More than 21 years ago, my mom passed away after battling breast cancer for two years. I was in college at the time and trying to figure out life, faith and why this would happen to a woman of such amazing character and faith.
Fast forward 20 years, I am more grounded in my own story and have spent a lot of time working out my faith but am now processing new grief. Similar questions echo, why would THIS happen to a man of such amazing character and faith.
I can say today that the loss of my mom at a young age shaped me in so many ways and gave me confidence and strength of character that might look different otherwise, yet the first question of “why” still remains unanswered.
However, in this new season, an interesting thing is happening. I’m talking more. I’m sharing how I actually feel, leaning into it, not running from it. I’m discussing this grief journey with strangers and often with family and friends in real and raw ways.
Talking about my own grief seems to give people permission to discuss their own. Grief that feels confusing, unfair and in some cases, grief that has been hidden away for months, years or even decades. It's truly fascinating, beautiful and intricate. This week, many thoughts have crossed my mind, as I've engaged in various conversations - some tearful, some deeper than expected. In the process, I've come to realize a few new things about the grief sharing process.
Putting words to grief new or long-lasting is good.
There is comfort that can be found in sharing our grief experience. Getting a call, message or text from someone to let me know they thought or remembered something special about my late husband is still a bit sad yet encouraging. It's good to know I am not alone in my memories of this person - that he is not forgotten. How could he be! These conversations strengthen relationships with friends and family in a whole new way. How we miss him varies, but we're doing it together in a way too.
Giving an honest answer creates opportunity.
You never know when your sharing your own story might give away to a diamond in the ruff - a conversation that has been needed for some time. This has happened several times in the past few months and has led to beautiful moments that offered hope and even a bit of healing within my own grief story new and old. Even talking about grief from long ago can bring clarification to a relationship that has been perhaps misunderstood because of past grief.
Being honest is an option.
Some people might think, “We’re talking about this too much.” Honestly, we probably aren’t, but this also doesn’t mean I have to talk about our feelings non-stop or at every holiday event or gathering. The challenge I'm putting forward, and am trying myself, is to be as honest as possible. Maybe it's too hard to be really honest because you might burst into tears in a less than ideal setting. An honest answer can be scaled depending on the time and place. I don't always answer, "I'm good!! but sometimes just "ok" - I also don't tell the person at the coffee shop drive-thru that Christmas isn't very fun this year. But I do tell friends, family and others that, "it's not easy, that I might cry."
I share all my crazy messy, sometimes hopeful or doubtful thoughts, feelings and emotions with God - because I know He can handle it and He knows and loves me more than any person could.
Finding ways to be honest about grief helps and takes time and practice. It may not always feel comfortable. I am definitely practicing, a lot. Practice makes perfect, right? Umm, maybe not but let's try anyway.
There's not a perfect roadmap for this process as we keep grieving on and on.
"You know when I rest and when I am active.
You understand what I am thinking when I am distant from you."
- Psalm 138:2
A few favorite memories . . . including my dad's family at his 70th birthday
and the #brofrowvins (yep we have a friends hashtag)
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.