Over the past nine years, my husband and I have lost seven family members and almost as many friends. Obviously the grieving process looks different depending on the relationship, but something I’ve learned is that grieving is one of the hardest, most exhausting things I’ve ever done.
This week as we buried my husband’s grandfather, we had moments of laughter as we shared stories and celebrated his life, and also moments of tears as we felt his absence among us. Although we rejoice that he has gone on to his heavenly home, we also know that for us, the long process of grieving has only just begun.
Over the years I’ve used many words to describe grief: depressing, maddening, painful, suffocating…but now I’d like to add the word privileged to the list.
I realized this week that we grieve someone’s absence, because we loved their presence in our lives.
We grieve because we had the privilege of love.
I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to see the privilege of grieving. When my dad died, I remember surrounding myself with his pictures. I suddenly wanted his face in every room so that I could see him and feel like he was still here. I remember wishing that my friends knew him the way I did so that they’d understand why his death would leave a large, gaping hole in my life. I wanted my friends to understand that I felt privileged to know my dad as a person, not just as his daughter.
After losing different friends over the years, I’ve found myself having similar feelings of wanting everyone around me to have a taste of what I loved so much about that person; wanting people to understand what that friend meant to me, the impact they had on my life and why I would miss them so much.
Now I find myself wanting to tell people about Chad’s grandfather. I want people to understand that what made him so amazing wasn’t the fact that he lived to be 98, that he lived alone and still went to work everyday right up until his death…no, what made him amazing was the full life that he lived in those 98 years. What made him amazing was his work ethic, his character, his devotion to the Lord and how you can see his example being lived out in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It was a privilege to know him, and I feel privileged to have known him well enough to miss his presence in my life and now to grieve his death.
What is it they say? “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” I suppose this is the same idea. I would rather deeply love the people around me and endure the pain of grief than to have never let anyone get close enough to miss them when they’re gone.
Death is ugly. Grief is disruptive. It’s the price we pay for love. But, love is a privilege and I’m willing to pay that price.
Grief can take us down the darkest, loneliest path known to man. I remember stumbling down that path years ago when we miscarried our baby girl. I remember telling my doctor, “I can’t get happy.” That was the only way I knew how describe what I was feeling. Grief seemed to be the lens with which I saw the world.
Grief is personal, thus we all deal with it differently.
Grief may loosen its grip over time, but it never really leaves. It just changes.
I have been saddened by the death of many people and I have mourned the death of many more. But, grief seems to be an emotion reserved for the people closest to us; you know who they are, the people who take a piece of your heart when they go.
Grief may have you fighting to eat, sleep and breath…it may have you fighting to survive. But, let it also serve as a reminder that you have loved someone so deeply that without them, you aren’t you. What a privilege to have loved so deeply. What a privilege it is to grieve.