Editor’s Note: Today’s brave post is by Kalie Wolfinger. She writes at www.kaliedub.com and you can see her lovely photography at kaliedubphotography. I’ve just realized we’ve spoken little about grief here, so if you have words to share, please feel free to link to them in our comments so we can carry each other through these things. Much love. – Lauren
Has a friend ever left a cute piece of clothing at your house and you intentionally don’t tell them they forgot it? I’ve done it. My favorite black sweater was left in my car during the madness of my wedding week and I have no idea whose it is, but I didn’t bother asking either.
In 2008, halfway through my sophomore year of college, 4 days before Christmas, my mom took her own life.
After months of struggling with pre-menopausal hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and a variety of medications it came to a peak. This moment changed everything for me. I’ve spent years dancing around how to talk, write, and think about it; not for myself, but because of how it affects others.
I second guess everything I say for the slight chance it might offend my dad…or my brother..or my sister. I don’t want to share about the grace and lessons on joy I have seen through these circumstances out of fear that I will hurt someone close to me. It’s incredibly painful to voice that there was some redemption and grace out of such a horrific situation.
About a month after my mom died, a close friend lent me a book by Jerry Sittser called A Grace Disguised.
Grief is a tormenting rollercoaster. A rollercoaster in the dark leading wherever it pleases without any indication of the next twist and turn.
I pinpoint this book as an upswing in my rollercoaster of grief. It pulled me along and brought glimpses of clarity and peace through my journey.
The book more or less outlines the journey of grief after the loss of the author’s mother, wife, and daughter in the same car crash. Although it specifically hits home for me as it talks about death, Sittser also points out that all loss is loss and inevitably occurs in all of our lives. Terminal illness, disability, divorce, rape, emotional abuse, physical and sexual abuse, chronic unemployment, crushing disappointment, mental illness, and death. He talks about how we want to quantify and compare loss and suffering, but “Each loss stands on its own and inflicts a unique kind of pain. What makes each loss so catastrophic is its devastating, cumulative, and irreversible nature.”
As I was reading the book the second time around this quote pulled on my heart strings different than the first time:
“The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise. I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could. Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it. I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean.”
Everyone has something. Some covered up aspect of your past or present that’s a lot easier not to deal with or not allow yourself to think about. It’s easier to ignore the deep, dark fragments of life rather than allow yourself to process, experience the full range of emotions, and heal. I don’t think this decision is usually made consciously, but subconsciously as a defense mechanism.
We have to CHOOSE to plunge into the darkness and do the dirty work, but in the end being transformed by our suffering gives us a small glimpse of grace.
I am coming up on four years since my mom’s death and my own glimpses of grace have turned into days, windows, and floodings of grace.
As the carpet was ripped out from under me was when I truly learned the meaning of joy; joy that is not dependent on any circumstance or situation, but solely on the grace of Jesus Christ and the hope found in Him, that whatever you are going through right now…this isn’t it. This isn’t the end of your story.
There is so much more than what we see. Committing to do the work and run into the darkness takes courage. It requires a trust that believes somewhere in the darkness God will show up; that we won’t journey through the tunnel alone. It trusts that His grace is sufficient and that His power is made perfect in our weakness.