The promise of spring hangs in the air. The sun glints off the snow, and the black-capped chickadee lands on the feeder outside my window. The sound of my children’s voices rings throughout the house, yet somehow I am alone. Several attempts at getting together with friends over the past several months has failed, each having canceled for one reason or another. I have never felt so alone. I have much to be thankful for, yet I am weary of this day. I am sad. Try as I might to dispel this darkness, I cannot. My usual attempts at staving off discouragement are to no avail. Late nights, interrupted sleep, bodily aches and pains, Seasonal Affect Disorder, and worry over loved ones has overtaken my valiant efforts to swim out of this current of depression. Worship and praise music, devotions, and prayer seem to be ineffective. Dark thoughts persist, prowling, pacing, waiting for opportune moments to devour.
Several days of this, and I keep thinking, “I need to tell someone. I need to be honest about the struggle.” Of course, God already knows. Oh, yes, I’ve told him. I’ve cried out to him as David, the man who hid in caves, surrounded by enemies. I’ve tried praying, but no words come. I’ve kept the praise and worship music going, yet I fail to be uplifted. I keep reading my daily devotions, but the words fall like arrows missing a target. Where do I turn? Who will listen? Again, I go back to God. He hears, though I fail to see Him bending toward me. I think of those whose pain was too great, who chose to end their lives. What’s the difference between them and me, I wonder?
But I continue life “as usual,” keep going through the motions because I don’t know what else to do. I know there has to be an answer. I’m doing what David and Job did, giving voice to the One who holds all things, but I know, deep down, I must do what others did not. I must tell someone. I must be vulnerable, real. I must not stay isolated.
And so, I, quite unexpectedly, tell someone. I confide that I am struggling, that life is hard right now. She understands, as she’s “been there, done that” with loss, as well. She acknowledges the hard. She listens and doesn’t try to fix. She hears and doesn’t offer advice, only validation. This, this is my key to getting out of the dark place. Validation.
It was then that I realized what I had failed to do: Give myself validation. I had failed to acknowledge what I was feeling. How crazy is that? I mean, I live with grief every day, yet failed to name it for what it was. See, because this was different. This wasn’t just a “loss of child” grief. This was a tangled ball of grief all wrapped up in a crazy mess of other things that life throws your way. Things like your children growing up, reaching adulthood and the reality of them actually leaving hitting you like a ton of bricks. Things like the enormity of dealing with a young adult child whose future is uncertain because they’re still dealing with the effects of their brother’s death, yes, six and a half years later. Things like realizing one of your other children may have a learning disorder.
These things, I finally realized, are grief. (Slow learner, that I am!) On top of all this, contemplating Matt’s annual memorial scholarship and upcoming birthday threw me deeper into the pit of despair. What’s more, I have no one to turn to for these things, no one who has gone ahead or “been there, done that.” Where are the mentors? Where are the older women who will come alongside me and share what they learned? Why haven’t I found them? Why are we not being vulnerable with one another?
But for this woman I shared with, I think I would still be in the pit. After sharing, I realized this was grief, but more than that, I realized that giving voice to it was the key to climbing out of it. God gave us people, community. He gave us one another. We are not, as poet John Donne correctly penned, “an island.” Are you struggling? Are you feeling alone? Have you told someone? We weren’t meant to carry our burdens alone. Of course, God gives us Himself, but He also gives us those with skin on, other humans with which to commiserate, share sorrow (and joy).
I felt significantly better after sharing with this woman and continued to play worship and praise music and read my devotions. This morning, I woke with hope again, the bony grasp of despair’s grip blessedly less. I watched one of my grief mom friend‘s Facebook live video and was reminded of important truths when grieving: Keep your eyes on Christ, not looking ahead in apprehension. Trust Him for the future. Make your plans, but hold them lightly, knowing and trusting God’s Sovereignty. More than that, take hold of the peace He gives freely and abundantly. Finally, praise Him. Praise Him in the dark, for the opportunity it gives to draw you close to God. Praise Him for His faithfulness, comfort, and peace.