Grieving Death, Celebrating Life

Note: I wrote this nearly a week ago, on June 24.  Finally, after a busy week, I am getting around to posting.

Right now I am flying north to Columbus, Ohio, to attend my grandmother’s funeral.

She was 99.

After years of deteriorating health she finally left her difficulties behind and went to be with the Lord.

I have mixed feelings.

On one hand I am grateful that she was able to go.  Her existence had less and less dignity, although her daughter and son-in-law cared for her in the most beautiful and respectable way possible.  It’s just that your dignity walks out the door hand-in-hand with your ability to wash yourself and tend to your own basic needs.

On the other hand I will miss her.

I will miss her as a connection to my greater family tree and history.  I will miss the woman who graciously allowed me to live with her while I was Rosedale Bible College.  I will miss the woman my mom often describes as generous, selfless, and a blessing to others.

I will miss the woman who teased me about thinking “girls don’t like me.”  To this day I don’t remember when I said that, but back in the mid-90s she remembered, and she called me on it.  And she had a funny smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye.

I will miss the grandma who liked to haul the ice cream bucket out of the freezer and take a few bites.

I haven’t seen her for perhaps as many as 7 years, but when I heard she had died I felt deep and instant grief.  Perhaps I will understand why sometime.  For now, I am immensely grateful to fly northward and celebrate and grieve with my family.

And every time I pull out the blankets and quilt that she sewed by hand for me and my family I will thank God for her.

Thank you, Grandma Miller, for a shining example of all that is good and loving, and for sharing your life with all of us.

Who in your family has inspired and encouraged you?

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Ambushed by Grief

You will be ambushed by grief. Count on it. If you have ever experienced any sort of loss or heartache in life, grief will surprise you from time to time.

Sometimes you can come to expect it, and then you’re somewhat prepared. Sometimes not.

I have been divorced for two years, and still I feel pangs of grief when I drop off the boys with their mom or hear that the boys got to do something special when I was not around. I imagine I will face these pangs from time to time for the rest of my life, but they are continually less difficult as I move on and adjust.

While we cannot always know when we will experience grief, we can choose ahead of time how we will respond. Let me suggest several things.

1. Acknowledge your grief. The worst thing you can do to yourself is deny your pain. Peace begins by being honest with yourself. Experiencing grief and sadness are part of the human condition. If you deny your pain you cut yourself off from the common experiences of the whole human race, denying yourself the permission to learn from them.

2. Honor your grief. We are only able to be injured by someone or something if we value them highly. If we minimize the grief we feel we deny the value of what we lost. Use the grief as a reminder to remember all of the good things you have experienced.

3. Walk through your grief. I don’t remember who said it, but a week or two ago I heard a writer on a copyblogger podcast say, “Shortcuts are the longest.” So true. The shortest way to the other side of pain and grief is simply to face it and walk through it. Here is where friends and counselors are immensely helpful at times; the right person can help guide us through this path, especially if they have been there before themselves. The truth is that you have to grieve. The longer you avoid it and put it off the longer it will take you to recover and move on.

4. Share your experience. You may be terrified of sharing your story with someone else, but as you walk with someone else through their pain and share your story with them, you heal yourself. You are no longer alone or hiding. Healing comes in community, and you can only have community if someone bares their soul.

How have you learned to deal with unexpected grief?