You cannot see the grief she bears, the scars that cover deep wounds, forever etched in her heart. You cannot see the memories flooding her mind, leaving gaps in her thought patterns. Forever altering her personality. What lies hidden in a heart, buried deep beneath the years, remains….hidden.
She carries them with her, the babies that left this earth too soon. She feels the ache of a mother’s longing heart…for her own and for those she walks beside. In time, as the scars form over the gaping wounds of grief, she thinks she is okay. A new normal embraces her, and she thinks she is coping just fine. She is….for someone whose world was just shattered into a million splintering pieces.
She goes to the grocery store, the PTA meeting, the baseball game, gives the presentation, runs the race, appearing normal and healed, mended and whole. Maybe she even has another baby. Perhaps, someday, she is restored to the point where she can walk alongside another grieving soul wandering in the wilderness. Walking with the broken, sitting with them in their pain, bearing witness to what few dare to look upon feels like breathing to her. Breathing, for the first time in years. The courage to show compassion was birthed from her heart the day they died. A bud of beauty in the midst of unspeakable broken. She loves deeper, is not ruffled by the little things, holds more loosely to this life as she builds treasure for the next. She wonders who they would be as she walks through this life, carrying their memory, carrying the ache for them…in the broken…in the mending…in the living.
I am that mama. I stand amidst thousands more in a sea of mended broken, carrying the “sacred dance of grief and joy” hidden in our hearts. A few weeks ago, as I stood in the place where heaven meets earth, celebrating another tiny soul as her family whispered hello and goodbye in the same breath, I knelt to hug her mama. In a cosmic exchange, I pulled her into an embrace, stroking her hair, placing my cheek next to hers…”It will not hurt this badly forever. For awhile, but not forever.” I felt pieces of her pain enter my heart as her tears dripped down my face. Bearing grief together. Because together is better than alone.
Last weekend, I sat in a circle of wounded warrior mamas, scarred from grief’s battle. It was a training to equip others to serve grieving families as comfort doulas through Sufficient Grace Ministries. Years lay between their hearts and the initiation into this world of grief bearing. And, yet tears flowed freely from each face. For the pain that lies hidden in our hearts remains…with the mending and the passing of the years. The ache remains. We think we are fully healed, because we survived. But the grief affects us more than we know, manifesting itself in physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual deficits. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, physical ailments, post-traumatic stress. Sometimes what lies hidden in a heart is not so hidden after all.
As we stagger through our days, exhausted from the living of this frantic life, may we take a moment to acknowledge those around us. For we never know the pain that lies hidden in a human heart. May we give grace to one another for the momentary loss of patience, for the furrowed brow, for the weary sigh, for the sarcasm masking broken places still oozing. For we never know the hurt carried within a human soul. And, we never the know the gift of kindness and grace to the one wandering in grief’s wilderness.
Dear mother, doing her best to survive this wilderness, you are not alone.
Photo credit: Tienne Wilkin, SGM Remembrance Photographer