The gift of grief

Last week Jen and I were texting about our propensity for ignoring our grief. I am so glad I am not alone in that—it just hurts so much that I would prefer trying to not deal with my pain than actually face it. Because facing it means being crippled by Kara’s absence. Getting the wind knocked out of me. Falling into a dark place and wondering if I’ll know love like hers again.

I remember when Kara asked me to take over Mundane Faithfulness for her. She was on hospice care. Her pain was bad and she ended up at the hospital. She texted that night at 9:30 asking me to come to her. I was already in my pajamas, but I quickly changed and drove over. This time she was on the 6th floor. The hospice floor. It was a totally different atmosphere when I stepped off the elevator. Calm. Peaceful. Roomy. Beautiful. It felt more like a hotel than a hospital.

When I found Kara’s room, I also found Mickey. How my heart needed her that evening! We moved the furniture around a bit and chatted while the nurse helped Kara. Kara was hurting and struggling to keep food down. I sat on her bed with her, and she was straight to the point asking me about MF. We talked for a short time. She was weary. I kissed her and promised her to be the best steward of MF that I could be, and I left in tears.

I remember starting to wonder why she would ask me to take over her blog. But then I stopped myself—it would only lead to doubt and insecurity when I should be focused on honoring Kara, her family, Jesus. And reflecting as much of God’s grace as I could in my limited understanding.

It’s been a few months now, and this is what I’ve decided: Kara’s asking me to do this for her was a huge grace gift. You see, if it were up to me, I would hide from my grief. I would push it aside, ignore it, kick it, scream at it until I had somehow found a new (albeit it unhealthy) normal in which I could function. But editing Kara’s blog, having to reread her words from years ago, asking friends to guest blog…I can’t turn away. I can’t ignore my grief. It floods me often.

Being flooded with grief, overwhelmed with pain, leaves me stripped of my strength and any resolve I imagined I had to live in my own abilities. Grief is a lonely place, a dark place. Grief is cold and reeks of the impending guarantee that is death. And it is in this cold place that God meets me. He reaches for me in my seeming aloneness. Grief provides the perfect opportunity for intimacy with God and for learning what his love for his children means. Grief gives me the chance to rest in God’s tenderness. Grief allows my heart to be open to God’s pursuit. Grief opens the door for grace to meet me in the impossibleness of my pain.

Mary Zahl articulates it well: When pain is denied or kept at bay, the sufferer misses out on the opportunity that comes with facing pain honestly, which is feeling the weight and powerlessness of it. Counterintuitively, the experience of going into the pain generally brings out compassion, peace, and even joy on the other side.

What pains and griefs are you avoiding today? What hurts are you attempting to ignore? Do you trust that God will meet you in your darkness? Do you see shadows of grace that are attempting to minister to your heart?