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.
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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.