Lessons in Grief
All signs pointed to grief and embracing it this week. I could not escape it. Grieving was in usually cheerful Instagram stories, podcasts, and even on Disney Jr. (Fancy Nancy) for Pete’s sake. When a theme keeps popping up where it hasn’t before, it usually means I have something to learn.
And no coincidence, this past week commemorated the tenth anniversary of my Papa’s passing. A decade is a long time, and a lot has happened since then. But this year was tough and I felt weird about feeling it.
He was the consistent male figure in my life. He was my next door neighbor and my mailman. One of my fiercest protectors and biggest fans. He taught me to put the pedal to the metal, and he pulled me out of the ditch on more than one occasion. He was always there for me, and I got to be there for him in the end. Holding his hands as he met Jesus was one of the most sacred moments of my life.
Time has healed as it does. But the weird thing about grief is that while it dulls, the absence…the void stays the same. C.S. Lewis referred to such loss as an “amputation.” I am not often sad about the quick moving illness or the way he was so strong and tough and tall and big and handsome and funny and then he was so sick and still and quiet. I am not so sad about the moment it happened, but the everyday lessness that has followed.
Now I am sad because I really wish I could hold his hand. I wish he could be at family celebrations. I wish he could be there to take the middle brownie. I wish he could meet his namesake–Rory Allyn, and I wish I could see him delight in my son when Boyse gets that same mischievous twinkle in his eyes. It’s that I can’t ever watch him two-step around a legion hall dance floor with my Gigi. It’s that not one person alive could tell a story like he could, and there are so many I need to hear again. I need him to write me notes on a random page in my magazine that he put in the mailbox so that I would be totally surprised when I encounter his chicken scratch sweetness. I desperately need him to remind me why I married an Enneagram 7 that is just like him. It’s that he was so much more than the 2-D memories I can share with those who weren’t here when he was.
Again C.S. Lewis, who lost his own wife to cancer, described what I have long been feeling in his book A Grief Observed: “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”
Ten years later and the landscape is different still.
I don’t often let myself go to these places because it seems so futile and self-indulgent. I try to downplay my feelings when they bubble to the surface. Thoughts like “lots of people have lost grandparents” and “at least you had 22 years with him,” etc.
But I really feel like God had a message for me and for you this week. His Word says we are blessed when we mourn. Not so we can become self-absorbed or wallow, but so God’s power can be put on display through our pain. Because in our mourning we are blessed because He is the God of all comfort. His Spirit is the Comforter. Comforting is what He does. It is his nature.
Mourning is an avenue to receiving God’s comfort, and that, in turn, is an ordination to give His comfort to others in mourning.
I realized that I cannot give what I have not received. So I will take the hint, and I will feel my feelings. I will embrace this grief because my Papa is worth the missing and my God is glorified in the comforting.