Do you remember the game Tetris on the computer? It used to be really popular - not so much now, but you can still find it online. I always liked the idea of the game but usually got frustrated as somewhere I made a mistake and the blocks came faster and soon piled up into a mess of colors. Ugh!! Game Over! Try again!
Tonight, on my hike, this silly game came to mind as I thought about several momentous blocks that are currently landing in my grief space. A space that had started to feel a little organized and manageable. But recently, especially this week, things began moving very quickly. Transitional pieces are dropping and I can't quite get them in the right spot. Stressful!
From basic tasks like canceling a phone service, to bigger ones like selling old Ravi (our beloved adventure car), to more significant markers like selling the Brown land and listing my Arkansas house for sale - a lot is happening. In the mix, I am exploring a new relationship and navigating conversations big and small about all the things. There's a lot to think about and process independently and collectively.
Within this, I am expecting my grief Tetris board to end up more messy than orderly, as the odds of all the pieces fitting just right are unlikely. (And yes, I know in God's master plan it all fits just perfectly, but in my limited view it looks a little nuts).
Even last night, when trying to pack another box in the decluttering/cleaning efforts, I hit a wall where I found myself just staring at box of sweaters (my sweaters) thinking, “How did I get here?” “Why am I having to do this!?” Oh yeah . . .
This box of grief was one of those weird Z shaped pieces that I couldn't get turned in time. I tried to stop the pity party from landing uncomfortably but it fell anyway. Thankfully, I have some great cheerleaders around me, who are ready and willing to remind me that these transitions are welcome and are indeed things I want, even if they are hard. "Keep going! You've got this."
There's much maneuvering within my grief process as I acknowledge both the good and the hard in continuing forward. There are many new things I am doing as a single widow. Within this, I can’t just box up my heartache and never look at it again, it’s a continual process of analyzing and trying to better understand my grief, my heart and my mind. And it means saying often, "God! I need you!"
The really amazing thing is that God created each of us, including me, in such a way that our hearts and minds are resilient and flexible. This makes it possible to experience feelings of doubt, sorrow, joy, hope and love all at the same time. It doesn’t seem like that should be possible, yet it is.
So, while my life Tetris game doesn’t look perfect, it’s okay. Honestly, it almost seems fitting. It's a bit of a creative mess - just like me. Here’s a pretty great Bible verse from The Message version for all us messy people (walking in grief or just life)
"And me? I’m a mess.
I’m nothing and have nothing: make something of me.
You can do it; you’ve got what it takes --
but God, don’t put it off." – Psalm 40:17
Paddling in Islands of Grief
This week, a friend asked me if I’d be willing take them for a small outpatient surgery. Easy right? Turns out, just considering the question is tricky when still navigating the waters of grief.
What typically would be an easy, “Sure” turned into a weird, awkward pause as my emotional meter went on high alert. Can I do this? Can I sit in a different but similar space with someone else? Even a good friend that I care about?
I almost find it frustrating that I can’t just say, “Yes!” Yet behind my pause is a whole ocean of doubt. Here I sit in the boat aimlessly considering the reasons behind my hesitation.
From an outside perspective, maybe it’s easy to recognize the “whys,” but I feel there’s much more here to reconcile than the obvious.
The obvious: the memories of last year of the many days and nights spent in hospital rooms, waiting rooms, surgery recovery rooms, etc. The rollercoaster of hope that my heart and mind traveled on for months. And more specifically, the day the word hospice entered the conversation. It was on that day that my hope almost seemed to shipwreck on a new stormy, complex, grief island. That’s not a comfortable place to land or to navigate.
Now months later, I find I’d rather be over on grief recovery island where the future feels much brighter and fun – where the waves of hope and the fresh breeze of adventure capture my attention. I can breath. It's kind of beautiful. I like it.
The contrast of these two places is what sits in my awkward pause - making it hard for me to simply say, “Yes!” to this request. The non-so obvious part is my inner monologue trying to rejuvenate hope.
Does saying, “Yes” put me back on grief island? Have I even left that place? Maybe I am paddling between the islands with my hope anchor fully in tow figuring out where to drop it? If so, I guess that’s good, at least I’m still carrying hope with me. My hope is not completely shattered – which grief can sometimes do – yet my hope is still shaky.
As I keep trying to describe the scene, it’s evident that I still have work to do. And that’s okay. Over the past nine months, I have said many times, grief is hard. It STILL is.
Thankfully, as I navigate the scenario, I am not alone. In surprising and beautiful ways, God still sends out reminders that he sees me - he knows the whole story. There's a fresh wave of assurance on the horizon. The reminder of this becomes even more tangible as I spot friends new and old standing on the shorelines, saying, “It’s okay, we’re with you.” It’s a different kind of “WOW” moment, and I am surprised and encouraged.
After all of this, I still hesitate in answering the question of whether I can be the one in the waiting room, but at least I’m considering paddling in that direction. Maybe that’s something. And it's all part of grieving on.
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.