Blog post

Raw Grief

May 6, 2018

Raw grief is like labor. The intensity of the pain fades with time. Probably because if it didn’t, we could never survive it. We remember when loss visits us anew, ripping everything to pieces as its first wave overtakes us.

It is hard to breathe.
Everything hurts.
Nothing matters, except the consuming missing. And the inescapable pain. The pain is bigger than anything else. Heartsickness is a real thing. And, for a time, nothing can make you feel right again. It is hard to believe we will survive the waves, the sorrow that exists only in the deep end of the ocean.

Last week, our small community was rocked to the core at the death of two teenage brothers who were killed in a tragic car accident. We watched as two of the best parents we know stood beside the caskets of two of the most beautiful, kind, talented, amazing boys we know. We watched the boys who loved them…our boys… absolutely broken as they tried to begin to say goodbye to their friends.

I saw pain twisted on the faces of everyone who walked through that line. And…the miracle is…those incredible parents held each person up as they walked through the line.

They comforted us.

They stood there, next to their sweet boys, without a break…for about ten hours. That’s grace. Strength no human can conjure on their own. I’m often struck by the phenomenon of the way those in raw grief must comfort others in the midst of their own devastating pain.

The older brother was one of my son’s best friends. I have watched my son and his dear friends (those I refer to as my kitchen boys) face the excruciating, earth-shattering pain of raw grief. A pain that I, as a mother, cannot ease or mend for him. He simply must endure this dark wilderness of broken until he learns to live with the weight of it.

And, I remember all of you, carrying the weight each day. Living with the scarred-over pain of once raw grief. Every mother who has stood by the tiny grave…learning to live with the weight of missing left behind by lives that seem unfinished.

As I walked into the hall, through the long line of people waiting five hours to pay their respects, the question rang out multiple times. The one I knew was coming:

“How does a good God allow such tragedy? How will their parents ever be okay?”

I didn’t have a flowery answer. Because the truth is, I don’t know why this is allowed to happen. I’m asking the same agonizing questions. I could answer with the same clichés that Christians do when something terrible happens. But to do so would diminish the utter destruction of the pain this family endures. And no words make this broken right. No words bring those beautiful boys back to their beautiful mother and father.

What I can say…is that I know that God passionately loves us…and I don’t believe He would allow such pain for His children without beauty and redemption being born from it. I know those words don’t bring the comfort needed in this broken. When I lost my children, I didn’t care about the good that can come, I just wanted my babies. But His love for us…that’s the very thing that keeps us standing when we cannot. His love and grace. Even in the broken.

He holds us, still. Even in this.
Sometimes, in our desperation to stay afloat, we can’t feel Him.
But He is still there. Even in this.

For more on learning to swim in the ocean of raw grief, visit this post.

Photo credit

Kelly Gerken
Author Details
Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly’s journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here:

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