Good Monday Mourning!
When my husband died some three and a half years ago I really thought that grief would be a short-lived, temporary malady. Like any other difficulty or injury you hurt - for a while - and then you're better and the crisis is over. I saw this whole process of grief like a long layover on my way to where ever you go on the other side of grief. And so I settled into the back seat with my tissues in hand and still in the "fog" that comes with grief for what I thought would be a painful but short trip. Apparently I was wrong and I'm stunned at my reaction to the whole situation as the trip has dragged on for two, three and soon approaching four years. I have asked that question that my kids asked on nearly every family vacation. If you're a parent you know it well. Stephen, our youngest was particularly fond of this question; so much so that we would not tell him in advance that a trip was coming. On several road trips from Michigan to Florida we would ply him with every distraction known to man; puzzles, books, music, food, These seemed to work for awhile but were never totally effective in eliminating the problem. I call it the "are we there yet? syndrome". Every 30 minutes or 30 miles (50 miles if I was driving. I'm from Michigan and we're born knowing what to do with a gas pedal!) we would here Stephen's chirping whine from somewhere in the nether regions of the minivan, "ARE WE THERE YET?" In one chorus David and I, along with siblings, Lisa and Jonathan would shout, "NO!" Sometime the shout was filled with laughter and a quick redirection of his attention. Around mile marker 600 it would take on a more impatient tone. For Stephen, the trip was unbearable. The joys and delights of the destination made the long ride a bit torturous.
I now understand where the kid was coming from. Grief is like that. At least it is for me. Maybe you are able to endure the journey with patience and acceptance. I am not wired for either and this journey we call grief is not a "joy ride". I find myself every month or so asking God, "Are we there yet?". I just want this to be over and get out of the car and get on with the fun adventure of life. I do not find this trip to be enjoyable and I want out. Some days I want out so bad that I'm willing to jump out on some unknown street corner. Just let me out! I don't care where the journey is taking me or how wonderful it may be when we get there. I just want the grief to stop. I've been on this trip so long that some days I'm feeling a little car-sick. Just let me out!
All this inner impatience with the process we call grief has caused me to ask a different question. (I don't seem to be getting any answer with the "are we there yet? query) As I approach the fourth year of life without David I am beginning to think that perhaps grief is not simply a short, bad trip that will end in a happier, pleasant destination. Perhaps grief is more like a uninvited traveling companion. Someone who comes along for the ride regardless of the destination or length of the trip. I am beginning to think that perhaps grief is not something you put behind you like the mile markers. Perhaps grief is something you learn to live with along the way.
It's all a work in progress and some days I'm not sure of any of this. I just know that I've stopped asking God when it's going to end and starting asking Him to help me deal with this unwanted traveling companion. And as I have changed my approach to grief I find it has become less of the frustrating, upsetting invader of my life. Don't get me wrong, I am not happy about the grief that's crawled into the back seat with me. If I could shove him out the door as we take a sharp turn, I would. But he seems to be quite stubborn and content to tag along with me where ever I go. I am learning how to manage him- to redirect his attention and keep him otherwise occupied. It is getting easier with each day but I no longer wake up each morning expecting this to be the day that I have finally arrived on the other side of grief. If anyone out there has found "the other side", let me know. I would like to get there someday.
So as I head down the road of life approaching the fourth-year mile marker I have stopped asking the question, "Are we there yet?" I already know the answer - NO!
Today I ask, "Lord, help me find joy and purpose in today regardless of where the road takes me." It's probably a better question anyways. At least there seems to be less whine in it than the other one. So today, I'm going with it. Tomorrow is another day and you just never know. Grief may get the best of me tomorrow. Today we seem to be good. Thank you Lord.