Tear-Eyed Grief Warrior
I thought I would be past ridiculous amounts of tears on a Monday of a regular week, but no. Tears still appear at random times for brief and longer periods.
The sorrow is real, I've lost someone dear. The tears reflect that fact.
Today's emotional trigger began with a call to our insurance company to talk about some of our claims. The comment, "I am sorry for your loss," hit me by surprise yet again. It's been a few months since I heard those words and hearing them out loud made me run smack into reality once again.
Small things that hold good memories like photo highlights and finding our healthy eating plan from last January amplified the tension inside me today. Until, finally, at home, while baking fish for one, the emotions hit hard. Today's a sad day. Very. (Cry emojis everywhere).
It seems the moment I feel I'm making progress, I am suddenly derailed – a total mess. This is what grief looks like for me (a little over 3 months in).
I know there is hope for the future, but my hurt can so easily overshadow it. It's a continual battle of my mind, heart and emotions. I've been dwelling on the idea of what it means to be a warrior in this season –how to grieve on healthily.
When finally watching the last LOTR movie, Return of the King, this weekend, I was again captivated by the enduring friendship of Frodo and Sam, who faced many obstacles in their journey. I debated which one of characters represented me best, and have an idea. Near the end, as Frodo writes his closing words in the book, he says, "There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep… that have taken hold." I feel the depth of those emotions, yet am early in the process and have not given time much of a chance. I also know, there IS more to my story, as it continues on (much like Sam).
"The last pages are for you, Sam." - Frodo.
Stumbling through messy grief days is no fun, my strength wavers even as I attempt to "warrior on." Thankfully, I am not on my own, and can trust in a Warrior that remains strong and faithful each step in the journey.
In the middle of my (very ugly) cry-party, I found some encouragement in Zephaniah 3:16-17. There's a lot of context in this section of the Bible, yet even here on this teary-eyed day, I can relate to these words.
"… "Don't be afraid. Dear Zion, don't despair.
Your GOD is present among you, a strong Warrior there to save you.
Happy to have you back, he'll calm you with his love and delight you with his songs."
– Zephaniah 3:16-17 (The Message).
Analytics of Change
I have changed.
Recently, while participating in an all-day event, my mind wondered as I recalled how I felt last year when attending this same event. I was eager to learn and excited about the new year. Even in the duller moments, I found entertainment by texting my husband about topics I found interesting or not. Life was good, simple.
Here and now, my excitement is less. I am striving to move forward day by day, but as I sit in this familiar space, my subconscious is active. I'm thinking about how much has changed this past year. I've faced reality in new ways. I've gained strength in many ways and dived into deep waters of grief.
If I pulled an analytics chart of emotions from January 2019 to January 2020, it would be quite interesting. Zooming in on a daily perspective would be even more so.
I want to feel the excitement I did last year, but simply can't reach that tier. The events of 2019 have changed me and how I now respond to new and familiar things. The unwanted change could lead to good, sure. But the change is and has been hard. Earth-shattering.
Fully energized, cheery Jenn is still in here but overshadowed a bit. I'm stuck in an in-between place of rediscovering who I am. What does life look like without my spouse? What new hopes and dreams do I have for my future? Thinking about long-term plans of 5 years down the road seems impossible – I can barely imagine what life might look like next month. My head is less cloudy than a few months ago but still not clear.
Relying on God's word and truth provides an anchor point of hope for today.
"Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off." - Proverbs 23:18
Grief on a Jet Plane
Within my grief story, on any given day I float between finding hope, joy and strength to sorrow, gloom and doubt in a matter of days or sometimes hours. Even during the process of writing a blog post this can happen.
Often, the emotions are heightened when I don’t feel well or am a bit sleep deprived. Today, the sorrow hit during my 6 a.m. flight from California back to Missouri. I was sadly crying into my pillow blanket as I watched the most spectacular sunrise during the eastward flight. There was empty seat next to me and I was thinking about how Josh should have been sitting there. I also was going on maybe 4 hours of sleep – the perfect combo for in-flight crying risk.
I know. So sad.
The contrast was that I was returning from a truly wonderful trip seeing friends, having seaside chats with God and enjoying some creative musings. My soul felt restored and I was leaning into the new and good possibilities of 2020.
Flying straight into today’s sorrow makes me feel like I am regressing or losing traction. Some people would probably disagree and even say, “You’re doing great!” But am I? How do I know? How do any of us know?
Even as I strive to navigate my own grief honestly and head-on, there are times when I wonder if I should be moving faster or slower. At times, the rush of our world flying by makes us feel like we are grounded in grief (We probably are!) or that we've just swept it under the rug for another day.
Grief doesn’t have to move fast or slow. There isn’t a perfect speed as it’s different for each relationship or loss we grieve. Big losses can take much longer but even a seemingly small one might trigger a chasm of unexpected heartache.
Being a bit tired of a cruising altitude of tears, I decided to watch movie and found Ad Astra on the airline App. I had wanted to see this for a while – I mean who doesn’t enjoy a good Brad Pitt film – and surely it would be a good distraction. Once again, I wasn’t prepared for a movie with a big emotional ending. This isn’t really a spoiler but by the end my eyes had teared up again on this same flight. “Gah!!”
Two specific quotes from the movie resonated with me, the first:
“He could only see what wasn’t there and failed to see what was right in front of him.”
I want to see the grief that is front of me but don’t want to be held captive by it or only look back. I am taking steps day by day to see what my own future looks like. It’s complicated, messy, tear-filled and more.
The final quote of the movie really had me teary-eyed - just in time for landing.
“I’m unsure of the future but I’m not concerned.
I will rely on those closest to me and I will share their burdens as they share mine.
I will live and love.”
To me, this speaks of the continue importance of people in our lives during good times and hard times and especially during seasons of grief. It’s easy to isolate when you are hurting or just at a loss of what to do.
Personally, I enjoy being alone but still like talking things out. In this new season, knowing when I need people around me is still something I’m figuring out. I am thankful people are close to me sharing this ever-changing climate.
I continue to share because I know grief is messy for all of us. It’s okay to be confused on how to even behave, to cry on airplanes, to laugh with friends, and to say “This sucks!!”
If you feel like a total mess, it’s okay (So do I!)
Feel free to send me a note or message, let’s talk about it together! I still believe grief can be a community sport - individual players with different stories working together to navigate new normals.
The ocean has always been a place of renewal and hope, clarity and strength. Again today, on this cool January morning of 2020, I am reminded of God’s love and care.
Looking out across the northern Pacific Coast I am mesmerized by the constant crashing of waves. Most are large and powerful, splashing upon the unassuming rocks, a few gently hit the shore.
This is what grief feels like. In many ways, it is what 2019 felt like. Constantly getting hit by something bigger, stronger and more powerful than me. There is beauty, at times, but it’s hard to withstand. I wonder what these same rocks looked like last year. Are there a few more pieces of these pillars in the ocean?
With a clear view of this raging sea, a new thought hits me. In the same way that grief, sorrow and pain of loss echoes, so does God’s love. A love that is unrelenting. This renewed thought fills me with hope.
Yes, grief waves continue to hit, but right behind each one, God’s grand love crashes through. I can feel the pattern of God’s response.
Wave of grief
“I AM HERE”
Heartache & doubt
“I AM WITH YOU”
` Worry and fear
“TRUST ME. YOU ARE LOVED, CHERISHED.”
On and on the responses go, sometimes more hopeful, other times more sorrowful. With each step in my grief journey God is with me, guiding me, teaching me, strengthening me, sitting with me. He is healing my heart and renewing my strength, even if it's battered down by sorrow and still filled with questions.
Today’s Bible verse of the day seems to fit perfectly once again:
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
– Isaiah 40:31
Backing up to verse 28, another reminder of God’s strength rings out, which in The Message reads:
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
Today, I am thankful for a God who knows me in this season.
One who remains strong as I pause . . . often . . . to catch my breath.
An unrelenting God who keeps coming after me. Wave after Wave.
After a few days with friends after the New Year. I headed out on my introverted adventure. I rented a convertible (which got upgraded to a Ford Mustang - which is very fun) traveled from Sacramento to the Pacific coast. With the car top down, I weaved the highways, cutting through giant redwoods and down along side the ocean on Highway 1, eventually landing at a cozy beach side cabin north of Fort Bragg in a small town called Westwood.
My day was filled with several "wow" moments and deep breaths. Sitting by the fire pit tonight listening to the ocean roar I chatted with God. I shared my sorrow today, shared some tears and once again asked the simple question of, "Why?"
I find that I am still often run straight into the feeling of disappointment. Of course, along the way, I find beauty, adventure and joy still but I am disappointed that Josh isn’t here too to add to my joy. Continued honest conversations with God often end with a sense of comfort and a reminder that God’s plan in my life is still unfolding. During a massage with an incredible woman who prayed over me during the process, she spoke encouragement over me - words that reminded me that God is beginning a new song and that his love for me is still great (this is the same for you too!).
This year's annual birthday trip is probably one of the prettiest locations I've been too. It is refreshing, truly and I think part of the healing process that God is continuing to do. In some ways I am nervous about this weekend, what is God going to reveal. Last year, I think God was beginning to prepare my heart for 2019 but I didn’t understand that at the time.
Tonight, I take a deep breath of ocean air drifting in from the open window, and ask God to again show up in new and unexpected ways. To meet me here and now in this continued season of grief that continues to crash around me much like the ocean.
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.