As I begin to write today it’s a beautiful crisp day. The sun is shining through the windows with the pure blue sky gleaming through the tree branches out my second story windows. That sunshine and clear sky gives me energy and a smile. I’m a person who does much better with sunshine than grey cloudy days. But today as I sat in “my” space in our house praying and thinking through the upcoming month’s busy schedule my mind also went backwards. These words came to mind. “Thank goodness for grief”, odd, I know. But it is truly how I feel today, grateful for grief.
You see when I look up I see a photo of my immediate family taken 11 years ago. There were 5 members at that time. My husband and I, our daughter and son-in-law and our son. We are all smiling in that photo but while we were smiling sincerely we were also grieving. We were celebrating new beginnings and togetherness while having deep sorrow at being separated from great friends and jobs we loved. Approximately 2 years before that photo our world fell apart. Our son-in-law was diagnosed with incurable cancer at the age of 21, two short years after marrying our daughter. That was the final in a long line of “straws” that broke my husband to a state of incapacity for a few months. When our son left for his second year of college that year it just felt like one more broken connection to me. But in that time of grief we all had opportunity to discover what was really important to us. For that I am thankful. At the same time, I am and was very sad that the people I love the most in this world, my husband, daughter and son had to go through such heavy, hard, heartbreaking times.
Directly related to those circumstances we moved. I was in complete agreement with the move but I was heart broken when it resulted in my needing to give up a job I totally loved, a job I felt the most useful in in my entire life to that point, my dream job. I grieved deeply although I did not recognize it as grief at first. I am so thankful for that job. I met so many wonderful people and had a direct line through those connections to watch God work outside of my immediate world. That job gave me a perspective that I would not otherwise have today. And today I have new opportunities to share that perspective that I would not have if we stayed there. I am thankful, really I am. At the same time, I miss the easy access to those people. I am now just a bit sad to not be involved in the direct visioning of that ministry. Yes, I am thankful and sometimes a bit sad all at once.
Ten years ago our son-in-law died. My husband was sick. Our son was taking finals for that semester of college. It was hard, gut wrenching hard, second only to the immediate diagnoses/husband’s breakdown time. But those few days of the four of us in one hotel room to plan and have the funeral bonded us in a way we can never explain. We’ve never talked about it, largely because we weren’t thinking about that at that time. We were just doing what we needed to do to deal with circumstances of those days. We did the business of funeral planning, talking through memories of Mark (our son-in-law), and trying to figure out what came next while treating my husband’s sinus infection/sore throat and needing to eat now and then. I’m thankful that we went through that literally together as it showed us that we could handle things as a family with love and grace even when we were exhausted and didn’t have a clue what the future would look like. Ten years later I still think of that time although not as frequently as I used to. Grief has no time limits, none.
The precious short time we had with our first son-in-law made us doubly grateful for the man that God brought in to our daughter’s life just a couple of years later. The moment of our first son-in-law’s Dad and my husband “giving away” our daughter at her wedding to her second husband will be a moment I will never forget. The grief of losing Mark Hoftyzer with all of his unique, wonderful qualities and quirks have made us appreciate Ryan with all of his unique, wonderful qualities and quirks even more. For that, I am thankful. At the same time I still miss Mark Hoftyzer.
That time together for Mark’s funeral helped me know it was okay to call our kids when my Mom was dying 5 years ago right at Christmas time. I just wanted us to celebrate Christmas together as a family. Honestly, I was selfishly just wanting to enjoy our daughter, now remarried, annoucing to our family that she was pregnant. I also feared the reaction some of our family might have to the dampner this death would put on Christmas. I am thankful that God showed me in a big way that year that I just needed to focus on and trust Him. Amber still got her time to share her good news. In fact, telling my Dad that there was a new life coming not to “replace” Mom’s life but to show the circle of life to him was perfect. Mom loved children and Dad chose to focus on that. Our whole family was great, very cooperative and kind. Only my own thinking had caused that anxiety. I am grateful for those lessons learned from the grief of Mom’s death at Christmas time. It helps me even now, five years later. Grief and perspective from grief has no time limit.
All of these things helped us all when our son came with a broken heart and told us his marriage was over. Once again the future we had pictured for our child wasn’t happening. We hurt right along with him. While our hearts just ached for him way down to the depths of our souls, we were thankful that he trusted us enough to come to us and to allow us to walk through that season with him as a family. We grieved again. Grief is not always related to physical death. It is attached to any kind of loss, ending or death. He has also allowed us to experience joy with him as he fell in love again and married his sweetheart. As parents we hurt that he had to experience heart break to learn what true love is and how to live in a marriage relationship but we are very thankful that he learned. We are thankful that he has a loving wife and now son with which to use all of that heartfelt, hard earned knowledge.
I share all of this because I know multiple people that are grieving right now, today. They are sad but feel like they shouldn’t be anymore. They think others will think poorly of them because some time has passed since their loved one died or left them, since they lost that job or aren’t getting pregnant. I say, grief is a part of life. My grief, while ongoing, is not overwhelming anymore (at least not often or for long) but it is present in my life. That grief has helped me keep my priorities in check. It has helped me make the right decision so many times, choosing people over things and tasks. I still have alot to learn and I know there will be more grief in my life but I’m okay with that thought. I encourage you to recognize grief in your life. Accept it, use it to help you live your life appreciating every aspect of it.
Grief is a part of life. Grief has no time limits.
My life is richer because of grief.
I am thankful for grief.