They say there are stages to grief and I imagine that is generally true, but since every individual person is different, I believe grief manifests itself in a variety of ways.
In the days, weeks, and months after Faith died my grief took on many forms. And while I’m no expert, it is through my experience that I share what I learned about grief in my valley of sorrow.
Grief is a process.
It takes time to grieve. I don’t necessarily believe the sayings, “it will get better in time” or “time heals all wounds” because I know that it is God who heals and comforts, not the passage of time. However, as time passes it allows you to work through the process of grief a little each day.
And sometimes that’s what you need – to just take each day as it comes.
When we first came home from the hospital I remember feeling exhausted – physically, mentally and emotionally worn out. It was weariness like I’ve never experienced.
I also remember feeling this aching uncertainty. I felt lost because the identity I had imagined for myself – a stay at home mom – had disappeared. Where would our lives go from there? I was plagued by questions that had no answers.
In my valley of sorrow, in the midst of that deep grief, I had to face my exhaustion and uncertainty and work through both piece by piece.
Sometimes that meant a day at home reading a book just to rest my mind and body. Other times it meant pushing myself… to get up, put on real clothes, walk the dog, go for a drive wherever the road took us.
There was a lot of talking, crying, praying, writing, reading, listening to music, and letting myself work through everything bit by bit.
And this is what I learned: you can’t rush the grieving process, but you can’t let yourself fall prey to the trap of staying in your grief forever either.
Like a literal walk through a valley you must take each day, and sometimes each moment, a step at the time. Looking back I can say with certainty that none of those steps were wasted.
Grief is unpredictable.
I could prepare for certain things, such as the 15th of every moth that first year, knowing they would be difficult for me. But I couldn’t prepare myself for the “sneak attacks” of grief when I didn’t expect it.
A pregnant woman in the restaurant. The smell of hand sanitizer that brought me right back to that hospital room. A baby around the same age Faith would have been in the row behind us at church.
Little or big things, they would come out of nowhere and send my heart racing and my eyes blinking back tears.
For me, acknowledging that those moments would come and acknowledging that I wouldn’t always be ready to handle them was half the battle. Instead of letting the unpredictability of grief paralyze me, I learned that I had to let my guard down and allow myself to “roll with the punches” so to speak.
I couldn’t prepare for everything that would happen or how I would feel, but I learned to take it as it came and keep pressing on.
Grief doesn’t last forever.
Read that one again. I promise that it’s true.
This is where my faith made – and continues to make – all the difference for me. I did not grieve without hope (1 Thess. 4:13) becasue I knew, beyond any doubt, that Faith is in Heaven. I know she is living in the perfection of God’s glory and I know that I will join her there someday. And on that day this life without her will feel like a blink of an eye in comparison to the eternity we will share together.
That hope allowed me to let go of grief and, as grief lessened, joy returned.
There were moments in the beginning when I wondered if it would be possible to feel joy again, but I can truly say that I did and still do. As I wrote yesterday, I miss Faith and sometimes I’m sad, but I came to understand that joy is not based on my circumstances but instead on my confidence in God and His promises.
And so, after my journey through the valley of sorrow, I found that river of joy. Not on my own, it was His hand that brought me there.
He can lead you as well, through any valley you might face.
If you are going through a valley and you don’t know the peace and assurance that comes through faith in Christ, I encourage you to seek Him. He truly is there… through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.
If you are interested in some of the resources I found to be helpful through my grieving process, the following is a list of books and songs. It opens as a word document, feel free to print or share as you would like: Resources for Grief
Also, if you are a friend or family member to someone who has recently experience loss, this post – Valleys to Rivers: Family and Friends – from my previous blog may be helpful to you.