I was twelve years old when my mom died. Apparently traumatic memories are more vivid than other kinds because I can close my eyes and travel back to my grandmother’s house where there was a book set up for folks to sign, back to that funeral home where I saw my mom for the last time, back home to our house that felt empty even with so many visitors coming by.
The week or so after she died eventually ended, with everyone leaving us alone, leaving the four of us, a family missing a mother, to figure out how to move forward without her.
It’s been decades since that time, but when I close my eyes and remember it, part of me becomes that twelve-year-old girl again. I think part of me will always be that little girl, frozen in time, still wishing for my mom to walk through the door.
I didn’t get to finish growing up with a mother by my side. She wasn’t there for me to call when, as a young mother, I would have loved to turn to her for advice. She isn’t here as I experience the joy of being a grandmother. When I have good news, I can’t call her to share it with her. When I’m scared or confused, she isn’t there to comfort me. I’ve had to learn to live without her.
You see, when someone we love dies, we find ourselves temporarily surrounded by a wall of softness created by those who care for us. They tend to us carefully even though, in our haze of sadness, we can’t appreciate the strength and kindness they’re giving us. They’re sharing a priceless gift with us. It’s a gift we hope to never repay.
We find ourselves wrapped up in their love as they help us through the initial shock loss brings our way. They are there as the torment we feel from making plans we never wanted to make threatens to overwhelm us. They walk with us as we make it through one of the absolute worst days of our lives, the day we say good-bye to the one we still can’t quite believe is gone. They help us move when numbness threatens to stop us in our tracks.
Then they move on as they return to their own lives, leaving us alone to learn how to live again.
And, just like that, the cocoon we’ve been in crumbles around us. No matter how many people we’re with, we still feel the ache of loneliness death has brought to us. We wonder how long this pain will last as we struggle to break free, to find a measure of peace. We search for comfort among our memories, but after a temporary moment or two of happiness, we remember. And we forget where those memories took us, as the pain they’re tinged with brings us back from the past to our now, our life where loss is never far from our mind.
And Jesus is more than enough.
He tells us to come to Him because He knows our needs, knows what He offers is exactly what we need.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 ESV
When we’re first introduced to grief, people flock to us. They bring food. They help us. They make it possible for us to cry by crying with us. They do everything they know how to do to make us feel better, even though, especially if they too have met grief, they know feeling better isn’t possible yet.
But the time comes when they need to move on. Unlike us, they can walk away from our grief, taking their comfort with them as we remain alone with our pain. Some of them understand it’s a lifelong feeling that, although it will lessen with time, will become a part of us.
Days become weeks as time moves, pulling us along with it. Unlike everyone around us, we’re caught in this strange world where the past mixes so easily with the present. We often don’t know which world we’re living in until the wave of sadness, the one that seems to hover close by at all times, comes crashing down.
We long for what we don’t know how to ask for: someone to say their name, someone to talk to us about them, someone who is willing to allow us to lower our mask if even for just a moment.
Although we feel alone, the truth is we have Someone who loves us, Someone who is eager to listen to every word we have to say, Someone who has the words to comfort us.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 ESV
I can think about my mom now without feeling pain. There are some memories I still can’t share without crying, but I’m okay with that. I still love my mom, and the tears I shed remind me of the life we had together.
I often wonder what she would think if she could see me now.
I like to imagine her with my grown children. I can see her looking lovingly at my daughter, their eyes so much alike. I think she would cry, amazed at my daughter’s beauty and strength. I can almost hear her laugh as she listens to something my son says, whose dry wit reminds me so much of hers. She would comment on his blue eyes, so much like everyone in our family, everyone except her. I like to imagine us smiling at each other as she sees me with my grandchildren, shaking her head in disbelief as memories assault her, taking her back in time to when I was the little one on the floor playing with blocks.
But none of those things ever happened; they never will.
But that doesn’t mean I’m without hope. Far from it. I have hope that I will be with my mom again, and I have a feeling, once I see her, all that I missed will instantly fade away. I won’t wish for what I didn’t have. It won’t even cross my mind.
I hope I get to hug her again because being in her arms was always my favorite place to be. It’s a feeling that hasn’t left me, even after all this time. I’ve learned to see this as a reminder of who she was to me instead of focusing on the emptiness of a hug I can remember but never feel.
Yes, grief is painful, but we’re not without hope.
Our hope has a name, and He is closer than we can imagine. We just have to call out to Him.
His name is Jesus.
Sandy Brannan, author of Becoming Invisible, So Much Stays Hidden, Masquerade, and Frozen in Time, teaches middle and high school English. A regular contributing writer for Calla Press, she also writes for The Real Deal of Parenting and Her View From Home. Sandy’s idea of a perfect day is one spent creating memories with her grandchildren. This usually includes coloring and reading a lot of books. You can read more of her work on her blog at sandybrannan.com. Sandy is also active on social media at facebook.com/sandybrannanauthor and instagram.com/sandybrannanauthor. You can follow her on Amazon at amazon.com/author/sandybrannan.
We thank you, Sandy, for your contribution to this publication of Titus-two.com and for sharing your heart about the topic of grief.
You are loved to Heaven and Back, Sandy ~~
LindaRJohnson, TitusTwo Visionary