The thing about grief...

Grief is a weird thing. I know, because I have experienced a great deal of loss the past couple of years. Last year, we lost our Papa and my precious Mimi, and a close friend’s mother passed away unexpectedly. The year before that, I lost a dear lady who I loved deeply, my best friend’s mother. In each of these instances everyone who was affected by these deaths reacted differently. Some went on with life as if nothing happened. Others were mad. Sad. Confused. And some, like me, found themselves in this “awkward” stage. Trying to act like nothing had happened, all the while knowing deep down that something huge really had.

It was hard losing all those people. The most recent pained me the most though—my Mimi. She was a mom to me. I could crawl up on her lap and just sit there talking to her. My sister and I would spend so many nights with her. In fact, most of our childhood was spent with her. When she died it felt like a whole piece of my childhood died with her. She was the one who kept us all centered together. I don’t think anyone is ever prepared for the death of a loved one. I remember the doctors telling us she was to be sent home on hospice and then rushing to get to Bernie. When I got there she was in the hospital bed talking away. For the next couple of days she was laughing, talking, eating, and asking to go to Walmart (one of her favorite places to go). It was nice to have those days with her but it gave my heart a false hope that somehow the doctors had misdiagnosed her. Maybe, just maybe, she would pull through and live longer than they expected. And she thought the same. She kept asking the hospice nurse how it was possible that she was doing so well. The truth was, she was doing so well because we were all there with her. She had her whole family with her and it was really the only thing she had always wanted. She pushed through and fought so hard. And then, just like that, she went downhill.

Here is where death and grief get weird. My grandma began to suffer, and it was so painful to watch. I cried and secretly (although I feel guilty for doing this) prayed that God would take her to Heaven because my heart ached to see her in pain; to see her struggle and to watch as her whole body began to deteriorate. Truthfully, I wasn’t ready to let my grandma go just yet. I wanted her with me. I wanted her to watch my children grow up. I wanted to come home to Bernie and walk in seeing her in her chair watching one of her shows with a smile on her face when she saw me. I wanted to tell her everything happening in my life and to hear her tell me how proud she was of me, or brag about how amazing of a husband I have (she was always his biggest fan!). I wanted to have many more days of shopping at every dollar store, Goodwill and Walmart she could find. My grandma was that person in my life I didn’t expect to die. I just thought she would always be there. Really, I just wanted her to always be there.

You see, everyone grieves differently. For the past two months I haven’t been able to feel anything. I didn’t even cry at her funeral. But now, I miss her with every part of me. It has hit me like this big gushing wave. I think about her when I’m driving and instinctively want to dial her number. I think about her when I go shopping. I think about her when I feel like I’ve accomplished something she would be proud of. I think about her when my children do something that would have amazed her. I think about her when I’m sick and I need someone to just listen to me feel sorry for myself. I miss her telling me she loves me and misses me…

Oh, I miss her…really miss her. 

The problem with grief is that not everyone understands it. Because we all grieve differently we all have opinions on how others should grieve. I’ve been guilty of this. How could that person move on so fast? Why is that person “still” grieving? And I’ve also been on the other end where I’ve questioned my own grieving. “Is it okay to talk about my grandma dying?” “Is it okay if others know I miss her and that it hurts?” “Should I be over it by now?” This process of grieving is why I’m writing this particular article. I know one day I will see my grandma again, and I cannot wait until that day. This assurance is what gives me hope. Because Jesus made a way, and I’m so very thankful He did, my heart can be filled with joy knowing that we will be reunited. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her right now. It doesn’t mean I don’t hurt or get frustrated. It doesn’t mean I’m okay right now. And that’s okay.

When my best friend lost her mom, I felt this incredible pain with her because I loved Mrs. Joy so very much. At times, I didn’t know what to say to help her. I was completely lost on what to do. But there was one thing I said to her that she repeated back to me just today: “Remember, it’s okay to not be okay.” You don’t have to have it all together. You don’t have to always be strong in front of others. You can cry. Please cry. You can laugh, yes you can even laugh at the funeral, after the funeral, weeks later, months later. You can get mad (just don’t stay mad). You can be okay, but it’s also okay to not be okay. And if you’re reading this and you’ve never experienced losing a loved one… give grace to those who have. Lots of it. Don’t judge. Please don’t judge. Let them decide whether they are okay or not, because in a world where we can put on a fake smile and post a picture to Facebook for everyone to see how great we are doing, we need to be able to just not be okay sometimes. Is that “okay?”

So if there’s one thing that my loss has shown me I need to change this year it’s to cling to Jesus (He will see you through at all times), make lots of memories, love with all you have, judge less, and allow yourself the freedom to “not be okay” from time to time.

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