April 26, 1998.
I sat on the chair feeling terrible. My mother had specifically invited me to the Ladies’ Luncheon to hear her speak, but I just didn’t want to go anymore. My brother and dad were going to McDonald’s. McDonald’s. My desire to be a “big girl” and go to the special lunch suddenly seemed incredibly boring next to the idea of jumping around in a ball pit at McDonald’s. Maybe Mom would understand?
I quietly went into the other room where my mom was getting ready.
“Mom?” I asked nervously.
She looked up and smiled at me, “Yes, Grace?”
I stared down at the floor, tears filling my eyes.
“What is it, Gracie?” My mother asked gently.
I looked up and slowly said,”Would it be okay…if I went with Jonan and Dad to McDonald’s instead?”
My mom laughed and didn’t even hesitate as she said, “Of course! You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”
“I do want to, it’s just this McDonald’s has a playplace!…I’m sorry, Mom.”
Again my mom laughed, then opened her arms to give me a hug. I hugged her tightly, said goodbye, and ran out to the car where my brother and father were waiting.
When my father, brother, and I returned from McDonald’s, there was an ambulance parked in front of the church. People were rushing around everywhere. Someone ran up to our car and forced my dad out. I saw them rush him into the building as a women grabbed my brother and I. They took us over to an R.V. next to the building, and tried to have us sit down.
I knew something was wrong. Something was terribly wrong. I started to cry.
“Where is my mom? I want to see my mom!” I cried out at the lady who was holding me down.
“Don’t worry, honey. Everything is fine,” she hushed as she continued to lightly hold me in the chair. I slapped at her hands, stood up, and rushed for the window. It was right at that moment that my father came running from a side exit of the building. I saw him fall to the ground and begin pounding the earth. Over and over and over again. I cried louder. Behind me, I heard my brother beginning to cry.
“WHAT IS GOING O-?!” I cried out in a loud voice to anyone who would listen, only to be stopped short when I heard my dad yell from the ground,
“WHY?! WHY, GOD, WHY?!” he screamed.
The woman was back. She forced me away from the window and the door. I didn’t fight back; I was crying uncontrollably. I don’t know how long I cried. Maybe a long time, maybe just a few moments. But, by the time I looked back outside, the ambulance was gone, along with my father.
“Where is my mom? What happened?” I asked the woman across the seat from me. She looked at me with a deep pity that I would become all too familiar with soon after.
“She got hurt, sweetie. Broke her leg, I think.” She looked away quickly.
I breathed a deep sigh of relief. If she only broke her leg, everything would be fine.
Isn’t it funny how easily a child will believe an obvious lie?
My mother died that day from a brain aneurism. There was no warning. She was alive one minute, telling her testimony of salvation to a hundred ladies, and the next moment she fell down dead.
I was seven years old.
I tell this story not to make you sad. I tell it so that you can know and believe I understand grief. I have been there. I have been through tragedy. You are not alone.
Maybe you didn’t lose a parent, maybe you did. Maybe you lost someone else. Maybe you have been ripped from people you love by other outside circumstances. I believe though, that you, too, understand pain as I do.
How did you deal with your grief? Did you mourn for awhile and move on? Do you still mourn? Do/did you suppress your pain? Did you hide it from the world?
I did. I didn’t do it consciously. But, I completely suppressed my pain. I felt like I needed to be strong for my brother, my dad. I don’t remember crying even one other time about my mother’s death. I wanted to be brave, and so, I was.
I watched other people deal with my mother’s death in all sorts of different ways. I watched my father mourn for awhile, move on, but never forget. I watched my four-year-old brother cry and then slowly begin to forget as children often do. I’ve watched my grandmother grieve the loss of her child for decades.
I have always felt like I messed up. I have always felt like something was terribly wrong with me, because I didn’t grieve properly. Deep down, I keep wondering if I am a ticking time bomb. Am I eventually going to sink into a dark depression? Am I still wounded somehow?
Over the last few weeks, I have come to a realization about grief. It is not ground-breaking, but it has set me free. The realization is this: there is not a right or wrong way to grieve. That is not to say there aren’t unhealthy ways to grieve, because there certainly are. It is to say, that just because I grieved inwardly and quickly, does not mean it was wrong.
A close friend pointed out to me recently that I am a thinker, not a feeler. She was exactly right. I think deeply about the world, I rarely allow myself to feel it. I think that is why I grieved differently. And that doesn’t make it wrong.
I want to encourage you today if you are dealing with grief. I want to encourage you that it is okay to grieve how you need to grieve. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to be silent, be silent. If you need to talk, talk. We are different people who need to deal with pain differently – and that is okay.
Pain is something we can’t escape in this life. It is pain and the joy, which will inevitably follow, that makes us the beautiful people we are. God does not hold our hand through good times just to let us fall in the bad. He carries us through it. We will grieve, we will learn, and we will rejoice in the beautiful life that is, despite all the pain, still around us.
Has dealing with grief made you a stronger person? Leave a comment below.