You can have more children.”
“She’s in a better place.”
What is the impact of prolonged illness on grief? Does it give us time to get used to the idea of death? Does the anticipation in some way lessen the sting of loss?
I think on these questions as we mark Parkinson’s Awareness Week and World Parkinson’s Day, April 10th on the 2019 calendar. My dad had Parkinson’s. His symptoms began in the late 1990s, but doctors initially believed mini-strokes caused his shuffled gait.
I remember the phone call. My mother was on the other end. A neurologist diagnosed Dad with Parkinson’s disease. The year was 2000. She sounded relieved. Almost happy. I understood why.
Grief isn’t simply a loss of what was. It also is a loss for what might have been if mother, father, husband, sister, brother, grandparent or friend had lived.
Because of this, life gives us endless opportunities to reflect on our loss. And yet, as I celebrated 10 years of marriage to my husband last week, I instead embraced a celebratory attitude.
In other words, I didn’t let what was not let ruin what was. I can’t say I’m always capable of doing that, but this time I really let my hair down, sort of speak. March 28th was a grand day.
Nonetheless, it was not without pause. Why? I mean, what does my wedding anniversary have to do with the loss of my parents? There again, grief’s complex nature lies in wait.
Why do we love sad movies? I’m no psychologist, but may I suggest that art helps us grieve. It helps us cope by showing us others grieve, maybe in a similar way as we have.
And they lived to write a screenplay about it. Or a book. Or paint on canvass. How? We see if portrayed on film and believe yes, we will survive, too.
While the connection between loss and art is not an original observation, I believe it’s worthy to remind ourselves that we sometimes leave a doorway to our emotions untapped.