My ‘One Up’ on Grief: LOVE
The definition of grief is GREAT SORROW.
Grief does not just come with the loss of a loved one, and I know. I had to grieve the loss of so many things in the 12 beautiful years I had with my daughter, before I actually experienced the greatest grief of them all, this life without her.
You can grieve so many things, and often you don’t realize that is what you are actually experiencing. Grief is unpredictable, always surprising, and comes when you least expect it. You can grieve the life you had, that is no more, the life you hoped you would have that will never be; the peace that you once took for granted and is now replaced with fear, and even the simple “normal” routines that have been replaced with your “new normal” that most others will never understand. You can even grieve over what you, your child, and your family have went through and endured. Grief is a dreaded emotion, one that you can’t quite escape in this life.
I remember when I put away Julia’s favorite little ‘play table’ for the final time. This ‘perfectly made for her’ light oak table was where I would sit her to make sure she got her ‘upright’ time and where I’d feed her meals while we watched Barney. She’d sit there to play with her “bubba” and throw her head back over the seat, and belly laugh at whatever he came up with next. She’d sit there to read books, play dress up…we used it every day, all throughout the day. I had looked for months online for that table and chair that fit her perfectly and let her little legs bend at the perfect angle they needed to, in order to sit confidently and comfortably. The table was a treasured, loved possession of hers, and she would point at it and ask to be put there often.
After she came home from a three-month hospital stay in 2009, and this time with a trach and ventilator, we began to transition into our ‘new normal’. After many months of denial, I finally realized that some of the things she enjoyed before, would be no more. So when I cleaned up her playroom, and decided to put some of the bigger things away for more room, I decided that if I was being honest, this very loved table really didn’t need to stay out. I picked it up, carried it to the closet in the garage and as I caught a peek of it sitting on a pile of “items we really don’t need anymore” while the door was shutting, I lost it. This cherished item, now ‘put away’ for good was like the Sesame Street song, ‘one of these things is not like the others’. It didn’t belong in there. My heart cried out, to go put it back in her room, but really I knew the days of using it were gone. I knew I was putting her ‘perfectly made for her’, very loved, little, play table, away… for the final time. I could hardly compose myself. At that time, I had no idea why. A wave of fierce, uncontrollable thoughts hit me, relentlessly. I was seeing in my mind special moments in time that had been spread out over the years, now just all compiled into a short flash of visions and memories. Oh how we loved our time ‘around the table’ with her. But now, those special times were done, closed up, stamped with a seal, with no more moments in time to add to them. Like a file in my heart I could pull it out if I so desired….or dared.
Putting away this little table was so much more to me, and at that time, I didn’t know why. I also didn’t understand that I had been here before, each time during her life that we had to ‘transition’ to a new ‘normal’ because of this progressive, relentless disease, I hated, called I-cell that racked her tiny body at a cellular level.
Each transition out from what we knew, had to have closure, and grief it seems was always there to hold one of my hands.
The next day, I shared with my dear friend, and neighbor who had lost her young son recently, what had happened. I shared with her how surprised I was at the level of sadness I had experienced.
It was just a little table I told her, and after my girl had survived so much in the recent months, why was THIS what rocked my world? She pulled me into her arms, and looked at me and said,
It’s not JUST a table….It’s everything you just lost with it, you just experienced grief.
I had lost so much, she had lost so much, our family had endured the unthinkable, and grief was there holding my hand. When I realized that those intense feelings and emotions were grief, with a new sense of resilience, I decided to recommit myself to “living in the moment” with my girl, to focus on LOVE.
Grief truly does have so much power on us because of how deeply, truly, and madly we love another.
But the irony in this, that same LOVE is also a ‘one up’ on grief.
While grief was holding one of my hands, LOVE was holding another, and when I switched over from ‘what we had lost’ to ‘what we had’, I could truly say, ‘grief where is your sting’ as I let go of its hand and asked God to restore my hope, give me strength, and show me how to LOVE, and live in the moment even more.
Grief, you may come to remind us of sorrow, and loss, but you also remind us of just how deeply we love, don’t you? So when you come to weigh me down, and fill me with sorrow, you may have one thing on me…you don’t give me any warning. But I have some news for you. I have something bigger on you, LOVE does truly win.
‘Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.’ ~Corinthians 13:13
Guest post by Sara Knight, Founder of The Sweet Julia Grace Foundation