Memories and experiences never fade, whether they’re good or bad. You may suppress them if they’re negative but nonetheless, they are still there.
Recently, a close friends’ grandmother passed away unexpectedly. Although the circumstances were completely different, it brought back the latest memories before and when my great-grandmother passed. Naturally my husband and I wanted to pay our respects so we went to the visitation. Admittedly, I was extremely nervous and awaiting for panic and anxiety to set in because I was not prepared for what was to come. Was it going to be an open casket? How upset were my friends going to be? What about their kids? As we waited in the line right outside the room at the funeral home, I asked Luke where our friends were in the lineup and when he said right by the casket my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. When he told me it was an open casket, he immediately tried calming me since I wear my emotions on my face and just kept reassuring me I’d be fine and not to look.
Walking by the line of close family members near the casket without looking is harder than it sounds. I turned my head the other way until I got to her husband and provided my condolences. While I maintained my composure, we truly did not stay long. We paid our respects, talked to some of the family and our friends, and left. We didn’t leave early to be rude or because we didn’t want to socialize. We left because that was best for both of us. You see, my husband and I do not deal with funerals very well, especially me. It brings anxiety, panic attacks, memories, and traumatic experiences from the past.
I say this to tell you it’s okay to not stay for the entire visitation. It’s okay to say no you can’t attend the funeral for personal reasons (although I would if I wasn’t working). It’s okay to tell people no and you don’t owe them a reason for saying no. I’m not great at this by any means. But I’m slowly progressing.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
1 Peter 5:10 ”And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Grief: It’s one thing in life every person experiences in some way. For me, I never understood or processed grief until the recent passing of my great-grandmother. Prior to that, I lost my grandfather on January 23rd of 2009 and my great-grandfather January 23rd of 2010. Needless to say my family was not fond of that date anymore. Those experiences were definitely hard in ways people will never understand and I don’t expect them to. The point is I never had the chance to grieve; I didn’t know how.
Fast forward to January 23rd of this year-the day the news of my great-grandmother became worse. I remember every single detail about that day and I think that’s the day the grief began. I had phone calls back to back and messages saying “call me but make sure Luke (my husband) is around.” Queue the anxiety. We already knew she had bone cancer,we just didn’t the extent of it. That day, January 23rd, was the day we were supposed to find out. Only we didn’t find out about the bone cancer, we found out about the lung cancer and liver cancer. It was complete devastation for me and brought forth the memories of my grandfather and great-grandfather passing away just years before. My great-grandmother took the news in stride. She was ready whenever God was ready to take her. The time I spent with her was difficult. She knew she was dying and I could see it too. Ready or not, it does not make the process any easier-at least not for me.
People handle grief differently. Literally every person handles it in their own way. I don’t know why I didn’t grieve over my grandfather and great-grandfather. I was sad and upset of course but I never grieved until the moment I heard the news of my great-grandmother. Then it became a triple whammy for me. I began recalling every memory and visual of my grandfather in his hospital room as I watched him pass. I began feeling terrible for not being there when my great-grandfather passed. When the time came that my great-grandmother passed, all the emotions became worse and more difficult to handle.
Grief is like a cycle. There are stages involved. You may skip a stage or you may experience all of the stages. You may go through every stage and think “ah, everything is normal again” when all of a sudden you feel sad or angry. The thing with grief is that you can also go back to a particular stage. This doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, it just means you handle it differently than others. For instance, today would have been my grandfather’s 78th birthday. I wish he could have seen me graduate college and get married. I wish I could still go visit him and drink coffee with him. But I can’t. The same goes with my great-grandfather. I am thankful my great-grandmother was at my college graduation but I do wish I could still drink coffee with her and have had her at my wedding. Due to all this plus the grief over my great-grandmother, I find myself in three, yes three, different stages of grief.
I say all this for one reason: no matter who you’re grieving over or who you have grieved over, you’re okay. You’re going to be okay. Why? Because God pours out his grace for us. You just have to accept it so that you can move on and go where he has planned for you to go.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” -Matthew 5:4
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18